Topic_2

Topic 2: Skills, Theories, Methods

Coordinators

Professor Last will lead this class

Introduction

80 percent of your mark in this course is based on being able to understand and link together key terms and concepts in order to make sense of the world around you. If you are in a junior year, these skills will be useful in your future courses.  If you are already in an upper year, you can focus on developing these skills for application in your career.  Depending on your career path, these skills may be particularly useful for staff postings in Ottawa, and preparation for staff college, probably about 10 to 15 years after you graduate.

Whatever you do, managing information flows and interpreting what is going on in the country and the world around you will be an essential part of your life as an officer, leader, and citizen.

You may not have access to a university library when you leave RMC, so we will focus on widely accessible resources for professionally relevant problems and issues. The problem with this, of course, is that these resources have not been screened and curated by competent librarians, on the recommendation of subject experts. This places a particular burden on you, the user, to be discriminating about the nature of the sources on which you rely.  There is a lot of crap in wide circulation!

Information streams

Where do you get your information from? You need some reliable general news sources about international events, and some more focused information streams about conflicts, strategic interests, and regions of interest. How will you know whether they are balanced and reliable? How often will you check them, and how will you keep track of breaking news? Will you follow social media (Facebook, Twitter) that involve likes and dislikes to determine what you see? How will this influence your access to news and your perception of events?

Bibliography development

For the cases and your papers, you will need an effective bibliography of primary and scholarly secondary sources. What is available online and where will you go to fill in the gaps? How will you know what sources are credible and reliable?

Source checking

The narratives provided for the cases don’t include footnotes or references. They are superficial impressions of complex events about which books and articles have been written.  How do you know what to accept about each narrative?  What information is omitted, which might colour your perception of the events or the conclusions you might reach?  What additional information would be useful to explore the implications of the event or the

Triangulation

In navigation, triangulation involves taking a bearing on three points to figure out where you are. In research and learning, it involves checking your information from alternative sources to see if your understanding is accurate. But what sort of sources are useful? How do you know how credible or reliable different sources are?

QADOR to presentation to paper

The written assignment is in three parts. The first part is your “adjusting round” to make sure that you are going in the right direction. What is your research question?  What do you think the answer might look like? How will you define the key concepts in your research problem? What do the outlines of your presentation and paper look like? And why is this relevant – who wants to know and why? What will they do with the knowledge?  Think of this as a loop. When you get to the end, it may change the way you think about the question, answer, definitions, sources and methods and you might want to adjust it.  Don’t spend too long, though, because it is a small part of the final product, and if you are way off base, I’ll tell you (we’ll discuss) so you don’t waste time.

The presentation is a dress rehearsal for your paper, but you can do things in a presentation that you can’t do in a paper, including engagement of resources outside the classroom.  For example, if you are asking how Canada responded to Russian aggression in Ukraine, and you get a phone-in discussion with a Latvian expert on hybrid warfare (not impossible) then what she tells the class may adjust your whole focus. This could mean more points for the presentation and less for the final paper.  We have some flexibility here, within the 20% allocated.

The final paper has to be long enough, and adequately resourced for its purpose, which you define. There’s a wide range of acceptable formats and presentation methods, because the learning is more important the delivery.  If you are a perfectionist looking for a high mark, don’t delay – get it in early and get a preliminary mark, which you can improve with resubmission to address shortcomings. All marks are remediable.

QADOR to presentation to paper

The written assignment is in three parts. The first part is your “adjusting round” to make sure that you are going in the right direction. What is your research question?  What do you think the answer might look like? How will you define the key concepts in your research problem? What do the outlines of your presentation and paper look like? And why is this relevant – who wants to know and why? What will they do with the knowledge?  Think of this as a loop. When you get to the end, it may change the way you think about the question, answer, definitions, sources and methods and you might want to adjust it.  Don’t spend too long, though, because it is a small part of the final product, and if you are way off base, I’ll tell you (we’ll discuss) so you don’t waste time.

The presentation is a dress rehearsal for your paper, but you can do things in a presentation that you can’t do in a paper, including engagement of resources outside the classroom.  For example, if you are asking how Canada responded to Russian aggression in Ukraine, and you get a phone-in discussion with a Latvian expert on hybrid warfare (not impossible) then what she tells the class may adjust your whole focus. This could mean more points for the presentation and less for the final paper.  We have some flexibility here, within the 20% allocated.

The final paper has to be long enough, and adequately resourced for its purpose, which you define. There’s a wide range of acceptable formats and presentation methods, because the learning is more important the delivery.  If you are a perfectionist looking for a high mark, don’t delay – get it in early and get a preliminary mark, which you can improve with resubmission to address shortcomings. All marks are remediable.

Learning objectives

  • Decide how you will manage relevant information streams for this course
  • Develop a method of preparing quick annotated bibliographies on relevant subjects
  • Understand how to check the credibility, bias, of utility online sources
  • Understand principles of triangulating perspectives on international events
  • Plan a sequence to get from QADOR to presentation to final paper for your written assignment

Reading and resources

Look at the Information management page linked here.  Think about the sources on which you rely for your view of the world. Do you tend to read things that you agree with?  What assumptions or fundamental beliefs about the world underly your interpretation of events? What is important to you, and how does this shape the information you seek out, and the information that you choose not to chase down?

Confirm that you know how to use a library and online search tools, particularly for construction of quick annotated bibliographies of credible scholarly sources. Here is a library exercise which might be useful if you haven’t been exposed to much of this sort of work.

Activities before class

  • what is going on in the world? Consider diplomatic, economic, military, and psycho-social dimensions of international relations
  • check your information management
  • Look at the glossary in Shiraev, and compare it to the list of terms on the exam review page. Deductions?
  • What is an annotated bibliography? How much is “enough” when you are preparing sources for a paper? How do you decide?

Activities during class

  • Discuss current events (60s)
  • Discuss information management
  • Work on annotated bibliographies for subject areas you will address
  • Analyze the credibility of sources you have identified
  • Discuss and write QADOR for your assignment

Page updated, August, 2019, contact lastdav@gmail.com  Home