My first presentation was on something I had some thoughts about before my arrival:
Are recent democratic transitions in Latin America better explained by domestic or international factors? (I asked a version of this question to my 12th graders last year at BSGE- my answer will be a bit more complex)
My strategy for approaching this question was as follows.
First, I needed to do as much of the reading as I could. This presentation was on the second day of class. The course schedule was a two hour seminar from 9-11am, a 90 minute lecture on a very current international topic, not necessarily related to the course from 11.30-1pm, and independent study time from 1.45-5.30, and then a discussion session on the day's lecture from 5.30-6.30. Dinner ended at 7.30, and after that there was time to continue working if need be. This schedule didn't allow enough time to read all 10-14 items for the class, so I had to be strategic. But for the presentations, I needed to read as much as humanly possible. So here's what I read for the first question:
I downloaded as many articles as I could from databases or from the internet. The large majority of what I could access digitally I downloaded before I arrived. One of those articles was by an scholar whose work we kept coming back to - Scott Mainwaring. I downloaded the article form the list on the transition to democracy in Brazil. Since I had this article digitally, I uploaded it to the app Notability, and annotated it on the iPad. (This way I didn't have to print out thousands of pages.) A sample of my annotations of this article:
You will notice that many of the annotations mention other people. I tried to be present and active in reading everything - noting sources that were in conversation with each other, making connections, and asking questions. Some of the questions asked were never answered, some of them were.
Once I read as many of the pieces as I could, I organized a set of notes and used those notes to speak for about 10 minutes on this issue. I set the stage for the discussion rather than answering the question.
My notes document is 830 words long. In other classes offered in the same summer session, a number of people created elaborate powerpoints and spoke for 20 to 30 minutes, giving definitive answers and arguments about their topics. I am really glad that this was not my experience.
But I felt like I organized ideas well, made sense when I presented, and didn't skip obviously crucial points. So my mission was accomplished...
(For what it's worth, my final answer was that domestic factors were in the end more significant.)