English Comp. and Fundmentals: An Integrated Reading and

Summary Writing Project

multitasking cartoon

The Myth of Multitasking:

A Researched and MLA-Documented Summary


Rick Dollieslager / Email: Dollier@tncc.edu

multitasking poster

Objectives: 1] Reading critically. 2] Connecting reading and writing. 3] Modeling the research and research paper writing process. 4] Developing success skills
This project models the research gathering, note-taking and writing processes in a series of steps or phases and culminates in a short, documented summary.

Instructions--Reading Critically and Summarizing: 1] Preview (a) what do you already know about the topic, and what are the important vocabulary terms? 2] Skim/scan for important ideas and questions to answer while reading (I have provided them below in this case). 3] Read/recite (aloud) the answers to the reading questions so that you are paraphrasing from the source, not plagiarizing it. 4] Summarize the most important material in your own words, and 5] add one or two direct quotes. 6] Document the summary following MLA conventions.

I. Assignment steps for summarizing the article, “Studies on Multitasking Highlight Value of Self-Control

1] The Wordle: Consider the vocabulary from the article by viewing the wordle, which is a word jumble.  For ten minutes freewrite on these words.  Write about the words that you are already familiar with and about what you hope to learn in the article about the other terms.  On note paper or a Word document, list the words you do not already know, and leave space for their definitions.

2] Skim the article to write down other words you are unfamiliar with in your notes

3] While reading, define those vocabulary words, as well as the ones that you identified while skimming the article, as they are meant in the context of the article when you encounter them.  Look them up in a dictionary if you are uncertain what they mean from context clues in the article.

4] On a separate note page or Word document, answer the following article analysis questions, after reading, in order to prepare for a) class discussion, b) writing an article summary, and c) using this information in your next essay. Note: Answer the questions in your own words because you will be using those sentences later in a paragraph. Write complete sentences in answer to the questions even if you feel like "yes" or "no" is the answer. If you do this after reading, when the source is closed, there is no risk of plagiarizing. Where you cannot answer the questions from memory, go back to re-read that part of the article. Putting the information in your own words to use in your essay is a research writing skill that is called paraphrasing.

  • On the average, how many types of media do 13- to 18-year-olds use simultaneously outside of school? Does the article give examples?
  • What is the result of the tendency “to pay continuous partial attention” to everything?
  • According to researchers cited in the article, can the brain “be in two places at once”?
  • Does it take longer to “multitask” than it would take to do two individual tasks one after the other?
  • How does having to make a choice effect “multitasking”?
  • How do multitaskers perform on memory and attention tests compared to those who do one thing at a time?
  • How do text messages affect scores when testers answer text messages?
  • What is the affect on a reader’s attention when reading  is interrupted to take a phone call, email, or text message?
  • What did the original “marshmallow test” show?  Did researchers find similar results when test-takers responded to text messages, or did that research refute the “marshmallow test” results?
  • Your thoughts about the conclusion, please:  Are people really multitaskers?  Should people be taught this ability? Why or why not?

5] Summarizing to avoid plagiarism: Use your answers to the questions above when you write a one-paragraph summary (around 250 words in length) of this article. Watch this video about how to write a summary and read the instructions in this summarizing process. Add one or two direct quotes of the most important information.

6] Document the summary with parenthetical citations and a correctly formatted Works Cited entry. Use the Norton Field Guide to Writing for models of how to cite parenthetically and how to format the Works Cited entry.

Homework: Vocabulary, answers to reading questions, and one documented paragraph summarizing the multitasking article.

Listen to and read the following articles and interviews from National Public Radio, which further support the research Sparks cites in her essay about how the brain works, why humans do not actually multitask, and how attempting to "multitask" is detrimental to our learning, our driving, and general mindfulness in all things we do in life.

  • "The Myth Of Multitasking," Part 1 (Interview and article: Science Friday, 18 min., 2010)
    "The Myth Of Multitasking," Part 2 (Interview: Science Friday, 18 min., 2010)
II. Write a personal experience paragraph which describes a specific time or incident in the past when you thought you were "multitasking," and discuss it in the context of what you now know from the research--that the human brain does not actually multitask.
Peer review/grading rubric for summary and application/response paragraphs on "The Myth of Multitasking."

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