An Essay Evolves / QuestionAnalysis
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Our mission - analysis of the question


Essay title: Evaluate the concept of working memory.

Length: 1500 words maximum


Subject: the concept of working memory.

Instruction: evaluate the above.


Evaluate - to ascertain the value of. To examine and judge carefully; appraise.


What do I need to do to to fulfil this remit? First of all, I need to explain what is meant by working memory. It’s probably not clear cut. Different theorists and researchers have probably conceptualised it in divers ways, so I’ll need to summarise some of these. Not too many, though, because I only have 1500 words and I need to concentrate on evaluation. Perhaps three? Maybe I could try for thesis, antithesis and synthesis. That’s a good approach from the perspective of narrative tension – always fun to include something revolutionary or contentious. Or perhaps an historical approach. Maybe the two coincide, which would be handy.


Ahead of doing any detailed reading, I imagine that my evaluation might be in terms of the usefulness of the concept of working memory. How well does it correspond with observable reality? Based on this concept, can we make predictions in an experimental setting? Have some psychologists done better than others in this regard? Of course, each assertion will be supported with evidence. If available, it would be interesting to have evidence derived from a variety of sources, eg. experimentation, high tech imaging studies, physiological studies. There’s all this talk about functional imaging being a new window on cognitive processes, so I shouldn’t overlook that. I’ll also look carefully for any gaps in the rationale surrounding each piece of evidence. Do I have reasonable doubt?


Next action: Get in the mood! Read about working memory in two general textbooks (Complete Psychology and Michael Eysenck’s Cognitive Psychology) and, just for laughs, have a look through Scientific American and Sci Am Mind. Read up a bit on Neisser’s work.



Wondering what this is all about? Go to my blog for more information.

Comments (4)

Anonymous said

at 6:35 pm on Feb 12, 2007

Evaluate the concept of working memory

Have you thought of brainstorming or question matrixing all the words in a question to explode it out further? For example, you have alrady looked at evaluate - but you could also explore all the other words:

The concept - explore the FACT (knowledge-claim) of working memory as opposed to the CONCEPT. What's the difference bewteen a FACT (knowledge-claim) and a CONCEPT? Why have we been asked to look at the CONCEPT? Who has written on the CONCEPT? Who has explored the FACT? How do they agree? How do they differ?

MEMORY - what is memory? Why do we have memory? What does memory help us to be? What are we without memory? - What's the evidence?

WORKING memory? What categories of memory are there? What is the evidence? How does WORKIMG differ from any other categories? Who says so? Why is this important? Why is this important as a CONCEPT?

Basically a QUESTION MATRIX - involves generating the who, what, why, when, where and how questions around each word in a question - to see where that takes you - and to avoid taking anything in the question for granted. The BRAINSTORM is more freeflowing and uncensored than that - and of course can lead to genius!

Anonymous said

at 12:33 pm on Feb 13, 2007

Lovely, Sandra. I do like these suggestions. I haven't used question matrixing and think it looks incredibly useful. Brainstorming and freewriting are techniques I have used, but I find that for some reason I need to be primed in order to get the most out of them.

Anonymous said

at 2:36 pm on Feb 15, 2007

Pragmatism was a reaction to scientists' enthusiasm just to find, regardless of their usefulness. I think one point that we need to bear on mind is the reason this website is developing and how well it can be put into practice. In other words, we should keep on mind what wounds we are setting out to heal. Experientially, students often have problems analysing questions either as the result of the vagueness of the question or as the result of their being so broad. In the first condition matrixing and word by word analysis can work as long as they do not intimidate students having to face another cul-de-sac, "word limits". So, there should be a balance between level of analysis and the objective of the analysis. On the other hand, the reason students usually stick to one word, as opposed to every word, in the question can be due to avoinding the high cost of allocating too much cognitive resources to analysis of multiple factors simultaneously. Thus, they might mainly focus on a "key word" rather than make a key out of each. All in all, I believe the audience have to be a badge attached to our computer screens (or good old papers) as we think about the process of writing this essay. It might be necessary for us to come lower as well as asking them to fly higher. By the way how can I add my name to my comments? Shall we have a name for the essay? Like Wanda?

Anonymous said

at 1:28 pm on Feb 20, 2007

Hi there anonymous (you sound like someone I know). When you log in to the Wiki, just do so with a name. This will then be addded automatically to your comments. Hmmm, yes, an essay called Wanda, very nice. Any other suggestions? Rosemary? Anthony? Kirk?

I think you are right when you say that it's neccessary to come low as well as fly high when doing academic writing. But even if only one of these approaches is overt in the finished product, I believe that we can satisfy all of our needs in the process leading to it.

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