Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Research Paper

In what course(s), if any, do you teach "the research paper," and how exactly do you define that term?


At 10:10 AM, Blogger Sharon Gerald said...

We're required to do a research paper in comp 2. The department says that means 5-7 pages, 10 sources, MLA documentation. I changed it to 6-10 pages because after I spent so much time going over documentation, I wanted them to write more than 5 pages. :)

I usually have them do current events arguments and make them find sources that have come out in the past few months, mainly because this cuts down on the possibilty of downloading a free paper online.

My students often say they've never written a research paper before. Some will say they've written one research paper in high school. A few will say they wrote several research papers in high school.

If I had my own way, I'd do a series of documented papers rather than one "research paper," but I'm bound by the department guidelines.

At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We call it the "documented essay" (or, in the new curriculum, "adding to the conversation") in the UMass FYC course. It's one essay out of 5 or 6, depending on which curriculum you're following or if you've designed your own variant. Like all the other essays, it requires a minimum of 750 words. MLA documentation, usually at least 4 diverse sources (selections from books, popular magazines or newspapers, scholarly journals, electronic media, and personal communication or interviews). As the Writing Program guidance makes clear, it is most emphatically not a "book report" on something like "Burial Habits of the Ancient Egyptians", but rather uses sources in service of some rhetorical exigency other than recapitulating already-extant knowledge.


At 6:19 AM, Blogger Jane said...

We have always done a truly formal - and formidable - Major Report in the EAP class I now teach: it has always involved so many skills that I get as confused as the students - wide reading, citing, paraphrasing, summary, internet searching, conducting students' own research (questionnaires and surveys) etc etc.

Last year, I broke with tradition completely: the students gave oral presentations instead, and we used PowerPoint (which I used to hate) to structure the presentations. It was a tremendous success, and led to what I would call 'real' research: each student became truly involved in their chosen topic, researched it far more thoroughly than in previous years, and we then worked from the oral presentation to the written - which was, by then, well-structured, resourced - and, yes, referenced! I guess the presentation in some ways acted like a major writing conference! One of the most interesting things was the way in which the students used visuals in their presentations - and then wrote about them with an accuracy and descriptive ability which I don't often see.

I'm going to try it again this year - and I'll let you know whether it still works!

Rosa - you said to just carry on taking the conversation in different directions: I guess I am!

At 4:51 PM, Blogger jocalo said...

At De Anza, we require a research paper in the second course in FYC. Because we are on a quarter system, getting anything like a real research question and then work on it is hard to do. I have three papers modeled on Scholes' approach (Reading, Interpretation, Criticism) and then the research paper.

We read 5 books in the course: Hemingway's "In Our Time"; Adam Haslett's "You are not a stranger here"; Sandra Cisneros' "Woman Hollering Creek"; a short poetry anthology; and Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." So I let the students express their top three choices of topic (one of the five texts/authors). Then I form groups on each topic. The idea of the groups is to help one another refine a manageable research question. They also are a way to exchange resources. I give the groups three options: write a group paper (if chosen, it must be at least 30 pages); write a coordinated set of papers (each 6-10 pages); write individual papers (each 6-10 pages). And like the rest of you, we call for MLA format.

Because we are reading these books and authors, students have some background knowledge. This also guarantees that I will get no papers on abortion or legalizing marijuana, topics I vowed (about 20 years ago) never to read again.

By working with the groups, I can monitor the topic refining process, which is key to getting actual research as opposed to collating a report.

It's still a real push to get all this in during an 11-week term, but the approach has worked much better than more open-ended assignments.

At 11:20 PM, Anonymous joanna said...

C--I'll send you a copy of our syllabus if you'd like. Like DeAnza, research is done in our second of two comp classes, where we study argumentation and expect the students to do several papers that include research and documentation. Let me see what I can find for you.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Katherine said...

In ASU's Writing Programs, every assignment in every course in our program requires a student to do research and engage the information s/he discovers. I think this excerpt from our mission statement makes this clear (and yes, I wrote the mission statement!):

Our mission is to introduce students to the importance of writing in the work of the university and to develop their critical reading, thinking and writing skills so that they can successfully participate in that work. Writing is intellectual work, and the demands of writing within the university community include the need to:

* synthesize and analyze multiple points of view
* articulate and support one's own position regarding various issues
* adjust writing to multiple audiences, purposes, and conventions

Students in our courses are expected to engage the ideas encountered in academic and serious public discourse, to develop complex ideas and arguments through serious consideration of different perspectives, and to connect their life experiences with ideas and information they encounter in classes. Our goal is for them to explore what others have written about issues and to use their readings to expand their notion of what counts as an appropriate position. We encourage students to explore the multiplicity of any topic and to realize that multiple stories or interpretations are told about any one occurrence, idea, or issue. All these stories compete for authority (i.e. the ability to tell the "truth" of an event or issue), working against each other and having different investments. These stories have real effects on the world and our perceptions of ourselves.Our work is grounded in the belief that writing is not only a way of knowing, it is also a way of acting on others in the public sphere.

The rest of our mission statement can be found at:


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