Thursday, May 5, 2011

Research Papers?

In Whither the research paper?, Maura Smale (ACRLog, Feb. 18) questions the value of formal research paper assignments. It is the comment by Joan which has the most insight: "It’s really hard to present your own ideas when you’ve read all the experts’ thoughts. What are your own ideas at that point? Even as a graduate student in English studying in a relatively new area, after a thorough lit review that covered all the questions I had about a piece, I wasn’t sure what was left to say."
Her solution?

"Perhaps a remedy would be this: get the students to choose the topic and write about it in-depth and thoughtfully *before* they do any research. Then, they research and review the important articles and learn what the experts have to say; they write this up as a lit review. Then, they write a third piece explaining how their thoughts have evolved or changed given what they’ve read. So they write about their own perspective, but bolstered and informed by research. (And, as a former writing instructor, I would probably toss in a fourth piece where they reflect on the whole process, reading their original essay and final essay and comparing them.)"

I wholeheartedly agree.

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