Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Looking forward to student research papers

On Friday I will get a stack of research papers from my medieval literature students, and I'm actually looking forward to reading them.

[Dramatic pause as my readers take that sentence in.]

Yes, that's right: I'm actually looking forward to reading them. Say what??? Am I delusional? Overly optimistic? Idealistic? Will my dreams be crushed?

No, I don't think so. You see, a month before the papers were due, students turned in a proposal with an annotated bibliography of at least five secondary sources. And before that, I took three class periods to talk about how and why we do research, what a literary research paper looks like and how to write it, and how to use things like the MLA International Bibliography and other databases and library search engines. And because of all that, I got really good proposals. I'm sure the papers will have some of the usual problems, but if the proposals are any indication, they'll actually have theses and make arguments, and many of them will have fresh and interesting things to say about the texts.

I'm offering this here and now as a kind of preview and also a test. Maybe my dreams will be crushed and the promise held by the proposals will be left unfulfilled. I certainly hope not. At any rate, I want to write more about this project, in more detail and with more about my pedagogical methods and justifications, when I finally see the fruit of it. And then I can look back on the class as whole, in which I really pushed my students and they rose to the challenge, turning in the best work as a group that I've seen since coming to Rust Belt U. I think that may have as much to do with the pushing as with the luck of the draw of who was in the class, and the research project is part of that. We'll see.


Self-Congratulator said...

Rock on, Dr. V. I'm going to use this exact method next time I try to teach research. I can't promise I'll do as well as you... but I'll try.

Sisyphus said...

As one of my fellow grads once said, you can experience all the frustration and annoyance while grading their papers in one big chunk, or you can spread it out for a few weeks beforehand as you mark up their proposals and drafts and things. The second way probably is more investment, and more frustrations, for you, but I think the students get more out of it. The bad thing is when you put in all the effort and _still_ have to grade frustratingly badly written work at the end.

k8 said...

I take similar approaches to reseach and writing assignments and the papers tend to be very good. Of course, I'm a comp/rhet person with an MLS, so I suppose it comes natural to me.

I look forward to hearing about the papers! The intersections between writing and information literacy instruction (across disciplines)is one of my primary interests. One thing I like about this type of approach is that it gives students time to research and learn about a subject/issue, and as a result they have time to create an argument that is their own and is informed don't know how many papers I've written in the past where, during crunch time, I learned something about an issue that I wish I had time to write about instead.