ENG 721/821

 [e-handout] [conference paper]


Research papers have been used in first-year composition classes for many years as a process-exercise for teaching students about academic research and writing.  Many faculty in the disciplines hold the belief that a “research paper” and its accompanying “steps” can provide students with the knowledge and ability to then research and write in the disciplines with practiced ability. Without connections to disciplines or specific discourse communities, a generic research paper format cannot be a beneficial learning experience for students. The research paper is still too often approached via a legacy assignment from a not quite forgotten current-traditional classroom.

Surrounded by concerns with the rules of grammar, organization, citing sources and plagiarism, the possibilities and benefits of researched writing are often overlooked. Alternatives are needed that encourage critical thinking beyond compiling a required number of sources and reporting back what students believe faculty “want” them to write. Connections are made and concerns are raised between the concepts of information literacy, taught as part of library instruction and expectations in a composition or first-year writing classrooms.

Looking at methods for furthering invention, options are presented for how students can approach research and enter a discourse community through “new” doors. Liminal spaces, threshold concepts and “project” based writing are all described as innovative approaches by which students can move from research writing as “rhetoric of the finished word” to a “rhetoric of doing,” stressing inquiry-based and disciplinary thinking.

This presentation and accompanying conference paper review the research paper’s troubled past, as well as provide options for how this assignment can be improved.

 Further Reading:

Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass, 2011.

Brent, Doug. “The Research Paper: What is it and Why We Should Still Care.” Presented to the Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing (draft under review), 2012.

Harris, Joseph. Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2006.

Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.” 2000. Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). Accessed: October 9, 2013.

Jacobs, Heidi. “Information Literacy and Reflective Pedagogical Praxis.” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 34.3 (2008), 256-262.

Nelson, Jennie. “The Research Paper: A ‘Rhetoric of Doing’ or a ‘Rhetoric of the Finished Word?’” Composition Studies/Freshman English News 22.2 (1994): 65–75.

Norgaard, Rolf. “Writing Information Literacy: Contributions to a Concept.” Reference Services Review 43.2 (2003): 124–130.

—. “Writing Information Literacy in the Classroom: Pedagogical Enactments and Implications.” Reference Services Review43.3 (2004): 220–226.

Nutefall, Jennifer E, and Phyllis Mentzell Ryder. “The Timing of the Research Question: First-Year Writing Faculty and Instruction Librarians’ Differing Perspectives.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 10.4 (2010): 437–449.

Purdy, James P., and Joyce R. Walker. “Liminal Spaces and Research Identity: The Construction of Introductory Composition Students as Researchers.” Pedagogy 13.1 (2013): 9–41.

Veach, Grace L. “At the Intersection: Librarianship, Writing Studies, and Sources as Topoi.” Journal of Literacy and Technology 13.1 (2012): 102-129.