The Lost Art of Research-Paper Writing

Jul 23, 2011 by

Students no longer need the excuse “The dog ate my research paper” because in a large majority of our nation’s schools, there are no research papers for the dog to eat! Many high-school teachers around the country have quit teaching research-paper writing because they simply do not know how to keep their students from plagiarizing off the Internet. Rather than facing the problems which arise when students cheat, many teachers are backing away from teaching a full-fledged research paper at all.

Meanwhile, businesses are clamoring for employees who can do quality research and who can then write up their research in such a way that there is no chance of litigation being filed against their companies.

Colleges and university professors are complaining because their students no longer know how to do independent research. When papers are assigned, many college students are taking the easy way out by plagiarizing because they really do not know a systematic way to go through the research process.

Montie Smith and I have put together a unit to help students learn how to write research papers, and this unit is free-for-the-taking. Our unit uses the fifth edition of Joseph Gibaldi’s MLA HANDBOOK FOR WRITERS OF RESEARCH PAPERS (ISBN 0-87352-975-8, c. 1999). A document entitled “Steps to Research Paper” explains the essential ingredients which need to be in place. Along with this document are two research paper packets — one which contains requirements for English I and also for English II students and one packet which contains requirements for English III and  English IV students. The English I-II packet requires students to write an expository research paper on a contemporary social issue; the English III-IV packet requires students to write an expository research paper based upon a literary topic.

The process which Montie and I have devised is very explicit and sequential. Students are monitored at each step in the research process and during the writing of their papers. We believe we have found a way to make sure students do their own independent research, and our strategies are carefully explained in the three previously mentioned documents.

Montie and I wrote our research-paper unit to be used at a private, Christian school; but we believe public schools, private schools, charter schools, and homeschoolers can all make use of our materials. Since Montie and I are claiming no authorship or copyright privileges, educators can feel free to change the content of the documents to make them specific to their own students’ needs.

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