Teaching Research Writing


My CC is moving to a two-semester composition sequence, which is a GOOD THING.

I am accustomed to cramming research writing into 3-4 weeks in Comp 1. Comp 1 still requires this research component, so Comp 2 is focused on further development of research skills and research writing.

I have a wide variety of students. Some will transfer to four-year institutions; some will not. Few will major in English or Humanities.

I am excited to teach this course, and I have some ideas, but I am in need of many more ideas to fill the semester with engaging, relevant coursework. I was hoping you all could give me some ideas for research activities and assignments that you've found to work well.

We have a 2-semester comp sequence and, while I feel like I am cramming in tons of practice for analytic or argument writing in the first semester (and not necessarily seeing enough improvement), I find that the "researching course" doesn't really quite expand to be an entire semester. Maybe because the really struggling writers from the previous semester aren't there any more, and I suddenly have students who do a pretty good job after I show them something a couple times and they do a couple practice runs.

Anyway, I took this website for how to create effective library assignments and revamped it into a series of homework assignments. Looking for this site again, just now, I found about a zillion other libraries that have a similar advice page (avoid the mad rush, the pointless scavenger hunt, etc. etc.)

And I show my students this little video on how to recognize a scholarly article and then they mark up a scholarly article we have read, figuring out how it is different from those %&*$#@ opinion pieces in our textbook and which are our only writing examples up to that point. I made up some specific questions for a worksheet, but I also have a nice C.A.R.S. handout version on evaluating sources --- I can't find the fancy handout someone made, but here is a description of what it said.

That's about where we are in the process, actually. Next up is for them to make a tentative decision on their topic and bring in a library book that is relevant to the subject. We're going to discuss the specificity and scope of a research paper and compare it to that of their books. And then I will tell them that if they choose a topic of similarly vast scope I will expect their paper to be several hundred pages long, like their books. Then they will pass out in horror. I love that!

Wow, I would love the luxury of teaching research writing over the course of a whole semester.  That sounds like fun.

I'm kind of tapped out here at the end of the day, but if I were teaching the course I would probably include the following:

(1) multiple research exercises to locate a list of good (and not random) articles on a given topic
(2) research exercise to investigate all library databases relevant to their anticipated majors
(3) exercises to learn how to read peer-reviewed articles in their anticipated majors
(4) group assignments to work on research skills
(5) two stages for practicing presentation of a research project (w/ppt or similar platform)
(6) an annotated bibliography assignment with a full range of sources (a former colleague used to insist on 25 sources in regular comp!)

You probably already do a lot of that, zuzu, but those are the things I would want to enhance or add to my own existing Comp syllabus.


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