Repeatedly I see teachers, including myself, complaining of the struggle to teach students how to write and craft solid research papers. From everything to poor organization, to a frequent lack of works cited, students struggle with this form of writing. We’ve provided scaffolding, mentor texts, learning targets and success criteria (which should be called assessment in my opinion, because that’s what success criteria are) and multiple check-points. And yet.
What is missing? This is just my wondering, not that teachers aren’t doing this or they are, but I am wondering if we’re still giving enough of the “why” when it comes to research papers. Why do scientists, lawyers, computer scientists, user experience designers (like my husband) nurses, doctors, historians and yes, literature professors write research papers? What is the purpose of research and its twin, citing sources?
Research is to find facts, opinions and truths and balance them out as objectively as possible. And maybe this is the issue: we humans are not objective by nature. We just aren’t wired that way. Even at our most introspective moments our inner views are more fun-house mirror or Narcissus’s pond than clear view. And even when we think we’re seeing our true selves, we’re not, as Caroline McHugh’s TED talk attests.
I came up with this project to serve both as a scaffold to another research project, and a chance for students to study the one subject they want to know most about: themselves: do a research paper on themselves.
Now, since I like to “dog food” my own projects, I’ll be writing a research paper of my own soon, and add it to this post.