Teaching The Research Paper

It was here that another fellow, Mike Larson, introduced me to his alternative to the traditional research paper.

For this project, which Larson called The Living History, his students combined research and history to create a written description of a historical event as if they (their narrators) had taken some part in or witnessed the event as it happened.

For instance, Dixie Dellinger, a teacher-consultant with the UNC Charlotte Writing Project who also served on the NWP Advisory Board, had her students make up surveys and polls, analyzing what they found (see Alternatives to Clip and Stitch: Real Research an Writing in the Classroom).

Tom Romano, a frequent speaker at National Writing Project sites, describes the "multi-genre paper" in which students use their research to create fiction and nonfiction pieces as well as other documents (see Romano's books for more).

Another pitfall each year is the widespread plagiarism.

Whether it's blatant or unintentional, plagiarism occurs far too frequently.

Our task was to compare and pool our resources, allowing us to add additional information others had found to our own research.

Then each of us was asked to take the information and embed it into a first-person narrative of someone who had lived through our particular event.

Indeed the possibilities of plagiarism, the likely gutting of student voice, and the general discontent students feel when embarking on a project for seemingly no other reason than the instructor's insistence that "later, you'll need to know how to do this" leave many teachers searching for alternative ways to teach the important skills the research paper requires.

And, in fact, many teachers—like Heckenlaible—have found less conventional ways to cover the same vital ground.


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