Recommended for mid- to late semester.
Adapted from John Bean’s Engaging Ideas.
Students build a research paper in stages, formulating a researchable thesis (not simply choosing a “topic area”) related to the course content, finding appropriate sources, analyzing information, and drafting and revising a report that follows a specific format.
Students may be asked to think of themselves as
Your Signature Course Consultancy Team includes a member of the General Libraries staff who can help you design assignments to teach research and information literacy skills. We recommend you contact your Consultancy Team if you are considering a research paper for your Signature Course.
Average Length: 8-12 pages. While Signature Course students may be capable of producing longer papers, they do not typically get the same benefits from such a project that an upper-division student would.
Signature Course students writing a long research paper require plenty of guidance. It is very helpful to schedule the assignment as a series of steps. Dr. Mary Kay Hemenway in the Department of Astronomy has her Signature Course students focus on one task at a time, submitting elements of the paper over a two-month period.
Criteria for each stage of a research project should be carefully delineated. You do not have to assign a letter or number grade to each stage; for a thesis statement or list of sources, it is more important that you let the student know whether he or she is on the right track. Check, check-plus and check-minus, or other simple evaluation scales, can be used for these elements of the project.
For the final paper, you should use a grading sheet or rubric so students can see how they have performed on each of the various tasks. You may wish to adapt one of the rubrics on the Grading Rubrics page, such as Dr. Hemenway’s grading rubric. Dr. Hemenway’s assignment sheet also provides additional, assignment-specific criteria.