This chapter is all about research. Depending on what kind of class you have, how you design the research project will change, and we hope that this chapter can help. Here are some general guidelines:
- In Comp 1 (English 1101 in the USG system), the “project” is often less a full-fledged term paper than it is an assignment designed to get students used to research projects at college. It doesn’t have to be long or involved--it could be just an annotated bibliography or require just a few sources.
- Take your students to the library for a session on how to use the library’s resources for research. It’s possible your library has an instructional librarian who runs these sessions or who is aware of the curricular goals and practices of your department. If that is the case, touch base with the librarian.
- Have a clear assignment sheet that you can share with the librarian running the session.
- Do not let your students choose random topics. Pick a frame that is related to your course theme. This can help your students develop a couple of pretty good college survival skills: researching and learning about something they're probably not interested in and developing interests where they didn't think there was one. It helps you because you’re not having to arbitrarily outlaw controversial topics, it makes students less susceptible to confirmation bias, and it helps focus the whole class on the theme. For example, you could have an EngL 1101 class with the theme of “food and identity,” and you could have the students research the history of a certain kind of food or dish. In 1102, as in the major student example in this chapter, you could have the theme of controversies in higher education, with a research project investigating one of those controversies or problems.
- The “process” as described here reflects the recursive process we’ve discussed in other parts of the book. We emphasize the importance of students checking with professors throughout, so designing short and low-stakes assignments (such as a research prospectus, followed by an annotated bibliography a few weeks later) can help students stay on the right path.
The biggest change in this chapter from the previous edition of the textbook is that all of the library database information has been taken out and replaced by videos from the GSU library website. The library websites and database subscriptions have changed, and the library created helpful videos for students. These are now in the place of many of the images and slides of database screens. The videos are accessible to anyone (not just students).
Another significant change is that all references and links to Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) have been changed to the Excelsior Online Writing Lab opens in new window. Purdue’s OWL is now sponsored by advertising from Chegg, and they have changed their format to something less navigable. Because of these changes, many professors and librarians have dropped Purdue’s OWL in favor of OER sources such as Excelsior’s OWL.
In section 4.3 is a calendar that shows a six-week research project, mapped out for the example student from the end of March to the due date, May 2. A very useful class exercise is to draw a six-week grid on the board (working back six weeks) or on a document reader. Enter in the due dates for any research-related smaller assignments such as a prospectus or bibliography, and have the students copy it in their notebooks or devices, then give them a few minutes to add other commitments they may have (work, family, other class projects) to that calendar. Encourage them to place this calendar somewhere visible. It can be adjusted to include more or fewer weeks.
Finally, we added a new file to chapter 4, on digital projects. It provides helpful links to examples and to sites where students can receive help in making these projects.