In Richard Larson’s article, “The ‘Research Paper’ in the Writing Course: A Non-Form of Writing,” he brings up several important points regarding the ‘generic research paper.’ I especially liked his claim that “the generic ‘research paper,’ so far as I [Larson] am familiar with it, is a concept without an identity, and that to teach it is not only to misrepresent research but also quite often to pander to the wishes of faculty in other disciplines that we spare them a responsibility that they must accept” (221). Given my strong opinion regarding WAC, I think Larson is shedding light on a really important idea. It’s unrealistic to assume that in a single first-year composition class we can prepare students to handle and present research specific to their field of study. Larson points out early on in his article that there are many different forms of research (217). If we restrict our students to scholarly articles and books published within the last 10 years, we’re significantly limiting the types of research they’re exposed to. Likewise, students could walk out of our classrooms thinking this is the only way to research or use research. What Larson doesn’t seem to mention is what we should assign in place of this type of ‘research.’ He mentions the values and lessons he wants his students to take away from the class. On 221, he says the best service we can give students is helping them to recognize, among other things, “their continuing responsibility…for seeking out, wherever it can be found, the information they need for the development of their ideas.” My question is how do we give them this?
I decided to take a look at Auburn’s course objectives for Comp II as stated in the giant binder we received at orientation. The third objective reads:
To develop the student’s ability to locate appropriate scholarly sources of information, engage meaningfully and critically with those sources, use them to develop and support an extended argument, and document them correctly according the documentation style appropriate to the field or task. (Giant binder)
While the course objectives for 1120 don’t fall directly into the trap of over-generalizing ‘research,’ it’s not quite clear what constitutes as an ‘appropriate scholarly source.’ Also, what if a student needs more than just “scholarly sources” to address the “field or task” that they’re ‘researching?’
In “Developing Writing Assignments,” Erica Lindemann points out that “If we omit some of the factors that, in real life, help us define rhetorical contexts, we can expect students to perform poorly” (217). My question is, when, in real life, are students going to have to write this sort of paper outside of academia? If it’s not our job to teach students about research in other disciplines (which I agree with) and we’re supposed to create ‘real life’ assignments, where does the ‘research paper’ fit in? I think it’s important for students to learn how to analyze texts and make solid arguments using relevant evidentiary support, but I’m not 100% sure how to do that if I’m supposed to make real world-like assignments and I don’t make the ‘research’ specific to a discipline. I agree with both Larson and Lindemann, but I’m unsure of how to approach the stereotypical research assignment without either over-generalizing ‘research’ or designing an assignment that ultimately doesn’t help prepare students for ‘real life.’