Better Research Basics, One Sentence at a Time

Breathes there a professor of any subject with soul so dead who never to himself hath said, “Today’s undergraduates are hopeless at research!” (apologies to Sir Walter Scott). It is easy to blame high schools or freshman English classes, but that doesn’t fix our problem. As a frustrated educator of future teachers (Clouse) and a 20-year veteran of teaching college writing and research (Nelson), we obviously sympathize and often feel blamed. We have found that a better approach is an interdisciplinary effort that gives students ample opportunities to practice and develop their writing and research skills. The cumulative effect of this approach not only benefits faculty, but our students seem to appreciate and feel less intimidated working within this method as well.

  • If they can do it once — If students can learn to quote, paraphrase, summarize, and cite sources correctly just one sentence at a time, they can do it 100 times. These basic skills can be taught in easy-to-grade, small assignments. Later when we ask for a 10-to 20-page research paper, or that 100-page dissertation, we can concentrate on the soundness of their research rather than those frustrating mechanics.
  • Do less to get more — Assign students to find an important quote in the day’s assigned reading, cite it correctly, and explain why they chose it. They will keep up with and be more engaged with the reading while learning or polishing basic skills one small step at a time. Correctly paraphrasing just one sentence can convince students to do more than change a word or two.


Read more @

Comments are closed.