Down with Research Papers, Up with Essays

Aug 10, 2011 |  George Leef

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Down with Research Papers, Up with Essays

Aug 10, 2011 | 

George Leef

That’s the argument Professor Thomas Bertonneau makes in this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call.

Research papers, he contends, merely encourage students to cobble together opinions by “research” that consists mostly of copying from several sources. Better to have students write essays, which call for their own thinking and don’t readily lend themselves to plagiarism — the topic of Bertonneau’s previous piece.

I think he is mostly correct, although in some upper-division courses with serious students, research papers are still appropriate. Whether the written assignments take the form of research papers, essays, or something else, it’s crucial that the faculty members pore over them line by line to help students learn to write well, a point made by Professor Murray Sperber in this Clarion Call.


| August 11, 2011 - 12:30 PM

I   think that a middle approach is necessary. The use of reasoning and logic is lost when students are just inserting quotes from experts to back up their points. Unfortunately, the goal of a research paper has shifted from presenting a case yourself with data to back it up to presenting what a bunch of other people think. Professors should insist that students writing research papers   say more themselves and quote less. After all, they are the ones being graded, not the experts they are quoting.