Example: Research Paper Assignments

Previous surveys collect data from more than one type of school: Manning’s survey, for instance, was sent to four-year public and private colleges and universities, faith-based colleges and universities, two-year community colleges, and vocational/technical schools. These previous studies report total numbers and percentages but do not present results by types of schools. Manning presents the results from his study by region of the country, though. I decided to focus on collecting data about research paper assignments in first-year writing/composition courses at four-year co-ed, secular, liberal arts, private and public colleges and universities in the United States, since these schools share a liberal arts educational mission and serve populations of students with similar educational goals. By doing so, I hoped to find out whether my results follow trends identified in previous research about a more heterogeneous population of schools and, in addition, to discover the current status of research paper assignments in a narrower, national sample. Future research on this topic can, then, following my design, focus on collecting data from other institutional populations, comparing results to those about four-year public and private schools’ curricula and to those collected in the past from a more diverse sample of schools.

Reasons for dropping the research paper assignment:

Acknowledgements: I developed my survey instrument, Exploratory Survey on the Status of the Research Paper Assignment in First-year Writing/Composition Courses, during the summer of 2008 with the support of a Research and Professional Development Grant from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.


Research Paper Assignment - Washington State University

Exploratory Survey on the Status of the Research Paper Assignment in First-year Writing/Composition Courses

Scholarship on the research paper generally associates teachers’ and students’ complaints of this sort with the traditional research paper assignment; scholars who argue for alternative assignments often explain that the nature of alternative assignments, in particular the focus on primary research and the extent of students’ investments in their topics, precludes plagiarism. Interestingly, although the majority of respondents note that students’ plagiarism generates the largest number of teacher complaints, avoidance of plagiarism is an outcome that overall survey respondents mention only 2% of the time, a finding that comports with the total number of respondents who describe alternative research assignments as typical assignments at their schools. However, among respondents from schools that do not require students to take a first-year writing/composition course, a population largely comprised of respondents from private schools, that outcome doubled.