Monday, December 03, 2007

a solid, well-written college paper

last week, the professor of pop blogged "On Writing A Grown-Up Paper." if you're in college, majoring in media studies or not, you should read it.

the timing of andrew's blog post was perfect. tomorrow, my seventy intro to media studies students turn in their final papers. that means last week's class periods were spent brainstorming good paper topics, discussing what makes sources credible, and talking about the basic ingredients that go into a solid, well-written college paper. my students' paper topics are really interesting; i look forward to reading their papers.

(i also look forward to finishing them. as soon as my grades are in, my winter break begins. spring classes don't start until january 22. do the math.)

so, last week, for both my morning and afternoon sections of intro to media studies i shared goodwin's "On Writing A Grown-Up Paper" with my students. to do this, i fired up the computer that is in our "smart classroom," launched mozilla, and typed in then i dragged the browser's bottom-right corner so that we could only read one paragraph at a time. from the students' perspective, the overhead screen looked something like this:

we read together, to ourselves, one paragraph at a time. i'd give us 30-60 seconds to read a paragraph and then i'd scroll down another paragraph within our shrunken mozilla browser. when we reached the third paragraph, i highlighted the last sentence with the mouse: "Learning how to find mental stamina in the last days & weeks of a project, and what a huge difference this can make to the final outcome, is one of the most important (but least heralded?) tasks that can be learned in college." i jumped up and down a few times and said: "read this sentence twice! this is very important!"

and it is. receiving a mediocre or bad final paper or project, especially from a student who has spent the semester being neither mediocre nor bad, is the worst. i told my students it was like seeing a great show only to have the band's encore suck. or like watching your favorite team play three inspired quarters only to collapse in the fourth. or like reading a novel that begins and mids like a flame only to not. quite. have. enough. steam to end.

i think they got my point. tomorrow i get their papers.


....J.Michael Robertson said...

Rightly or wrongly, when a good student flops, you tend to blame yourself. It's not quite the same as having someone who should be a good student but isn't -- we have our ways of knowing this -- and who never does good work in your class. In the first case, it would seem that you were the one who doused the flame, which has always seemed worse to me than failing to make water burn.

Professor Of Pop said...

I am glad this was useful. I have added D. Silver's suggestion (on reading papers aloud) to that post, and I think we should think about how to make a document like this (or is it a process rather than a text?) available to our students, as part of a *discussion* of what a 'paper' is, these days.

College Research Paper said...

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