CCCC 2001 in Review: M.4 Connecting Research and Writing in First-Year Composition: Where Are We Going, Where Have We Been?

Chair: Jennnifer Schwartz

Pavel Zemliansky presented "Composition Textbooks about the Research Paper: A Study of Past and Present."

Zemliansky discussed his analysis of text books finding that they are mostly "teacher-proof texts"-texts designed to give reasonable proficiency producing final products that are still dominant despite winds of change on the way.

Brian Sutton presented "The Research Paper in First-year Composition: Results of a National Survey."

Sutton repeated the early results he reported at last year's 4Cs. Sutton's 2002 work followed up on Manning's l961 study and Ford's l982 study of student research writing. Sutton had more funding than Manning but less than Ford, and also received 166 responses to the 500 he sent out, which again, was more than Manning but less than Ford. The methods of the survey began with a selection of schools from on Peterson's Guide to 2-Year Colleges and Peterson's Guide to 4-Year Colleges. Then he randomly selected schools on varying pages and since the guides are listed by state, he was able to get national coverage but because small schools are listed equally, the survey favored them. Sutton also explained that responding to the survey may have collected biases but he could only conclude that "your guess is as good as mine." Last year's session review of Sutton's finding concluded that he made the audience hungry for his results. Sutton has not yet sent out the results as promised to those session attendees, but hopes to this summer. As Sutton reviewed his results this year, he emphasized that Research Papers were entrenched in our classes but also noted that alternatives to traditional papers such as MacRorie's I-Search Paper or Romano's Multigenre research paper were used by 27% and 26% respectively of the respondents. However, Sutton noted that graduate students were more likely to use alternative research papers. Teachers are still most likely to teach the longer research paper as the one research paper, but noted that the practice of using several research papers in classes was gaining ground. However, 97% of the respondents expressed satisfaction with the number and length of their research papers so Sutton cautioned us not to expect much change from the traditional, longer research paper. It sounds like students are still overwhelmingly receiving library instruction via lecture, but Sutton did note his survey indicated more of a hands on approach to library instruction and credits the computer as the reason for the change in library orientation for research writers. If much of this suggest progress, Sutton concluded (and I disagree!), the one area that isn't progressing is that the research paper is increasingly taught by contingency faculty. The silver lining, however, is that full-time faculty are less likely to teach the research paper progressively.

Gerald Nelms presented "Issues in Connecting Research and Writing: Motivation, Integration, Workability, and Knowledge Transfer."

While the tradition of complaint about the research paper is unmatched, Nelms wondered if the research paper is argumentative, analytical or informative? The presenter thinks we may have skipped a step in our attempt to solve the problem of the research paper. Nelms stressed four idea clusters when designing research paper writing instruction: motivation, integration, workability, and knowledge transfer. Nelms mentioned that MacCrorie (I search) and Bruce Ballenger (Researched Essay) emphasize personal choice and expressiveness but Nelms noted how rarely we turn to education psychology to consider motivational influences. There are degrees of motivation on a spectrum beginning from when there is no motivation to learn, there is no learning. Nelms suggested that teacher enthusiasm is as important as any curricular design. Nelms was rhetorical and social constructivist in his approach to research papers so that his students were challenged to participate in a conversation about and with their data. Nelms doesn't use topic choice to motivate his students but he uses topics like date rate or plagiarism that contextualize student research in their lives. Nelms doesn't think motivation alone is enough and stresses, integration, workability, and knowledge transfer equally. Nelms sees MacCrorie's and Ballenger's primary emphasis on motivation as an over emphasis. Nelms pointed out that many of us see research writing apart from other kinds of writing. Nelms argued that we need to consider how well students understand research skills as knowledge transfer that is used in other courses. Nelms concluded by suggesting that more metacognitive thinking will help students apply research writing processes. [WH]

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