I have started posting projects from my Fall 2012 ENGL 1113 class at this page. These Honors First Year Composition students researched and wrote exposition papers on different features of ASU’s (now GRU’s) campus. I am posting them as students e-mail me electronic copies, so I hope to add another dozen or so papers over the next couple of weeks. I’m very proud of the work these students have done, digging through the archives to find information and sort out inconsistencies.
My goal in assigning these projects was to get the students really thinking about their research. This was their first semester, most of them, and it was the first paper I assigned. Usually, I assign something that requires little if any research for that first essay, and what research students do is typically limited to the Internet or maybe a book. In changing the assignment, I hoped to encourage students to develop a strong research question first and then think through how they might answer that question, rather than finding a few easily available sources and then reporting what those sources said.
The assignment definitely worked in that respect, although some of the questions ended up being far more difficult to answer than I or the student had anticipated. They persevered, though, and unearthed some information that neither they, I, nor the archivists had seen anywhere else. I don’t know that such an assignment would work with another group of students, but this class exceeded my expectations.