The English Teacher

Research Writing

A Course Outline

*This page contains the complete lesson plans for a course in research writing which I have taught for Lane Community College for about 28 years. If you have any questions about further details, please write.

                         Composition 123
                         Research Writing
                         (Comp123.LCC)  1/20/99


         NET ACCOUNT-
          [SEE Mrs. Povenmire in the media center and then Mr.    
           Langan in the computer room.]
        *Also required are note cards and a note card box         
         [preferably plastic and waterproof] and two floppy disks 
         that are not shared with anyone.
     A. Topic Selection  (first/second week)

          1. Choose 5 topics listed in order of preference.
          2. Choose topics that are interesting and that have
             adequate source material.
          3. Choose topics that can sustain a thesis but that
             do not hinder the writer's objectivity.
          4. Avoid topics that are abstract or that are beyond
             the writer's current ability.
          5. 1 to 1 interview on topic selection.

     B. Preliminary Bibliography  (first/second week)

  *Consider having a "source interview" with each student and a   
   checklist of available sources, plus a strategy for searching  
   data bases. [Consider mindset of the person organizing the     
   material.] Checklist checked by media center technicians.      
   Training in using the 'Net' -available in class. 

          1. Stress the importance of general knowledge reading   
             first- to avoid general reading during last minute   
             note taking. Read overview of material from a basic  

          2. Check on number and quality of sources.  *Some       
             magazines and books examine topics on a superficial  
             level, saying the 'same things.'  Also, Internet     
             sources need to be examined carefully for scholarship 
             and support. [Anyone can put a web page on the Net.] 
             Therefore, support for the quality of the Internet   
             source should be mentioned in the text of the research 

          3. Don't quote more than twice from general             
             encyclopedias. Go to primary sources rather
             than secondary sources whenever possible.

          4. Look into "everything" as a possible source i.e.
             books, magazines, newspapers, specialized            
             encyclopedias, interviews, television, CD-ROM (SIRS, 
             Readers' Guide, Exegy, etc.), Search Engines, maps,  
             film/videodisks, online university & public library  
             catalogs, microfilm, experts, etc. 
              * Hand out [SourcLst.123] with the outline.

             -Learn- about the topic and not just with the attitude 
            of being sufficient for the paper

          5. When using the mail to write for information, do it
             early in the quarter to get it back on time.
          6. Instruction in basic note card taking skills, quote
             or paraphrase.  (Handouts)  With handout discuss     
             problems of reliance on one main source.  Suggest:   
             Take the same type of information from different     
             sources.. use a variety of sources in the paper. 
             [Hand out [SourcLst.123] This source list needs to be 
             turned in with the rough draft.
                  WRITTEN.  FOLLOW DIRECTIONS FOR NOTE CARDS.             

     C. Preliminary Thesis  (first/second week)

          1.  A thesis statement is the proposition that
              you wish to illustrate, clarify, and prove.

          2.  The student is responsible to support the thesis
              stated in the paper and so may want to narrow the
              scope of the paper so the thesis can be established
              in twenty+ pages.

          3.  The thesis can be refined as further research shows 
              the need.  


     D. Preliminary Research  (third/fifth week)

                 (Oral Report: 3 points of interest)
                  *With the oral reports the students should state 
                   their preliminary thesis.  

          1. Check on number and quality of sources.
             "I got another source!" Leslie Isola -Winter 99
              [Great attitude toward a getting variety of sources.]

          2. Check on accuracy and completeness of
             bibliography and note cards.

          3. Take mainly quotes to avoid unconscious plagiarism.
             Paraphrase when writing the rough draft. *Mentioned  
             already in General Notes.  Repeat here.

          4. In determining the value of a book as a source
             read those areas not read by the casual reader.
             The preface, introduction, foreword, etc. of a book  
             will usually reveal the experience, viewpoint,       
             credentials, bias, etc. of an author and the intended 
             level of the book.

          5. Look at the table of contents and index for 
             indications of the presence of your topic in the

          6. Save all bib and note cards.  Mark degree of         
             usefulness on bib cards.

          7. Read several standard sources of information; then
             scan others for differing views and more facts.

          8. Most popular magazines deal only superficially
             with topics but they may contain references to
             other sources.


          10. Quote those passages with a unique or memorable             
                style, or with a controversial content that the   
              reader would give more credence to if it were in its
              original form. Follow this procedure in preference to 
              quoting "anything" to meet the assigned percentage.

          11. "20% quotes" is assigned to cause a "new" research
              writer to develop skill in working quotes into the 
               paper. In later papers your style, preferences, and 
               perhaps a different instructor may cause a variation
               in this practice.  


          13. An interview with an expert may be used as a source. 
             Document the interview by noting name, time, place, 
             and credentials of the person being interviewed. With
             permission one  might record the interview for more
             accurate quotes. (See instructor for interview 
          14. Search for topics using a variety of terms and names 
             in search engines, catalogs, indexes, etc.

     E.  Intermediate Thesis  (third/fifth week)
          1. At this point after several weeks of research the 
             thesis should be definite although it may yet be 
             modified by clarifying or narrowing it.
          2. 1 to 1 interview on topic progress.


     F.  Outline  (sixth week)

          1. Check on students' ability to do outline.
               A. List 25, 35-40 things that come to mind.
               B. Star the 6 most important.
               C. Arrange 6 in I-VI format.
               D. Put the rest under the 6 for beginning
               E. Check to see that there is a LOGICAL FRAMEWORK to 
                 the outline.
               E. Show to instructor.
               F. Type up for ease in arranging sections, etc.
               G. Put outline -code- [sections] on your note cards 
                  in pencil.
               H. Put quantity of note cards for each section of  
                  the outline on the outline. [Steps G. and H.    
                  could be done at the same time.]
               I. During the full research time, research those   
                  areas of the outline that have insufficient note 

          2. Have an overall logical framework to your paper.  Do 
             not drift aimlessly. The organization may be: 1)     
             general to specific  2) chronological  3) order of   
             importance 4) alternating pro and con arguments or 5) 
             some other planned system
          3. This step may be completed when you have done your   
             preliminary research.  It should be forming in your
             mind before the sixth week.   
          4. Balance the sections of your paper.  


     G. Full Research (sixth/seventh week)
          1. Check on thoroughness of research.
          2. Check diversity of sources and help where 
          3. Remember librarian.

     H. Final Thesis (sixth week/seventh week)
          1. Collect thesis.
          2. Measure ability to explain and defend thesis.
           ***          ***           ***      ** 

---------->> Teach 8th week material in the 7th week including
              p. 92-97 in Writing the Research Paper 7th ed.  by
              James D. Lester.

     I. Rough Draft  (8th week)
             *Some should start writing sooner.  Those with slower
              writing speed should be counseled individually to   
              begin sooner than the outline shows.
              #Consider writing the rough draft with your outline 
              and thesis constantly in view so that you can refer
Stress        to them as you add material.  Check to make sure    
this           that the material applies to the thesis and outline,
Point!       and explain to the reader how the material does 
              #Read the material at the end of this outline       
              regarding writing longer papers.

            **(Have a handout for the rough draft requirements.)  
          1. Typewritten with sources listed- "rough" bibliography 
             need only list author and title and type of source,  
             i.e. magazine, book, etc.  [Alphabetize!]
          2. Remember writing skills learned in Comp. 121. When   
             a new paragraph begins, use unifying agents when the
             topic remains the same, and use transitions when     
             changing to a new topic. 
          3. When using quotes, use your "own" words like cement  
             between "bricks of documentation." Do not "stack"    
             quotes; put your words between them.
          3. No you's or I's.
          4. 225 words per page minimum.        
          5. Minimum length 20 pages, maximum length 25 pages.
          6. 5-6 footnotes per page (average).
          7. 20% quotes. *20% quotes is assigned in order to cause
             a "new" research writer to develop skill in working
             quotes into the paper.  In later papers your own     
             style, preferences, and perhaps a different instructor
             might cause variations in this model.             
          8. Quote those passages with a unique or memorable style
             or a controversial content that the reader will give 
             more credence to if it is in its original form. Do
             this in preference to quoting just anything to meet
             the assigned percentage.
          9. Use the same dictionary or electronic 'speller.'
          10. "Quote" and cite from your source, not from the     
              source that your author has quoted and cited from. 
          11. Make sure that all sources listed in the Works Cited 
              are used in the paper, and that all references used 
              in the paper are also documented in the Works Cited.
          12. Effect of thesis on organization (discussed during
          13. Keep your writing style- quote exactly or paraphrase
NOTE --> completely. PLEASE REMEMBER that you must 
               document  paraphrases as well as quotes!!!! 
          14. Avoid reliance on one main source.
          15. Do not have more than 4-5 references to the same
              source in a row to avoid the "book report"  appearance.           
          16. Work quotations smoothly into the paper. See textbook 
              Writing Research Papers by James Lester, pages 173- 
              193.. PLUS see instructor for notes and philosophy  
              regarding parenthetical documentation.  
              * One rationale consider is ease of finding the     
                 reference in the Works Cited. i.e "Hereafter cited 
             as ...."        
         17. Introduce the quote and then comment on why it is    
             there, or its significance, in your words.
         18. Save paper on 2 different disks when using a         
             computer. Save first rough draft as [paper1] before  
             rewriting.  Save paper as [paper2] and rewrite that so 
             that you can go back to the original rough draft     
             [paper1] if the rewrite [paper2] has too many        
         19. Re: Computers- Word processors- 1) responsible for   
             "their" typing as if a typist did it for the student. 
             2) Proofread after printing (suggest proofreading    
             from paper copy rather than just from the screen).   
             3) Put name and page number on each page.
         20. Write in pencil in the left margin where you wish    
             something particularly checked in the rough draft.
         21. Hand in rough draft with the outline and the source  
             list in a large envelope.


     J. Works Cited  (ninth week)    

          1. Work on Works Cited page in class while the rough    
             drafts are being graded. (Check off completed work   
             in the grade book.)
          2. Works Cited can only include those sources actually
             used in the paper. 
          3. For the pattern to use, see Works Cited [MLA Format] 
             in the textbook.  Pages 250-279.  REMEMBER- the Works 
             Cited is alphabetized.

*------>Be aware of State Girls' Basketball, etc. when finals are 

     K. Final Draft (tenth week)

 NOTE:    * (Have a handout checklist to be given out with returned 
             rough drafts to be used with the final drafts.)

          1. In writing the final draft, pay strict attention
             to the comments on the rough draft. If any thing
             is unclear, see the instructor. Please don't assume
             a meaning of anything that seems ambiguous or unclear.
             If you don't know how to correct some aspect of the
             paper, see the instructor for help and advice..

          2. Due one week after the return of the rough draft, if 
             the rough draft was turned in on time.

          3. Start typing as soon as possible.

          4. Work on transitions that you may not have had time
             to perfect in the rough draft.  Review the rough
             draft handout.

          5. Re: Computers- Word processors- 1) Responsible for   
             "their" typing as if a typist did it for the student. 
             2) Use a dark ribbon. 3) Proofread after printing.   
             4) Order sheets i.e. separate, have name and number on 
             each page. -> Don't turn in a pile of connected sheets 
             just run off the computer. 
            NOTE:  It is strongly suggested that the writer,      
             PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD! and that
             the writer print out a copy to proofread because errors 
             can be missed when proofreading a scrolling computer 

          6. Final draft should include title page, outline, main 
             body, and works cited page(s).

          7. Hand in rough draft and note cards with the final draft. 

**Hand out the above 'sheet' and discuss the papers as a group. 
Then discuss individual papers with each student to make sure that
comments on the rough draft are understood.


     L. Oral Report on research to the class. [10-12 minutes]

          1. Can use copy of outline from the final draft.
          2. Student[s] may/should answer questions from the class 
             after the presentation if there is time to hear all  
             the student presentations and have questions also.
   *  Remember to have students state thesis in oral reports
      and how their thesis relates to their research.

                Considerations for Writing Longer Papers
     Longer papers should communicate organization, thematically,
chronologically, and topically.
     This concept means that first they should communicate the
thesis throughout the paper [why each part of the paper is there in
relation to the thesis].
     Next, if the paper has a time based topic- a history paper, a
biography, etc., the time [chronological] relationship of the
sections of the paper to each other should be clear.  Therefore
dates should be plentiful and clear, and if an event comes earlier,
previous to an event already discussed, it should be noted with a
phrase such as, 'ten years before the fall of Russia, this event
happened.'  OR 'while this event was occurring in India, the
following happened in Georgia, USA.'  OR 'twenty years later Mme.
Jones started the campaign to help wounded soldiers.' [Note: dates
should be plentiful and clear even with a straight-through
chronology because the reader might be trying to place some event
in a time frame of other events that they already know about.]
     Then organization should be communicated topically.  This
concept means that each topic covered should be clear in its
relation to other topics in the paper, not only in relation to the
thesis. This need is especially true if a topic is going to be
covered two or three times in a paper in more or less detail.  For
instance, in a biography, if an event is first briefly mentioned in
an overview of a person's life, use a phrase such as 'this
important event will be discussed in more detail later in the
paper.'  Then when the topic is covered later, it should be
introduced with a phrase such as 'as has been mentioned earlier' to
show the reader that the writer is in control of the topic and is
not 'padding' or has not forgotten that they already covered the
topic.  Whenever a topic is covered more than once, the rationale
for the coverage should be presented, and the location in the paper
should be noted so that the reader doesn't think 'wasn't this
covered before?' and go searching for it out of curiosity or
irritation or both.  This topical consideration for organization is
similar to chronological organization but not limited to it.
Sample #1
Research Paper
-New- Sample #2
Research Paper link
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