Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Writing at Wheaton

Academics

The Dreaded Research Paper

Posted on April 6, 2011

by Joanna Bouras, Class of 2014.

Oh No, not again…ANOTHER research paper?! Doesn't my professor know that I have better things to do than sit in the library for hours conducting research for a ridiculously long paper on something that NO ONE cares about?"

If you are like me, you have the same thoughts running through your head every time you receive a writing assignment. There is an instant realization that for the next few weeks your life is going to be consumed by hours of research with dusty books that have not been touched since they arrived in the library. Then, you have to write draft after draft after draft, and pull a couple of all-nighters. I'm not the only person that dislikes research papers. When I asked freshman Chelsea Ettinger how she feels about these writing assignments, she crumpled her face in extreme distaste and groaned, "They take soooooo long." Another student said, "They take hours and you never do well on them." Why does it always seem like the papers we spend the most time on and put forth the most effort usually get mediocre grades? "Professor, you forced me to do this assignment I spent half a lifetime on it, NO, I am not happy with a B-…"

But the process of writing a research paper doesn't have to be a grueling experience. I have some suggestions that may help students ease anxiety and frustration.
Seek out others to work with you on your writing. You can make an appointment with a peer tutor or a professional tutor. You might even want to brainstorm with a friend or simply chat about your ideas.

Use the library. The librarians are an excellent resource to help you find books/information on topics you might not know a lot about or might not know how to go about researching it. A librarian will help you with time management and will also help you find good sources.

Talk to your professor. Take advantage of a professor's office hours. Use the time to talk to your professor about any difficulties you may have writing or researching, or even to brainstorm ideas with him or her.

If you have the option, choose a research paper topic that interests you. You'll enjoy the process so much more and most likely will write a stronger paper.

To all of the professors out there: I have a few suggestions that you might do to help your students with writing assignments.

• Assign topics that students would find interesting or allow students to choose their own research topics. The more interested a student is in the research topic, the more invested she'll be in writing the paper. Inevitably, a student's investment will surface in the quality of her work.

• If you can't or don't allow students to choose their own research topic, set up appointments with them to check in on their progress and provide guidance. Students who are assigned to write about a topic that they are not fond of often neglect the paper until the last minute. Required conferences will prevent this from happening.

Once you overcome the fear and anxiety of the assignment, you will realize that writing a research paper is not nearly as painful you think. It actually has the potential to be an interesting and exciting learning experience.

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