The Research Paper

Teaching a research paper has to be the hardest thing I’ve ever taught, especially in the era of the kids having all the information coming to them, pre-packaged.  They all need my help, and they all need it at once.  Despite the pep-talks before hitting the library, despite any attempts to impress upon them the need to HAVE THEIR TOPIC READY, and despite the attempt to encourage them to DO MORE RESEARCH, they leave the library befuddled and confused and completely research-less.

The laugh and whine and kvetch because they don’t know what’s going on,

"I need a topic!" they cry.

For example:
Student: I can’t find anything in the library about Swine Flu!
Me: Of course you can’t find anything about Swine Flu in the library, it’s new, what might you find that’s related to swine flu that could help your research?
Student: I don’t know! I just want to know about Swine Flu!
Me: Well, what are you researching?
Student: Everything about Swine Flu.
Me (trying not to grit my teeth): What specifically?  Are you trying to find out what might happen if it spreads?
Student: Yeah.
Me: Well, why don’t you find out what has happened in the past that might be able to tell you what will happen now?
Student: Like, research other flu outbreaks?
Me: Yes, find a book about influenza.
Student: Okay, where are those?
Me: Look it up
Student: Where?
Me: The catalog!
Student: Where’s that?
Me: On the computer

10 minutes later
Student: How do I look it up?
Me: Go to this website.
Student: Check.
Me: Type in the subject you are looking for.
Student: Nothing turns up, what now?
Me: Try again with a different term.  Instead of swine flu, try "influenza".
Student: Yay books!  How do I find them?

And yes, it goes on…and on…through teaching this student about call numbers, and then how to use the table of contents to find the specific section, and then how to take notes as she is reading… And while I’m doing this time consuming tutoring, the other students are just as needy.  Argh…


About alburnet

New mom, new natural, and..for the last year...still a new teacher!

Posted on May 7, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. wikipedia is totally cramping your style. at least you don’t have to explain paper card catalogs!

  2. Damn, girl! What grade you teaching again?
    PS- We’s going to have dinner/hang out befo I leave for grad school?

    • 10th Grade.
      And Amanda is right. It’s not like they do this just the once. The student I was helping the other day, she’s probably going to take it to heart and try to remember it again – she’s a good student, just never taught to do a research paper. However, there are others that I’m sure will go through the same conversations with their teachers over and over again, year after year.
      I did have one kid sign up to stay after school a couple of days with me in the library, and we got at least two good sources down – not from Wikipedia – and he seemed much more comfortable with the process. I just wish that I could sit down and spend individual time with each student.

  3. This is one of the most frustrating things about teaching for me, as well. I have kids who come up to me every time they write a new sentence – “Ms. Fox, I need help… I don’t know what to write next.”
    ARG! Learn to think on your own, people!
    And your kids have no excuse. If you only had to teach them once, it would make sense, but seriously – every time they go through the same thing. What the heck do you do about this??
    I have no answers. Sorry.

  4. meeeeeeee too
    That’s why I refuse to take questions–I just tell them to read what I spelled out at a third-grade reading level for them in their research packet.
    Am I going to Teacher Hell? Yes.

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