August 2011 Archives

chicken or egg?

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One question we've been kicking around as we work on an outline for the textbook is this:

Should the critical analysis paper come before the topic proposal?

So often, students don't do enough research before writing their topic proposals. I require them to demonstrate that there are relevant scholarly articles and that they are entering an existing debate, but it's a lot to ask when they haven't yet wrestled with critically reading sources and they are also writing their first argumentative essay of the semester.

I wonder if it wouldn't work better to have them write an argument about an article first, and from there move on to write the research proposal. The research proposal seems more complex to me.

Students would not necessarily have to have settled on a topic when they do their critical analysis paper. In fact, doing the paper could help lead toward a better topic.

What do you think?

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