Thinking about a Research Writing Class

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This semester I’m using Emerging to teach a class with a significant research writing component, so I’ve been thinking a lot about research: what it means in an academic setting, what students know about it, what they need to know about it, and how I might teach them. I’m teaching the class as a pilot section of our second semester FYC course. Ideally, I see an overall movement in which the first semester course introduces students to academic writing, the second semester introduces them to the basics of research, and then they move into their disciplines. I call the model I’m toying with “SAMSIL” because of its three central components: teach students how to make sustained arguments supported with multiple sources that reflect information literacy. SAMSIL also extends the skills that students learn in our first semester course, in which they write four- to six-page papers with a central argument supported by two sources. The challenges of making an argument over the course of eight to ten pages—without fluff or repetition—and of figuring out how and when to use not two but five sources begins to move students toward the more complex writing they will likely do in their major courses, all while providing them a basic grounding in academic information literacy—the ability to locate, assess, and apply information. As I said, it’s a pilot. I’ve taught a similar model before but this time I think I have the kinks worked out. We’ll begin with a short sequence based on three readings from Emerging in order to set a broad theme for the class—in this case, technology and knowledge using Marshall Poe’s “The Hive” (about Wikipedia), Michael Pollan’s “The Animals: Practicing Complexity” (about the complex ecological technology of organic farming), and Thomas Friedman’s “The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention” (about global supply chains). Giving that this is all an experiment, though, I’m curious… how do you approach researched writing in your own classroom?
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.