Research essay process

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In Educ 300: Education Reform, Past & Present, the major writing assignment is a research essay that addresses change and/or continuity over time regarding any topic in education. By design, the boundaries are very broad. You may explore any topic related to education, at any level inside the schooling system (early childhood, elementary & secondary, or higher education) or outside the system (home schooling, community-based education, etc.), in any location (local, domestic, or international) or time period (centuries ago or recent events), as long as you frame the question around change and/or continuity over time.

Appropriate types of research questions that address change and/or continuity over time:

  1. historical origins — How did X first arise at this period in time?
  2. historical causation — What factors caused X to happen over time?
  3. multiple definitions  —  How did different reformers envision X over time?
  4. social history of human experiences — How did group Y experience X over time?
  5. historiographical — How have different historians interpreted X over time?
  6. policy formation —  How did X arise as a policy issue over a specific period?
  7. policy implementation — How was X transformed from policy into practice?

See Ed 300 syllabus for many more examples. Combinations of two or more questions, or the creation of the entirely new and appropriate questions, are strongly encouraged.

Types of questions that are NOT appropriate for an Educ 300 paper:

  • What is the connection between X and Y? (vague link; no change over time)
  • What if X became Y? (hypothetical question; usually no sources)
  • How will group Y do X in years to come? (future speculation without sources)

Each student must complete these stages of the research paper process:

A) Proposal – Write a research essay proposal, typically around 500 words:

  • Identify your research question and justify why it matters
  • Describe where and how you searched for primary & secondary sources (include databases and keywords)
  • List a bibliography of the most appropriate sources (in any standard academic citation format)

Post on our Google Doc Organizer by Sat April 1st at 6pm. See sample proposals from 2016.

B) Conference – Schedule 20-minute appointment with instructor to discuss feedback on proposal by Fri April 7th. Book automatically on my advising page OR email 2-3 possible dates/times.

C) Working thesis & evidence draft – Start a draft of your essay (at least 750 words; more is encouraged) that includes:
– Introductory paragraph that raises your research question
– Introductory paragraph that answers it with a working thesis
– Two or more body paragraphs that interpret your most interesting sources (with citations). Post as a link on our Google Doc Organizer by Friday April 21st at 6pm.

D) Peer comments – Read and write substantive comments on drafts by two other students in your assigned group, as listed in our GoogleDoc Organizer, by Sun April 23rd at 9pm.  Login with your Google username to prove that you wrote the comments. Please comment on evaluation criteria 1, 2, 4, and 5 below. Tell us what works in the essay, what could be improved, and your suggested next steps for the author.

E) Research presentation – Prepare and deliver a substantive 2-minute presentation, in Google Slides format on our GDoc Organizer, due before our last class on Monday May 1st. Be sure to include:
– engaging essay title
– research question
– working thesis (bullet points acceptable for presentations)
– interpretation of at least one key source (which you can describe, quote, scan, or include as an image)
Be prepared to write comments and vote on other students’ presentations.

F) Final essay – Post your final essay on WordPress (category = research essay 2016), at least 2,000 words (or more), addressing all of the evaluation criteria below by Friday May 5th at 6pm.

Research Essay evaluation criteria:

  1. Does the essay pose a thought-provoking research question that addresses change and/or continuity over time in education?
  2. Does the essay present a clear and insightful thesis that addresses the research question?
  3. Does the essay identify the most appropriate source materials and methods for researching this question?
  4. Is the essay’s thesis persuasive? Is it supported with convincing evidence and analysis?
  5. Is the essay organized, clearly written, and does it include sufficient background for audiences unfamiliar with the topic?
  6. Does the essay cite sources (using any accepted academic format) so that future readers may easily locate them?
  7. Digital elements (such as images, charts, links to sources, etc.) are not required, but may count as additional visual evidence to enhance your essay. If you include visual elements, be sure to add captions to properly credit each source.

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