Students aren’t particularly fond of the research paper, but they need to learn how to do research and report it to be successful academics. When they are being asked to do something that is “hard” for them, it can be useful to maximize the use they get out of the project.
When my students are doing the research for their long papers (on a controversial issue) I require that they find sources both for the side they agree with and against that side. I want them to understand the entire issue and not just the side that they agree with.
Then the question becomes how to have them use both sides so that they actually see the strength of the opposition’s arguments.
- Have them write the research paper from the side they disagree with first, then write the one they agree with.
- Allow them to write the research paper they agree with, then have them compose a short refutation, as if from the opposing side, arguing against one of the points they made in their paper.
- Have the first paper be a compare/contrast on the arguments on both sides of the topic. For example, “Global warming may or may not be caused by humans.” and then present the arguments from their research.
These multiple exercises, or even combinations thereof, allow the students to become more familiar with the arguments on both sides and encourage them to understand their side’s arguments better.
The photo is from Ricko on flickr.