Karen Kaiser Lee

From telling to transforming: Rhetorical invention and the genre of the research paper

Karen Kaiser Lee

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2011 pp: 164
  • Advisor: Johnson-Sheehan, Richard
  • Source: DAI-A 73/02(E)
  • Subjects: Education; Language, literature and linguistics; Composition; Higher education; Research assignments; Research instruction; Research papers; Rhetorical invention; Writing from sources; Pedagogy; Rhetoric; Genre; Research; Composition instruction;
  • ProQuest Document Number: 904662326
  • ISBN: 9781124983868
  • UMI Number: AAT 3481044

Abstract:

This project argues for a re-visioning of the traditional research paper assignment in first-year composition courses, both in how it is assigned and in how instructors view it. The traditional research paper assignment is an extended writing project that involves writing from sources, with an emphasis on the formal aspects of academic writing. The research paper project for undergraduates evolved in the nineteenth century as the American higher education system adapted the German higher education model. This model emphasized individual, original scholastic work and publication, rather than the English model, which stressed oral performance (recitation and similar demonstrations of memorization and synthesis). The German “ideal of research” was and remains difficult for first-year students to follow, as a series of additional learning tasks have been grafted onto the assignment; these include library research skills, synthesis and analysis of information; quotation, paraphrasing, and citation practices; formatting issues such as MLA or APA rules; and, more recently, information literacy skills. This project argues that the often unwritten expectation that students will produce new knowledge (knowledge transforming) is extremely difficult for at least two reasons: because it is an advanced writing skill, and because the rules- and format-focused setting of the research paper requires students to document every claim they make, rendering it extremely challenging to advance new claims. This project posits that research needs to be more clearly articulated as a recursive practice. It then applies genre theory, which describes genres as discursive sites that develop around social constructs. Thus the traditional research paper shows a conflicted social setting where the student is typically expected to pose and perform as an experienced academic while operating as a student in an assignment steeped in the concerns of current-traditional rhetoric. This project offers a re-framing of the research project in favor of inquiry rather than “research,” and suggests that we view research instruction as teaching and modeling habits of mind and see the results of student work as insight.