5 Tricks to Improve Student Engagement in Research Papers

Today students can Google the details about nearly any debate.  With that type of information at their fingertips, Millennials may wonder why they need to take time to deeply research an argument as part of their academic training.  Google can provide them with a quick answer, maybe even the right answer.  How can this generation learn to analyze, when technology has trained them to simply absorb?


Laura Fox of Harford County Community College redesigned her composition course to set up this scenario: research = inquiry and scholarship = conversation.


Showing students how they, ideally, can become part of the scholarly conversation deepens what the required research paper assignment can do.  Here are some of Fox’s tips:


  • tell students from the start that they are scholars. Let them revel in that.


  • support students in how to read a scholarly article. Confer this piece of wisdom: “If you can’t understand the title, don’t even bother with the article)


  • explore the research process.  Ask students to predict the type of information they will need to find, but prepare them for the likelihood that their topic will chance as they come to understand it.


  • model choosing the correct quotes. Show students that scholars do not select from the article abstract or the obvious generalizations; help them to identify real meaty passages that could be adapted into support. Fox developed a worksheet that asks students to provide the Works Cited entry, the intext citation, and the paraphrase for each quote the student finds to be useful. They are also asked to reflect on how this one quote changes their understanding of the research topic.


  • research alongside your students. Bring your own professional research into the classroom and model source selection, quote use, and thesis development in front of the students.


That seemed like the best idea to me!  I’ve brought my past research into the classroom in the form of quotation exercises and narratives, but now I see the benefit of researching right alongside my students and modeling my changing understanding of the topic as I research.  The joy of useful research is not being entirely positive of where you are going when you start out, and that is something I can share with my students.

Posted in: Uncategorized

Comments are closed.