Questioning the Final Research Paper

16/01/2012 § 20 Comments

CC image courtesy of Shht! on Flickr

Before the new semester starts, I’d like to address the academic tradition of the “final paper.”  I don’t understand why so many professors assign research papers as a final assignment.  Research papers are difficult to execute well when under a severe time constraint, especially when most of the knowledge you’re pulling together, synthesizing, and analyzing may not be taught until a couple weeks before the paper is due — or the external research has to be performed on top of keeping up with other heavy assignments.  What generally results is not great research or writing.

How can students be expected to write good research papers given that they haven’t learned all the course material yet?  And if we don’t need to learn the course material to write the paper, what’s the point of writing it?  The whole process is quite frustrating to me because I don’t understand the reasoning.  Do professors really expect us to work on the research paper throughout the entire semester?  If they do, why don’t they assign more relevant material each week that would support it?  I often feel like I don’t actually write high-quality research papers, yet I still get rewarded with an A grade.  It doesn’t help me in the long run if I think my research papers are great when they’re actually not.

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