· Students come to college with a baggage of negative
attitudes towards research writing. They tend to equate research with finding
and reporting information and not with development of new knowledge and creativity.
· When completing assignments in a course which required conducting both primary and secondary research, many students displayed more enthusiasm and involvement in primary research while continuing to show negative attitudes towards secondary research. Such students conducted secondary research in the manner they were accustomed to, simply gathering and compiling information.
· This equation of research with finding and reporting information, which is all too often reinforced by composition teachers, does little to prepare students for the diverse genres and modes of thinking they will engage in as they encounter research writing in the disciplines. Research writing across the curriculum often calls on students to do much more than regurgitate information in a templated format.
The first-year writing study demonstrates that students often misunderstand the true nature of research writing. Instead of treating research as an opportunity to learn and create new meaning, many students consider collecting information the primary goal of research writing. We argue that this situation arises from most students' previous training in research writing, which has traditionally been done through the generic research paper assignment.
Writing teachers should abandon the traditional research paper
genre as the only means of teaching research writing and teach research writing
rhetorically. We should acquaint students with a wide range of research writing
assignments and research methods. We need to help students understand the
importance of research not only for academic writing but also for other types
of writing, including writing across disciplines.
By teaching students to think through their opinions in conversation with others and explore ideas in a variety of research genres, composition teachers can help prepare students for the kinds of research assignments they are likely to encounter across the curriculum: ethnographic studies, scientific hypothesis-testing, business marketing plans, public policy analysis, etc. More importantly, though, by teaching alternative research writing teachers can help students see research writing as inquiry, exploration, and discovery.