Even with careful instruction and clear models, only a handful of students prove to be effective at giving credit to their sources, at incorporating borrowed information in their papers seamlessly, and at incorporating their own thoughts or drawing conclusions based on their research.
During the summer of 2004, I attended the Dakota Writing Project (DWP) Summer Institute, held in Vermillion, South Dakota.
The paper was to be written in first person and approached from the perspective of the character, real or imagined, recalling the event in the past tense.
One restriction was that the character could not be a major player in the event.
Effective research begins with locating valid information.
But to be truthful, my students' research skills are mediocre at best when locating information on the Internet, and almost nonexistent when searching for print sources.
I could envision my students having fun doing this exercise while incorporating the essential skills of a researcher: choose a topic; find credible sources, both print and online; locate facts related to the event and take notes; organize information; analyze and determine which data would be useable and which would not; synthesize the information in a written format; credit information; create a "works cited" page.
The transition to this new format, however, was not immediate.
At first I was somewhat skeptical, as I am sure many who read this may be, about whether I could break away from tradition, meet the required standards, and work this assignment into my tightly packed curriculum.
The more I listened, however, the more I saw the potential.