Think, Know, Prove: Research Papers

Think, Know, Prove is a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

So, I’ve been reading a lot about reading and writing this summer, while trying to revamp the things that I do with respect to both. Along the way, I’ve seen story after essay ripping on the idea of assigning research papers (and even argumentative or analytical essays of any sort, i.e., academic forms of writing in general) as here and, again, here (there were others but I can’t seem to find them now). Over and over again, I’ve come across ideas for alternatives (does anyone assign book or album or movie reviews as papers? I thought of that as a possibility for both pre-writing reading (since examples are easy to find) and then writing assignments after reading this article by Robert Pinsky (!) on the “rules” for good book reviews and this fun to read example (sorry Kamran; I know you liked the book–hope this doesn’t ruin it for you).

And it seems like I can’t read a piece about writing without it mentioning this hunk of research from Stanford (of which,for all it’s appeal and purported influence, I can’t seem to make heads or tails in terms of concrete applications in my classroom).

Then, recently, the research paper complainer cited above had some second thoughts (published here), which has me all ambivalent about teaching academic writing all over again.

And so I ask, when it comes to teaching writing (specifically in terms of forms of writing): What do you think? What do you know? What can you Prove?