As I’ve taught writing 205 multiple times, the capstone course to the writing requirement and a course based around research writing, I often come back to three touchstones: the practice of research and source evaluation, the importance of genres, and the centrality of deliver and audience-focused writing. Each of these themes get taken up in different degrees during the semester, but occur throughout.
My overall architecture of the course is an exposure to these primary themes in a rapid, front-loaded manner in the first unit and a thorough, more student-driven investigation and hands-on use of them in the next two units, culminating in the final “extended research” project.
Unit one, I typically introduce them to the class inquiry topic, usually technology for me. We focus on three main goals in the unit project, which I break down into concrete tasks that connect to my goals to the course. When it comes to research and source evaluation, they perform a rough literature review–or more basically just put course readings into conversation–based around a set of topics I provide. This constitutes their exposure to secondary research. Second, I have them perform primary research, usually through interviews, to provide their own set of data to compare with the secondary research they have organized. Third, I have them make that comparison and evaluate how their findings agree with, disagree with, or do a bit of both with the larger conversation. This comprises their thesis. Though the product from this unit is quite messy, it proves a valuable process.
Unit two is usually a slower version of source evaluation, secondary research, and gets more into forming research questions and finding relations among sources and using library tools. In one version they craft a syllabus on a topic of their choice, and I purposely have them over-research to whittle down readings into clear, especially solid examples. In another version, they focus more on genre and consider how research gets translated and delivered to different audiences.
Either of these skills informs the last project, where they must make an intervention in an ongoing topic. Here, they need a clear audience, a clear genre, etc., and they may use either secondary or primary research (or both). Here, the main goal is trying to fully identify a local conversation, situation, topic, etc., and use research and rhetorically astute delivery to address it. Thus, some may make infographics, others may make political cartoons, etc. One student wrote a piece that they published in the SU paper. The goal of the assignment is to bring everything together.