Whatever it is…it ain’t working.

Posted on May 12, 2010Filed Under Research Papers, Stories of Seventh Grade | 4 Comments

Prologue: “Nancy” (she of fraternal twin fame) announced yesterday, “They changed my medicine, and I’m supposed to be able to pay attention better now.”

Let’s see how that goes. Here on Earth.

That dreaded time of year is at hand: Research. We’re going into the library next week, and we’re trying to get topics dialed in. I make them put their topic in the form of a question, and then their thesis is their prediction for the answer to that question.  I’m trying to eliminate the dreaded “all about” paper: France, Soccer, Hitler, Cheese, Dolphins.

Anyway, we were going over the first handout today. It’s the one with all the technical requirements and length  and suchlike. It’s the only part anyone (especially parents) thinks is important. How long does it have to be? What size font? (Do I look like an idiot? Does ANYONE actually believe that the old giant-font-size trick works?) When’s the final draft due? Do we hafta have pictures?

And etc. I was at the part in my speech about the old “putting it in my own words” method of research paper writing.

“I’m betting that for you guys writing a research paper looks a lot like this… You have the encyclopedia or Wikipedia or whatever open over on this side, and over here you’re writing your paper. And the book says, ‘There was a great migration of settlers westward…’ and you write, ‘Many settlers migrated west,’ directly into your paper. You probably relied on one groovy source, so that it’s easy to do what I just did, and besides, they’re all going to say the same thing.”

Lots of sheepish looks.

“That ain’t gonna happen here. You’re going to actually take notes, and then write the paper from your notes. That other way you’re used to? That’s plagiarism. I gave three F’s for that last year, plus one more to some genius who tried to use the free sample from one of those ‘buy a paper’ web sites.”

“Whoa, how’d you catch him?”

“Duh. Why do you think I make the research paper one of the last things we do? One: I couldn’t cope with reading whatever you might have come up with back in October or whenever. I had to teach you some vocabulary and some writing savvy.  Two: Now I know what you sound like. I’m going to know it’s not you within two paragraphs. Plus: How hard is it to type a suspect sentence or two, with quotes around it, into Google? It took about 45 seconds.”

“Don’t you give this speech every year?” (Perceptive lad, that.) Why do people do that?”

“People get desperate. They were lazy throughout the process, and didn’t use the time or the help that they were given, and now it’s June 2nd and the paper’s due in two…”

(Here’s the payoff, as they used to say.)

Nancy has suddenly perked up, Earth and Planet Nancy align, and she bursts out,

“It’s June 2nd?”

(Oh, but that’s not all.)

Sheer pandemonium, because she said it in all seriousness. Only the laughter made her realize. Then from amidst the din, one motormouth genius yells,

“It’s April 11th, Nancy! Duh.”

“Umm. ‘Gary’? It’s May.”

Pandemonium II.

“I was just joking.”

Uh huh.


4 Responses to “Whatever it is…it ain’t working.”

  1. Carly on May 13th, 2010 10:40 pm

    I’m not teaching English this year for the first time in about 13 years, so don’t have to deal with the research paper. But one thing I started doing a few years ago was the research story. The kids research an Alaskan mammal and must write a story about a year in the life of the mammal. They must include facts about their mammal in the story. Anyways, this really cuts down on the plagiarism since it isn’t written as traditional report. We read the book “Caribou Journey” by Debbie Miller as a model for their story.

    And I require them to take notes from books before they are allowed to get on the internet. They act like I’m torturing them.

  2. Sara on May 17th, 2010 4:27 pm

    Oh, Mr. C.! I am currently buried beneath a mountain of seventh grade research papers to grade. We spent soooo much precious time practicing, researching, revising, going over all of those research paper “rules,” and yet I’m amazed at how many of them have managed to do–in pure seventh grade fashion–the least amount of work possible. I will not give up! I will not give up!

  3. Phyllis Cooper on October 29th, 2010 4:55 pm

    You had me in tears . . . from laughing!! I SO needed your humor.

  4. mrC on October 29th, 2010 10:26 pm

    Thank you for the kind words. Glad to be of help on a Friday! Welcome.

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