Term Papers

There seems to be only one sensible reason to assign a single term paper due at the end of the term — like training for the writing of a graduate thesis or dissertation. Since that is not the case in undergraduate (and most graduate) courses, here is an alternative model.

Steps in Designing a Term Paper Requirement

Example: Instead of a 15-page single term paper, assign five 3-page papers, due in two or three-week intervals. The first paper will require the students to use and demonstrate the 3-4 skills the teacher deems the most fundamental ones; the second paper will build on these skills and add the next skills set, and so on.

Benefits of this Method

  1. Teacher and students are engaged in the process of developing a paper;
  2. Students receive meaningful feedback when they can still do something about it (as opposed to getting a graded paperback at the end of the term);
  3. The quality of students’ work should improve as they focus on smaller chunks of information and skills;

The teacher does not have to read (cram) numerous long papers in a day or two; rather, the same volume of writing is spread over the entire term.

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