- Student Research Done Right! A Teacher’s Guide for High School and College Classes by Lisa Scherff, Leslie S. Rush
“Grandma Joy, Do you know what my Nemesis is?” queried my 16 year old grandson. My first thought was that maybe he was studying the manual for his upcoming driver’s license test, or perhaps playing some new computer game with a character based on the Greek goddess of retribution. I responded, “No, Quinn, what is your Nemesis?” to which he replied, “MLA Style.”
You might imagine my delight, not only as a grandparent, but also as an editor, that high schoolers take MLA style seriously! I gave him his own copy of the 8th Edition of the MLA Handbook, and told him that I know plenty of college students, and journal contributors too, whose downfall is still MLA style. Thank goodness for the dedicated teachers that start our students off on the right foot from an early age and for suitable resources to lead them to success.
You might also imagine my delight when Student Research Done Right! A Teacher’s Guide for High School and College Classes showed up for review. Although the target audience is secondary school and early college English teachers, this basic compilation of research methods and exercises can also be used by teachers of other languages who are introducing and refreshing their students’ research techniques in college first year seminars, world language and literature classes, and international student orientation classes.
Early chapters set the foundations for research practices that will last a lifetime. RAVEN, a mnemonic device, evaluates the credibility of sources, including online texts. By analyzing the author’s reputation, ability to see, vested interest, expertise, and neutrality, students become aware of the trustworthiness of sources. Another technique, the rhetorical précis, with its structured four-sentence paragraph and one-page practice template, develops summarizing skills that form the basis for abstracts and annotations. One of the most useful research habits is writing annotated bibliographies; many years after reading a document, researchers can review their annotations without re-reading the entire text. Often literary researchers find that an annotated bibliography can replace the traditional “review of literature” article sections [End Page 82] and book chapters.
Short, but essential, discussions of how to formulate research questions and the differences between qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research initiate students into the research process. Data collection through surveys, including ethics and human participant proposals, is briefly explained. After these critical preparatory skills are learned, classroom exercises and assignments address practical questions with activities for student practice in writing a literature synthesis paper, an explanatory or argumentative text, discursive argumentative writing or an academic paper with accompanying oral defense.
Teachers will appreciate student writing examples that illustrate finished products from actual classes and serve as guides for how to structure assignments. Students will appreciate and retain the techniques since they are accompanied by useful memory prompts and learning devices. Staying on the “research arrow” from research question, to literature review, to research method, to results, to interpretation, discussion and implications will keep many a researcher on track and will keep their aim on target. This slim, well-organized guide helps us get what we all want, Student Research Done Right!