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Teaching History Blog

History Research Paper Series--First Draft

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and are ready to start thinking again about scaffolding your research papers.

There are several different approaches that you might take with the next step which is composing the rough draft. You might suggest to students that they have peers, friends, and family read and review their rough draft. You might also suggest that they read the document out loud to themselves or a friend to start catching awkward phrases or mistakes.

I like to use an optional discussion where students post their rough draft for classmates to review and provide feedback. The advantage of this is that students get multiple perspectives from other students who understand the parameters of the assignment. I usually give bonus points (5 points) to the student for just taking the time to put their rough draft in the discussion and additional bonus points (up to 5 points) for taking the time to thoughtfully review a classmates’ paper. It is helpful to reviewing students to provide a rubric or other tools when evaluating the papers so they can provide the most useful feedback to their classmates without sounding overly critical or harsh. I announce to students that I will not read the papers in the discussion, so they feel less risk about showing work that might not be polished. However, I also state I will monitor the discussion for questions and positive, thoughtful correspondence.

Most students seem to understand that the rough draft is a first, second, or even third version of their final paper. They also understand that the rough draft should have citation, quotation, and basic grammar and spelling. However, be sure your students know that the rough draft is to have strong organization and is more than a free writing activity to get thoughts on paper.

For the purposes of this blog, the lesson below is for the student to submit the paper to the instructor to continue the feedback loop presented in other assignments. I do not think that this assignment should be graded except possibly some points for turning it in on time. This is the moment to help students struggling with the writing process and a graded assignment might be too penalizing at this step to encourage improvement.

Objective: Learner will compose a rough draft of their final research paper using the steps prior to this assignment. The rough draft should include a strong thesis statement, demonstrate research on the topic including a Works Cited or Bibliography section, and must be well organized with a concluding statement.

Assignment type: Formative

Assignment Details:
Student will compose a rough draft of their final paper. The rough draft must include the following:
1. Thesis Statement
2. Researched details as examples in the body
3. Works Cited or Bibliography and in-text citation
4. Strong organization of thoughts and ideas

Student will submit the assignment to the instructor for feedback and review. (In my courses the assignments can immediately be run through a plagiarism detector and can be marked up using that tool. Students can see the plagiarism report and this can save many students from accidentally plagiarizing on the graded final version. Additionally, this is a good opportunity to require students to submit some questions about their paper or to have a live session with the instructor to discuss areas for improvement.)

There is no rubric included for this assignment because the focus should be on encouraging your student to improve the assignment for the final version.

Links
How to Make a Playlist on HippoCampus:
A four-minute tutorial video
HippoCampus U.S. History & Government Study Group on OpenStudy.com:
Library of Congress:
United States House of Representatives:
United States Senate:
U.S. Federal Court:
U.S. Supreme Court Media:
Interactive Constitution:
National Constitution Center:
Virginia Historical Society's Virginia History Explorer:

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