Research Paper WOES

Each quarter, this project sucks my will to live. Granted, each quarter has been an improvement on the one before, but, SERIOUSLY!

The parameters: 1 research paper, 4 to 6 pages in length, 1 outline, 10 sources (w/ same # of source cards), 1 works cited page, 1 title page; 50 note cards (aka, cards w/ notes).

The timeline this quarter: March 21st to today, April 21st (rough draft due date).

It’s 4th block. Out of 41 students, I have (drum roll)…SIXTEEN PAPERS. Not even half. I have some students who HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED TYPING!!!

How can I NOT feel that, as a teacher, some of this is my fault? That perhaps I haven’t explained things adequately, that I didn’t provide enough help, that I didn’t stagger due dates enough. Yet, at the same time…4 weeks for 4 pages, and students who aren’t finished?…HOW IS THAT MY FAULT?! Seriously.

I was so excited the second week of the quarter. Most of my students were on track and I thought I’d have a whole lot of papers to be grading tonight. (Actually, the original due date was last Friday, but then we had some school events that screwed up the schedule…so I bumped it back). I was so excited till last week, which was the week after spring break. We came back and then my big balloon started to deflate. My students weren’t on top of things. But, dangit, all of 2nd quarter, I pushed back & rearranged due dates and wanted to pull my hair out. I was DETERMINED not to repeat that this quarter, so I started out with a longer timeline of due dates for the project.

Yet…for all that…I have students who aren’t done. Students who I don’t even know how to begin to describe, in terms of the level of frustration.

One of my students, who hasn’t started typing, isn’t even done w/ his 50 notecards yet. Nor has he done an outline yet. I’m sure he hasn’t used Noodletools to make his Bibliography yet. If this was a business and his paper was a business proposal, some bosses will be likely to FIRE HIS ASS for being so effing behind. Right?

What can I do about this situation? I don’t want each quarter to be a study in frustration when I feel like crying or punching people at the end of the day b/c I’m so frustrated? Do I carve out more time? Do I expect less? What? What do I do so I don’t want to kill them AND I actually get papers out of them? So they’re successful?

Incidentally, we spent 4 days at the beginning of the quarter learning how to take notes, paraphrase, etc. They have handouts on how to cite sources within their paper as well. Yet, apparently none of them either get it or just don’t put 2-n-2 together, b/c hardly any of my students cite their sources within their papers.

I wish I could remember back to when I was a sophomore (the high school I attended requires the first big research paper during that year) to how my teacher taught us the project. I email back & forth with her, but I just don’t think I’m doing a good job. At least, that’s how I feel when I get to this point and I have results of turnitin.com that show 80% plagiarism, which is primarily due to not adequately citing, quoting or paraphrasing. GAH!

Any help or suggestions from all you English teachers would be GREATLY appreciated.

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