The Common Curriculum

Guidelines for Designing a Sophomore or Scholars Research Seminar

The SRS is intended to be a course focusing on learning research methods, as well as a WAC foundational course following the Preceptorial. As a result, faculty teaching the seminars will need to integrate the teaching of content with instruction and guidance in research and writing. The Gen Ed Board provides guidance to SRS instructors as they design and teach courses integrating skills with content.

Each SRS will require students to write a research paper of 12-18 pages. Other shorter writing assignments may be assigned as well. Instructors must provide instruction and guidance in planning and writing the research paper. Students in the Seminars should learn basic research skills, including, but not limited to, how to frame a research question, construct an argument, create a thesis, identify and analyze secondary and (depending on the discipline) primary sources, use online and other resources in the library, and draw conclusions. A librarian will collaborate with the instructor to provide advice and support throughout the course in helping students locate and evaluate primary and secondary resources relevant to the topic of the Seminar. This will include formal as well as informal group and individual instruction.

Proposal: The Gen Ed Board will review seminar proposals to see how you plan to integrate the key learning outcomes within the topics covered in your course. The proposal should include the following:

  • Explicit mention of the key learning outcomes
  • A brief description of the content of the course
  • Plans for integrating the learning outcomes with content (e.g., timing, books or handouts, etc)

The writing component should include

  • A sequence of at least three written assignments for the research paper with intervening instructor (or instructor-guided) review and student revision. This sequence could include, but is not limited to, a proposal, a statement of the thesis or research question, an outline, an annotated bibliography, an introductory chapter or literature review, or a rough draft before the final version.

Additional considerations concerning the SRS:

  • No prerequisites can be required for any SRS
  • An SRS cannot be double counted to fulfill any other Gen Ed requirement
  • An SRS may be taught in the fall, winter, and spring (only W or S for Scholars seminars)
  • An SRS may not count toward a major (policy revised May, 2007)

Guidelines for your syllabus: Learning objectives and plans for integrating skills

  • Have you indicated key research topics to be discussed? These should include, but need not be confined to, the following: framing a research question; identifying and analyzing secondary and, depending on the discipline, primary sources; creating a thesis; constructing an argument.
  • Have you indicated plans for integrating skills, such as the timing in relation to the course, assigned books or handouts addressing writing and research methods, a library visit to discuss use of online and other sources, etc.?
  • If your class will be analyzing primary sources, have you indicated (in a general way) what these are (e.g., students will interview retired GE scientists; students will look at old newspapers)? How will you be discussing the gathering of primary sources (e.g., a class on how to survey and interview)?
  • Have you described a sequence of at least three written assignments for the research paper with intervening instructor or instructor-guided feedback and student revision? Feedback could include peer review, conferences with the instructor, class feedback on oral presentations, and/or written comments from the instructor.

SRS Learning Outcomes: In 2008 the following learning outcomes were agreed for Sophomore Research Seminars and Scholars Research Seminars. Syllabi for these courses should address these common learning outcomes:

  • Develop a Research Topic: Formulate a clear, focused research question or thesis appropriate to the topic of inquiry.
  • Find Evidence: Identify and locate evidence appropriate for examining a research question or thesis.
  • Evaluate Evidence: Critically and ethically analyze evidence obtained for examination of a research question or thesis.
  • Develop an Evidence-Based Argument: Develop and organize a logical argument grounded in the analysis of evidence that supports or refutes a research question or thesis.
  • Present Research Findings: Present a logical analytical argument supported by evidence in an appropriate written form without errors of grammar, usage, and spelling.
  • Practice Professional Standards of Citation: Incorporate and cite evidence in a manner that meets the professional standards of the discipline most appropriate for the topic of inquiry.

Possibilities for Research Paper Assignment Sequences: These are suggestions to give you ideas about how to design your sequence of assignments. You are free, of course, to design the assignments in some other way as long as you include at least three stages with review and revision:

Stage 1: Preliminary assignment possibilities:

  • A statement of the research question/s and an annotated bibliography
  • A preliminary thesis statement and a summary of methods
  • A thesis statement and a preliminary outline

Stage 2: Feedback on one section of the paper:

  • Introduction: exploration of the question/thesis and background information
  • Literature review: summary and synthesis of what relevant sources say about the topic/issue
  • Section of the body: one time period, issue, or sub-topic of the larger question; data analysis, etc.
  • Oral presentation on progress with feedback from the class and instructor

Stage 3: Feedback on a rough draft:

  • Students could be asked to submit a complete rough draft for feedback or a partial draft. Instructors might want to consider peer review and/or staggered deadlines so that the time spent responding to papers is easier to manage.

Stage 4: Final draft