UNIT 3: BOTTOM-UP WRITING
Bottom-up writing starts with a research question. This question should be more than factual, e.g., "In what chronological order were the 13 Canadian provinces/territories established?" It should include a perspective, something arguable, e.g., "Even though Hawai'i has a high cost of living compared to minimum wage, why do many minimum-wage workers choose to stay in Hawai'i?" Even if you do come to a possible answer based on evidence, it is unlikely that you (or anyone else) will be able to have the final say.
One might begin to think of a research question by freewriting about a topic of interest. The following handout begins with a hypothetical student's freewrite + a few possible research questions that emerge from it; students can think of others. The next step is for each person to engage in a freewrite on a topic that interests them, exchange it with a partner, and have the partner think of the first few research questions. (This gets rid of the problem of the individual pressured to come up with their own RQ's; instead, they can respond to or amend their partner's suggestions.)
From this point on, students need to be finding articles on the topic of their research question, from reliable sources (which they have gotten some guidance in finding), and write bilingual summaries of them. It is up to the teacher how many articles you feel students need to have in their bibliographies for Paper 3, but it is important for students to meet periodically in small groups (preferably the same groups each time) after they summarize the first article, after they've summarized 2-3 articles, after they've summarized 4-5 articles, etc. During these discussions, they can share with their groupmates the extent to which their research question(s) and/or their tentative answers to the question/s have become clearer or changed direction as a result of their evolving understanding of the topic as they come to read more and more about it (different perspectives, too).
The group, for their part, can give their feedback on the interpretation, challenge the interpretation, or give suggestions for what kind of articles or sources a student might consult next. Also, groups can take turns reporting to the class (1) how research questions influence choice of readings, in their group members' experience, and (2) How readings have caused people to change or revise their research questions, in their group members' experience. The point of all this is to show students that research and writing is not a linear process; there are many twists, turns, and curveballs, but that is a normal and unavoidable thing (not a sign that one is a poor researcher!) and that the good researcher knows how to deal with them, just like a skilled racecar driver, surfer, or baseball player. By giving voice to their thought processes, making these explicit to themselves as they go through the task of finding order out of disorder, students become skilled analysts and writers.
The following two files deal with the "macro" concerns of this research paper. They are the instructions for the paper and a PowerPoint lesson on how to organize it... or rather, how to think about the organization of a longer paper.
Helping students process their readings and plan their paper outlines already gets you quite far, but there are also "micro" level concerns that impact the professionalism of the paper. One of these is the use of linguistic devices to create cohesion: from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, or between sections of the paper. The following PowerPoint explains how cohesion works in a longer paper by likening macro and micro cohesive devices to highways, boulevards, streets, and alleys. Also, the "Editing Activity" lets students discuss how a sample essay's cohesion can be worked on as the essay evolves. (Students should also be providing their peers with feedback on cohesion during peer review.)
The above lessons would probably prepare students to write a purely reflective essay, but in this one they have to deal with SOURCES. Therefore, more workshops are needed to figure out how to work with these. Such workshops would include, at least, a macro level workshop in which students think about how the sources relate to each other, and a micro level workshop in which they learn the conventions of MLA/APA/Chicago, how to do in-text citations, and how to write bibliographic entries.
The macro level lesson can be taught using an old document-based question from the AP European History Exam (but you can use a series of other short texts that are more relevant for your class or students). The PowerPoint structures the activity, and students will need copies of the exam papers.
Side note 1: Try to pick authentic sources and do not adapt them for your students. For example, even if the seven short historical documents in this version of the activity are not modified for second language writers, the class can talk about them, with the teacher providing background information and allowing for small group interpretation and discussion of the texts. You will notice that the only document out of the seven that I wrote a modern-day gloss for is a poem that is not of this century and would need this kind of gloss. Aside from such exceptions, let students work things out for themselves, in groups, with the teacher providing contextualizing background information.
Side note 2: What I like about AP History document-based questions, and which you need to recreate if you use your own materials, is the subjectivity (and non-trustworthiness) of some of the documents. This is something students will need to learn to notice and comment on, rather than take for granted. In many cases, they will need to note how a document's subjective or non-trustworthy nature arises from the identity, background, or purpose of the author.
Important for sequencing: The lesson on how to do different kinds of citation styles (MLA, APA, and Turabian), and its accompanying handout, as well as another activity on how to quote and paraphrase--should go before the document-based activity, which assumes students already know these mechanical aspects of working with sources.
The activity "Practicing Quoting and Paraphrasing" gives students a taste of the linguistic dexterity involved. You will probably want to create other, similar activities to give students more practice in such linguistic dexterity for the lessons to really kick in. (The linguistic reformulations in this kind of activity are best discussed and solved in small groups.) Students also need guided practice with this skill in their own compositions. You can give suggestions on how they might paraphrase things during the conferences where they bring both the source texts(s) and their writing.
The last things I would like to share with you are two awareness-raising activities about plagiarism. I believe that plagiarism is best avoided by properly scaffolding source-based writing (starting from bilingual note-taking of sources, all the way up to finding links between sources, learning how to do citation and practicing the linguistic dexterity that paraphrasing entails), so that the instruction about plagiarism is minimal--involving more discussion and awareness-raising about how "grey" judgments of plagiarism are, rather than decontextualized and unhelpful prescription.
One of the two sources below is a PowerPoint about the results of a study on plagiarism; the other is a True/False discussion about what should or should not be cited. Again, the goal is not so much to get students to come to "right" answers, but to provoke thought that will get them to think, every time they cite something, about the rationale behind citing it... or, when they don't cite something but simply re-approprate the information, about the reason behind NOT citing (e.g., why it is not necessary to cite the date that the U.S. dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, or why it is not necessary to cite the statement that Pride and Prejudice is a love story, or why it is not necessary to cite that water consists of hydrogen and oxygen...)
As with many things in teaching EAP--from structuring an essay, to figuring out the right way to phrase a sentence, to deciding whether or not to cite something--the goal is for the student to THINK about it as a habit, rather than to come to the best essay structure, the optimal sentence phrasing, or the correct choice about citing in any one particular instance.