As some of you may know, I’ve proposed some major updates to our department’s FYC offerings, and have been piloting a new version of our them over the past year. Most of the big changes are in the second semester, moving (rather dramatically) from a composition/intro to literature approach to a comp. & research approach. Last spring was the first time to do this, and it went pretty well, though I saw many, many things to tweak–mostly in terms of what “the research paper” means.
In July, I’ll teaching comp. & research in a summer term (five weeks, four days a week, that sort of thing). Taking my notes from last semester and the feedback I got from students in the course as well as the new departmental assessment that some colleagues and I worked on a few weeks ago, I’ve come up with a rough plan for the summer–it’s going to be based around something I’m going to call the “iSearch” paper–heavily inspired by Ken Macrorie’s invention: the “I-Search” paper. (And I apologize for the cliched device, slapping a lower-case “I” in front of a word, but I’m working from Macrorie here, so forgive me.)
Below is the basic concept as I’ve outlined it so far. In the course, I’ll have my students work with blogs and social linking sites quite a bit, as well as more traditional essay formats.
In this class, I’m taking the highly useful approach to the research paper that Ken Macrorie calls an “I-Search” paper and updating it for our digital context.
What is the “I-Search” paper? Briefly, it’s a paper that:
- is written from a sense of “natural curiosity” (55),
- answers a question that “I need to know,” that “keeps nagging me” (71),
- really counts for the writer and for others in the class (56),
- is the result of a “thorough search” (56),
- is “lively reading” in that it reveals the writer’s feelings and opinions as well as the topic itself (61),
- tells a story of what you did in your search (64),
- allows both the subjective and objective (167),
- is documented (65),
- and is also a whole host of other things…
That’s all really great stuff, but he’s a little dated–the internet wasn’t even on the radar then, and the ways in which we compose have changed quite a bit from the 70s, when Macrorie was working on these ideas. What we’re working on, I’d like to call an “iSearch” paper.
What is the iSearch paper? Basically, it’s a paper that:
- isn’t pretending to be “academic discourse (Reid),
- is written by an “I” (by a real person with a real voice),
- is about some sort of real (perhaps burning) question that meets a real need for you as a real, live, human being,
- is interesting for the writer to write (the result of a topic that matters to you),
- is interesting for the reader to read (tells a story to other human beings about the topic, about the research, about the world),
- is composed with multiple technologies and tools, and in multiple media and spaces (pencil, keyboard, cell phone, social, individual, word processor, blog, ___),
- is researched in multiple media (print, digital, f2f, ___),
- is rigorously produced (the writer has done due diligence in trying to answer their question–not measured by some abstract external standard, but by reference to the question and the needs of the audience and writer and their highly particular contexts).
So, the iSearch is all of those “I-Search” things, but brought up to the age of digital literacy quite a bit…. Hopefully it’s something that balances the needs and proclivities of my colleagues in the English department with my own.
(No, I haven’t included audio or visual media into the scheme of the iSearch paper. Yet.)