Assessing the Research and Writing Process
Depending on the topic, purposes, and audience of a research and writing assignment, you may decide to include some or all of the following assessment questions, or you may tailor additional assessment questions to fit special features of your course or assignment. These questions are divided into only three stages, but—depending on the nature of the assignment or the expertise of students—you may decide to divide and pace the assignment differently to allow for additional instruction or feedback.
Sharing this set of questions with students when the assignment is first presented and discussed would create an opportunity for them to practice self-assessment as they proceed through the assignment.
Early Stage Assessment Questions
- Is the topic sufficiently narrow to allow more than superficial investigation?
- Has the student framed a research question that guides the range of inquiry?
- How much historical range does the research question entail—3 years? 10 years? 25 years?
- How broad should the search be: Should it include data or analysis of a given kind? key reference works or databases? a variety of media, including books and journals of a specific currency or scope? newspapers and magazine? Internet data of a particular kind?
- How extensive has the student's initial survey of possible resources been?
- How much evidence is presented of the student's time on task— note-taking (including and reaching beyond simple duplication of source material), a bibliography, brainstorming notes, journal writing, a research log, free-writing, or other exploratory writing?
Middle Stage Assessment Questions
What evidence does the student offer of efforts to make the subject and purposes of the assignment his or her own?
- Has the student made an oral or written presentation on the progress of the assignment including a description of the sources covered; efforts to define terms; attempts to distinguish the points of view, methods, and conclusions of experts; and explanations of refinements of the assignment's purposes?
- Have efforts to reorganize source material to serve students' purposes been illustrated with documented outlines or documented drafts or sections of the assignment?
- Have students exchanged drafts of the assignment with you, with the entire class, or with subgroups of the class? Has constructive feedback been guided by teacher-prepared or class-prepared questions about the clarity, direction, persuasiveness, and adequacy of the assignment draft?
Final Stage Assessment Questions
- Are the purposes of the final product clear? Where background to the assignment is needed, is it presented early in the paper? Is the thesis statement or controlling idea of the assignment clearly stated early in the work? Does the paper (or other assigned product) address key concepts the audience will need to understand? Is the organization of the parts of the assignment described or outlined?
- Does the development of the assignment proceed in a clearly sensible way? (Does the structure of the assignment reflect its purposes, the methods of the discipline, or an organization expected by the readers?
- Are the paper's generalizations appropriately developed? Are the materials of development adequate and convincing?
- Does the final form of the assignment respond adequately to feedback offered to the author (by you and fellow classmates) in earlier stages of the research/writing process? Has the document been reworked substantially, as may have been suggested, and carefully edited?
- Does the student's treatment of the assignment suggest originality, competence, and expertise?
- Are all sources documented in a bibliographical style appropriate to the course and the assignment?
- Are the formal features of the document appropriate to the topic, the purposes, and audience for the assignment? Is the format conventional for assignments of this kind?
- Is the English clear and emphatic? Are tone and diction appropriate to the assignment and the audience? Are syntax and punctuation conventional? Are document and page format, heading style, and typography conventional for such a document?