When Good Scientists Assign Bad Term Papers

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Louis W. Kutcher


The first indication that something was amiss with my research assignment in my Introduction to Pharmacology course came when several students reported they “couldn’t find any drugs in the news.”  This perplexed me; a simple web search revealed multiple news articles about pharmaceuticals.  When the papers came in, the scores weren’t horrible, but many felt like slap-dash efforts put together the night before, just to earn a grade in a class. This assignment has grown over the years, from a short report about a drug in the news to a full-fledged Term Paper.  It still feels like much of the process is teaching an English class –neither my strength nor my passion – but I’ve come to realize that showing my students how to write well is a central part of teaching critical thinking, and that is definitely my passion.

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Research Writing in the Disciplines