Book: Creativity and Discovery in the University Writing Class
Chapter: 6. Creative Approaches to Research-Based Essays
In my experience, even the strongest writers often struggle with traditional research papers. Perhaps because the word research intimidates students, many over-rely on their research sources. Perhaps because they believe research papers are supposed to be dull and dry, many students exclude information that is engaging and compelling. Perhaps because they find it difficult to reproduce the kind of formal papers that teachers often require, many students write sentences that are garbled and incoherent, filled with language that is clumsy, inaccurate, and pseudo-academic. And perhaps because they don’t understand why or how they should “translate” information from their research sources into their own language and framework of ideas, many students plagiarize. Using approaches that blend creativity with research can help students avoid some of these problems.
All of the approaches that I advocate in this chapter are, I believe, beneficial to those students who already consider themselves creative, as well as those who need to discover that they are more creative than they realize. These approaches are the Personal/Traditional Blend, the Drama Approach, the Multi-Genre Approach, the 20–25 Random Things Approach, and the On-Fire Approach. Although the Personal/Traditional Blend involves creativity, it tends not to intimidate those students who feel comfortable with traditional approaches to research-based writing. The Drama Approach
is especially well suited for argumentation papers. Both the Multi-Genre Approach and the 20–25 Random Things Approach, which lend themselves to essays that are intended primarily to be informative or exploratory, are perfect for students who wish to work in pairs, as well as those who must work in short bursts because of busy schedules (or because of limited attention spans). The On-Fire Approach, which uses second-person pronouns, present-tense verbs, and compelling details, can be quite intense, helping writers and readers feel immersed in the subject. Since published articles often combine research with detailed examples and true stories, the Personal/Traditional Blend and the On-Fire Approach (and others) serve as valuable models for those students who hope to write for publication.