Research Paper Planner Contributes to Student Success

Aug. 21, 2013

As another school year begins, the Baylor Libraries are suggesting that students take advantage of a research paper planning tool that has proven to not only help keep projects on course, but also improve the quality of research.

The Research Paper Planner creates a timeline and breaks an assignment into 13 simple steps, from beginning to end. A few of the steps include understanding the assignment, designing a research strategy, finding sources, creating an outline and finalizing the paper.

This tool was created by adapting the University of Minnesota's Assignment Calculator to fit Baylor's academic community. Librarians divided the Research Paper Planner into two parts - the timeline and a research guide with suggestions and tools to successfully complete each step. Baylor's version added a 13th step to distinguish between the discovery of a research question and the development of a thesis statement.

"Although we introduced the Research Paper Planner quietly in the spring of 2012, the response was tremendous," Associate Librarian of Reference & Instruction Eileen Bentsen said. "Statistics for the guide indicate that from January through June of 2012 the guide was used over 2,400 times." Since that time its growth has continued.

The Research Paper Planner is likely more effective than a timeline students may create themselves because it is based on effective writing processes and time management research. In addition, students can set email reminders to avoid forgetting milestones related to the assignment.

A study found that students using a variation of this tool had essay grades six percent higher than those who didn't use the tool.

"We've heard back from Writing Center tutors and ENG 1304 Teaching Assistants that they have found it very helpful in getting students on the right track for their papers," Bentsen said.

Bentsen hopes the Research Paper Planner helps students think outside of the mindset that research papers can be created quickly or sources simply paraphrased, as this can lead to poor quality work. She is also hopeful the tool will help students see each part of the research process as a manageable step, instead of becoming overwhelmed by writing assignments.

By beginning assignments sooner, students have time to identify a specific topic and narrow down ideas, gather and present accurate resources, discuss the assignment with a professor, revise and edit drafts, avoid all-nighters, and feel more confident about the research and writing process.

"We hope it will be widely adopted and recommended by faculty and tutors so that using the Research Paper Planner will become second nature to Baylor students," Bentsen said. "The result will be a better paper with less stress."

To try out the Research Paper Planner, or for more information, visit: baylor.edu/lib/planner.