The Research Essay As A Students’ Activity In Computer-Aided Education

The Research Essay: Why Knowing How To Write It Is Important 

In this article, I will discuss why knowing how to write a research essay enhances students' personal and professional development. I will also share some tips for helping your students write great research papers. But first, let us see why research is so important.

The educational system has a mission to create conditions in which a person perceives basic knowledge, knacks, and skills necessary for successful socialization; to implement preparation for profession; to transmit social experience from generation to generation. It transforms achievements of science, industry, and culture, social and historical processes, and all the objective reality into knowledge and experience which students acquire at different levels of education. We can surely say that education, science, and industry solve tasks assigned to them and successfully develop only in a society where all these three areas continuously interact with each other: When they have mutual influence and satisfy mutual interests.

Research As A Method Of Obtaining Knowledge

An effective way of implementation of such interaction in education is organizing students’ research activity, which is very important for all levels of education. First of all, it contributes to the professional self-determination of students, and, in the future, to more effective mastery of profession (entering into it at the stage of training). Besides that, the sooner a student begins to use research as a method of obtaining knowledge, the easier it will be for him/her to apply this method to subsequent levels of education and within a profession. Furthermore, the more effective will be their professional activity.

Computer technology plays an important role in implementation of research activities, performing two important functions: Informational and communicational.

  • Informational function aims to provide a possibility to search for information, its processing and storage.
  • Communicational function represents information exchange, its representation in public domain, ανδ provision of human interaction.

For example, if someone conducts information search without computer technology: Firstly, it takes much more time. Secondly, a researcher is able to study only sources found in the libraries’ catalogs, and he/she will not even know about some (or many) of other works on the chosen topic. Thirdly, the reviewed sources may be obsolete. Fourthly, a researcher can never know that the chosen topic has been already worked out by another scholar, either in researcher’s country or abroad.

Benjamin Ide Wheeler, the president of the University of California, said in 1899: “Give me a library and I will build a university around it.” This expression very precisely indicates how important for education and science is having the opportunity and ability to work with information. And the main tool for working with data today is computer technology.

Modern Learners And The Use Of Technology

It should be noted that modern students have skills of using computers for communication and to meet information needs. They know how to entertain themselves in wide-spread social networks; but, as a rule, that communication is vacuous, useless, and not of educational nature. Students today can find in the internet ready-made essays, videos, music, games, but they are unable to find bibliography on the topic of their research work.

Writing a research essay is one of the most common types of student research work. However, often such work does not help achieve goals set by a teacher. Quite common is the situation when students after they get an assignment to write an essay, they surf the internet, find a research paper done on a given (or similar) topic, sign it with their names, and hand it to the teacher. That happens primarily because they are not taught to write essays and the whole process of writing is reduced to passing a text on a given topic.

But the target is not to pass a text; a research essay is still a bit of research during which a student needs to find a solution to a problem. As a consequence, students don’t understand the meaning of this work. For them, the task “to write an essay” is just a teacher’s requirement for which they will be assessed. For them it's important to get a result right here and right now. Those aspects of their personality, which are being formed gradually while they perform mental and physical work, the knowledge, the skills, and the abilities that they are not interested in now, but will need in the future (this concerns especially vocational training), all these are located outside of their scope of vital interests. Students don’t realize that writing a research essay is a contribution into the treasury of their personal development: New knowledge, skills, and abilities to find information, analyze it, carry out its sorting and selection, ordering and presenting it in a readable form, etc. – all these is their competency.

The ability to work with information not only is important in the learning process, but is generally required for each person: Appropriate actions are being performed in social life sometimes even unconsciously, but the way one performs them determines the quality of the result of their activities. In other words, one’s capacities and abilities to study and cognize, as well as their personal attitude to these activities, determine the quality of one’s life. Also, even more importantly, the lives of people around them and the results of their professional work.

The Role Of The Educator: 9 Tips For Receiving Great Research Essays From Your Students

So, what can a teacher do about this problem? What steps must be taken? To a large extent, a teacher is forced to deal with this problem’s consequences, when students’ missing interest in learning grows from the peculiarities of family education or the absence of general social incentives to education. Nevertheless, educators can create conditions for formation of cognitive interest and students’ motivation to study a specific academic subject using a variety of methods and educational tools.

Speaking about writing essays as a kind of research work, one of such methods is not to offer students definite essay topics, but “problem scopes” that students consider interesting. In this case, the final topic of the research work will be formulated by the student, but, apart from that, their paper must contain certain study material necessary to be learned within a particular academic subject. This way, the quality of students’ research work will be positively influenced by the imposition of certain requirements for preparation and presentation of this work.

1. Go For “Productive” Instead Of “Reproductive”.

Encourage your students to write a research essay of a productive type that contains their personal comprehension of referred sources, in contrast to reproductive essays that merely reproduce contents of an original source. Productive essays allow students to be creative in the study of the problem, and express their personal attitude to it that can also stimulate their cognitive activity.

2. Encourage The Use Of Illustrative Material.

Another method is to introduce the use of illustrative materials such as pictures, photos, charts, tables to the list of requirements for the essay content. A lot of ready-made essays are text only or poorly designed. The requirement for student to be able to properly design and format a text is also important: It is necessary to teach students to do a job faithfully as well as neatly.

3. Discuss Students’ Papers In the Class.

It is mandatory to discuss all students’ papers in the class, so that every student could demonstrate knowledge of a topic and defend their point of view regarding the problem considered in their essay. Do not allow just passing of papers to the teacher.

4. Ask For Multimedia Presentations.

Each student’s report on their research work must be provided with a multimedia presentation. It is quite easy to prepare a report that the student can just read from a paper. But creating a presentation requires to attentively read the text and select a number of reference points that will be put into the backbone of the presentation. A teacher must ensure that presentations are made at high level of design and content.

5. Utilize References.

Ask students to put into the list of bibliography only those sources they actually used during their research. If a source is a link to an internet site, then it must be authorial material, not a collection of ready-made essays. If a source is an eBook, ask students to share information about where that source is available and how to get access to it. Ask students which book from the list of bibliography they liked the most and why.

6. Use Software Tools For Plagiarism.

There is a number of such tools; you can use Google to find a free plagiarism detector that is the most effective and comfortable to work with. You can also use two or three of such tools at the same time,  to improve detection results. But you should remember that research essays can contain blocks of authorial text because students refer to other authors and quote their works. Of course, the final part of the essay (see below) must be personally written by students themselves.

7. Keep Topics Original.

Try to keep essay topics original, regardless of whether students get ready topics or formulate them by themselves. Topics must imply conduction of research, making comparisons, solving problems, etc. Essays with easy and obvious topics are very common in essay libraries on the internet.

8. Make The Final Part Of The Essay Mandatory.

There, the student should articulate their personal conclusions on the chosen topic, express attitude towards it, and consider research on the background of their personal or society life. Determine the minimum volume of the final part.

9. Ask Students To Be In Your Shoes.

Tell them to consider themselves the educators and think: From the teacher’s point of view, what would they want the essay on the chosen topic to be like?

Final Thoughts

On the example of preparing a research essay, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the use of computer technology in research activity. Teaching students to write a high quality research essay is an important step in their professional development: It trains them how to conduct research work necessary to prepare term papers and diploma projects in the future, but at a higher level and in greater volume. If a student is unable to organize their research activity, as a result we get a graduate who did not finish their diploma project and is unable to fulfill that.