Scaffolded Research Assignment Analysis for Roots of Contemporary Issues

Primary author: Corey Johnson
Co-author(s): Jennifer Saulnier

Primary college/unit: Libraries
Campus: Pullman


Since Fall 2012, Roots of Contemporary Issues (RCI; HISTORY 105/305) has served as the foundational, and only required, course for Washington State University undergraduates. All sections feature a term length individual research project with a scaffolded series of Library Research Assignments (LRAs) and a culminating final research paper. In 2019, a group of RCI instructors and librarians received a WSU Smith Teaching Grant to study the LRAs and their role in producing quality final papers. The project involved 445 randomly selected student cases spread evenly across nine semesters from Fall 2012 to Spring 2017. The presenters and content of this poster will explain when and how topic formation / thesis development, source selection, and citation skills develop over the span of the LRA sequence. Readers of this poster will get a better understanding of the ways students refine topics. For example, when comparing student success within the topic refinement categories “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where,” student had most success with “what” (sub-topic) type narrowing. Readers will gain knowledge about the kinds of sources and how often sources consulted in the preliminary stages of research ultimately appear in their final papers. For instance, only 57% of the sources listed in the final paper bibliography appeared in any of the preliminary LRAs. Finally, information about scaffolding assignment components like annotated bibliographies and outlines, will be offered in reference to which students utilize most effectively and why.