We’re beginning our research papers in my writing classes.

Here you see the sayings I have on my office wall:

“Never try to teach a pig to sing! It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”
“If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.”

The problems my students are having probably fall into these two categories.

First, there are those who still haven’t grasped the concept of the Review of the Literature, largely because of not coming to class and not reading the book. These are joined by those who are scandalized at the thought that I expect them to read things in the course of doing their research paper — mostly they explain that they don’t have time. And I still have a few who are most inclined to copy.

And then there are those who still can’t write coherent paragraphs, or owe me four or five assignments, or respond to every assignment with confusion and alarm.

At this point, I’d like to be able to drop everyone who hasn’t been working. Instead, I give a little speech saying that some of the class has been doing all the assignments and getting good grades and attending, and they know they have good grades, so this is their opportunity to dig in and really get good at research papers, for the sake of their grades in all their future classes.

And some of them aren’t sure they’re going to pass, and this is their last chance to prove that they’re capable of succeeding in Comp II next semester — because I’m not allowed to pass anyone who isn’t.

This speech is scheduled for today.