Social Science Implications


To better prepare students for undergraduate social science courses, first year composition instructors can:

  • assign more research-oriented genres that require students to analyze and interpret information to address a research question or problem, not merely to summarize or report facts
  • encourage students to begin research with a question or problem, not a thesis, and then formulate conclusions or claims based on what the research indicates
  • assign genres that reflect the policy-oriented nature of many social sciences, requiring students to apply research to a problem or issue and recommend solutions: white papers, policy briefs, recommendation reports
  • help students to analyze differences between genres in different disciplines or professions
  • develop meta-level genre analysis skills that students can apply to all genres

To help students perform better on these assignments, social science instructors can:

  • include specific descriptions of all writing assignments on the syllabus (in many cases, a research paper was specified but not described in any detail)
  • use specific genres as names for assignments, as opposed to “research paper,” which can mean different things in different courses (such as analyzing an issue, reviewing secondary research, or reporting on empirical research): “white paper” or “policy brief” is more informative than “research paper”
  • help students to analyze the genres they are to produce, using student or professional models
  • share what kinds of writing they do on a regular basis, as experts in the field