Sophomore classes balance research paper with work load

With the third quarter nearly over, it feels as if summer is right around the corner. Students have shed blood, sweat, and tears this school year and it feels like they should all be enjoying the hot summer sun and barbeques.

However, the fact of the matter is that students still have tons of work to do before the summer is here. Sophomore students have even more to do than they usually would because they must complete their research papers.

This is the first year that research papers will be written by sophomores, but it seems that students and teachers alike generally do not mind the change. Instead of seeing it as more work this year, they see it as an opportunity to get it out of the way ahead of time.

English teacher Susan O’Hara, who teaches both A level and honors sections of sophomore English, thinks that having the paper switched to sophomore year will be beneficial for students. She believes that students have been doing google searches and therefore, causal research, since we started using the internet.

“I think you’ve been doing informal research since you got a phone or a computer, and it’s time to learn how to do it correctly,” O’Hara said.

Sophomores also believe that getting the paper over with early is for the best. Vig Namasivayam ’16, says that, with all the stress of junior year, it’s best to complete the paper now. He believes that it would be very overwhelming to write a research paper next year. “There would just be way too much on our plates if we had the research paper on top [of everything else],” Namasivayam said.

Other students, such as Justin Cheng ’16, agree that completing the research paper sophomore year is a good thing because it offers new course options. “I’m glad I’m getting it over this year, especially since I plan on taking AP Literature next year,” he said.

Teachers also will be providing a bit more support during the process of the sophomore research paper than they have in the past for juniors.

O’Hara explained that writing the research paper is all about juggling time, and that younger students tend to have more difficulty with this. In order to help students manage their schedules, she will have them focus on the individual task of completing the paper. She explained that, in the past, she had her juniors read literature and write the research paper simultaneously, but for her sophomores, she’ll “only have them work on the research paper.”

Kristin Schulz, who teaches three levels of sophomore English, said that English teachers are also aiding their sophomore students by helping them to decide upon topics. “All sophomore teachers are in agreement that we’re giving topics based on our lessons,” Schulz said.

While teachers are attempting to do everything they can to make the research paper easier on sophomores, some students believe that having their topics chosen for them won’t actually be beneficial, such as Zach Wallace ’16. “I don’t like how the topics are given to us,” he said. “It’s no longer our research paper.”

Juniors and seniors that have already written their research papers seem to agree with Wallace, and say that the research paper will actually be more difficult with topics being doled out. Abby Lustig ’15, who wrote her paper on the creative topic of the effect of facial expressions  on happiness, expressed her concerns. “I think being given a research paper topic will make the paper a lot harder to write,” Lustig said.

Elizabeth Bennewitz ’14, who wrote her paper on comedy, and specifically its roots and influence, said that the research paper is a huge project, and that if students can’t pick their topics, they’ll be a lot less motivated. “When you hand out topics you are not encouraging students to think creatively and explore their interests. Instead it becomes just another paper assigned in English,” she said.

Michelle Gurevich ’14, also said that students having their topics picked out for them really isn’t beneficial. While English teachers may see it as a gift to their students, she believes that this research paper will set up the sophomore class to have a negative image of research papers in general. “We’re going to have so many papers involving research in college, and this isn’t supposed to be like that. This is supposed to show us those papers aren’t as hard as we assume they are, and that they can actually be pretty fun to do,” Gurevich said.