Term Papers Are Still the Write Way to Go

“2 Rs Left in High School” (May 19), on the death of term papers, made me feel proud and vindicated. Right now -- as for the last 25 years -- yet another stack of six- to 10-page research papers is awaiting my attention. Some are very good, some are not. All are an essential part of high school learning. Teaching sophomores how to write a term paper is exhausting work. It involves a great deal of stress for them and for the teacher. It’s a love-hate assignment for both me and my students, but every year I have former students come back from college and thank me.

Yes, it’s old-fashioned and not the latest trend in education. I’ve even had other teachers say that students don’t do research papers in college anymore. It takes a great deal of time for all of us, but the sense of accomplishment and true self-esteem that go with completing a difficult task, as well as the dividends for the future, make it worth it.

Stephen McCarthy




Your article is right: Very few high school teachers are assigning research papers these days. The mandated state tests and the paper load are major obstacles for teachers, and students, to overcome. In collaboration with two San Diego County school districts (Sweetwater and Grossmont), the SDSU College Readiness Program staff is compiling a teachers’ manual designed to alleviate this situation.

Like some who were interviewed for the article, we advocate short papers that focus upon specific research, information competency, reading, writing and critical-thinking skills -- the basic elements of college research. We hope that college preparatory programs will be interested in our work and that, as a result, the term paper will become more common.

Ann M. Johns

College Readiness Programs

San Diego State University