Working Papers

Research and Process Writing on the Internet

R. Jeffrey Blair
contact information
Aichi Gakuin University, Nagoya, Japan
rough machine translation ... [ Eng=>Jpn ]

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The Course Without Computers
Revived and Expanded Course
Homepage Structure

First Drafts

        Towards the end of the first semester students are ready to begin their research project. If sample papers from previous years are available, students are given a printed copy and encouraged to view the web version as well. They are told to choose a country (or smaller location) and a topic. At this point a list of topics arranged by country may be helpful. Such a list could also be posted on the Internet and linked with previous years' papers, which students can browse through.
        Two weeks later, the last class before the final exam, students' First Drafts are due. They can be handwritten or typed on a wordprocessor. This counts as a single homework assignment. They bring their drafts to class and discuss them in the classroom. Then in the computer lab (class time or on their own time) students (a) type the handwritten report into a wordprocessor document and (b) transfer the text into a homepage source document. They print up the two documents to turn in to the teacher or, if they have trouble with the printing, submit a note to the teacher saying that the documents have been saved on their computer in the lab. The teacher will then collect the documents onto a floppy disc for printing (if necessary) and for posting on the class homepage. The computer documents are then again counted as part of the final exam.

        When students come back from summer vacation they begin where they left off, with their First Drafts. In the classroom they can see the printed homepage version of the three or four papers in their own group and the teacher's comments. In the computer lab they can view each and every paper submitted. All the papers and the teacher's comments are indexed at .

The teacher's comments can be linked to the specific papers to which each comment refers and thus provide clear concrete examples. Hyperlinks are also inserted to allow instant access to the other four drafts of each paper as they come online. Thus at any point in the writing process students can read each classmate's work and see how it has progressed.
        Some students have asked me how to post their drafts on the class website. In my class all posting of students' work is done by the teacher, whose website is where the class folders are located. Students keep their work in a folder on their assigned computers, and are encouraged to keep backup copies on a memory card. When I receive a printed copy of their finished draft or a note that they tried to print it up and failed, I collect the source document on my own floppy disc and transfer it to my office computer. Before actually posting it on my website I usually check the reference section to make sure that (a) the references are correctly written, (b) there are corresponding in-text citations, and (c) the URLs will actually connect the reader with the appropriate information. I make appropriate minor adjustments to the paper, including insertion of hyperlinks and changes in photo layout. Only then do I post the work on the website. It is important that students understand this process, so that they use the posted version of their drafts, with the adjustments, as the starting point for their next draft.

Subsequent Drafts

        In the First Draft students master the basic format for a simple research paper: heading, body, and reference section. Starting with Draft Two they can learn about and integrate some of the finer points into their paper. They need to have information from two different references. The paper should no longer be simply a summary of what they have read. First, students need to decide where the new information goes in their text. Closely related information will almost invariably be grouped together in the text for a smooth flow of ideas and easy comprehension. Secondly, they have to make it clear which of their two references information comes from. This is a suitable point at which to introduce in-text citations--(author, year)--which can be connected with hyperlinks to the full citations in the reference section. If the reference itself is posted on the Internet, the title in the full citation is linked to the website containing the information.

        Students learn how to properly write print references

and electronic references.

They learn how and where to search for the necessary information--author, year, and titles--in books, magazines, and on websites. Websites are particularly tricky in this respect. The necessary information may be located in a separate document. Students need to know how to (a) navigate the hyperlinks, (b) truncate the URL address--in case suitable links are not provided, and (c) search the source document for information that may not appear on the browser image. Even finding the URL address may present some difficulties. Many websites use a frames format, which allows multiple documents to appear simultaneously but fails to show their URL locations. Students can escape the frames format by manually typing in hyperlinked locations or examining the frame source document for no-frame locations.
        After students become comfortable with text insertion and a few format commands, they are ready for the embedding of .jpg and .gif photos and hyperlinks into their research reports. Attractive photos make their work much more pleasing, grabs the reader's attention, and provides visual support that may be essential for readers who are non-native English speakers. Hyperlinks can connect the reader with other sources of related information, including the original reference material. That material does not have to be in English. Many of my students find their material in Japanese. Thus other Japanese students reading their papers can get information in both student-level English and in their native language, a splendid and natural way to provide bilingual input. Unlike Davies (1997) I recommend the liberal use of hyperlinks integrated into the texts of homepages, especially research papers. In addition to giving the Web its tremendous power, this linking of texts and ideas is at the very core of the research paradigm.
        Once the students understand the process and are actively engaged in producing their research, the teacher will be busy and must try to keep all these incoming documents straight. To do this I have created five folders: draft1, draft2, ... draft5. Each folder has an index page linking it with each student's draft and the teacher's comments on the drafts at that point. To keep things managable it is important to get the students to turn in each draft on time. There should be two or three weeks between each draft, and the students must realize that each draft requires (a) rethinking and rewriting of the entire work, (b) the integration of new information throughout the paper, and (c) review and comments from other students and the teacher. They must not turn in two or more drafts simultaneously.
        Prior to the first draft of the research papers, students practice making homepages of their homework about the countries we study. This work and teacher-prepared materials explaining the Internet and how to make homepages are kept in a sixth folder--draft0. The index page provides links to these important materials.
        When the course is finished the teacher is left with a formidable collection of student-generated research. Then the question arises as to what to do with it all. With this in mind I passed out questionnaires to all students attending the final class (n=19) in which they were asked about the final disposition of their work. First, did they want me to continue the posting of their papers? There were three choices: post all drafts (10), post only the Final Draft (5), or remove all drafts (4). Those who gave permission to continue the posting of their work had more choices to make about names/contact and editing. Did they want their full names (2), given name only (13), or a fictious pen name (0) to appear on the papers? Finally could the teacher continue to edit the papers? Almost all (14) welcomed the idea of the teacher's being able to revise their work.
        Next year's students will have an abundance of sample materials to look at and discuss prior to and during the writing of their own research papers. They will have access to all five drafts of several papers and will be able to see for themselves (a) how references are written and linked to the papers and (b) where the new information was integrated into the papers. They will also have an opportunity to evaluate and comment upon the papers. In cases where the teacher has permission to edit, those revisions can be discussed with the new class and then made in the posted paper thus demonstrating the process of rethinking and rewriting a text. The Final Drafts that remain posted can all be linked to an index that is organized by country and topic. Such a document posted on the Internet could be a valuable research tool for students around the world trying to decide on a research topic or looking for research materials.


        In conclusion I would encourage teachers, especially language teachers, to make greater use of the World Wide Web. The Web offers several distinct advantages to teachers who post their educational materials in html text format: (a) photos can easily be embedded in an otherwise forbidding text, (b) photos can be linked to a larger version of the photo with or without explanatory captions, (c) text can be linked to related materials, (d) hyperlinks can be used in an index for quick accessabilty to the materials, (e) materials are accessable throughout the world, and (f) they can easily be updated each academic year.
        For language students in Japan the Web is an ideal vehicle for research papers and other writing projects. It allows them to produce professional quality papers with visual support and easy accessability to teachers and their fellow students in class and around the world. Research papers can be linked to the original sources and other related materials. Hyperlinks can also be used for indexing papers and linking the several drafts. As Rule (1997) pointed out, the Internet can help students to "construct, manage, and synthesize knowledge". I would add that this applies to teachers as well as their students.

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