NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Finding Them a Burden, History Teachers Assign Fewer Research Papers

November 22, 2002

In years past, research papers were a common staple of history-class assignments. But no longer. Teachers say they find them too much of a burden on students and themselves.

"If history papers aren't dead, they're on life support," says Christopher Barnes, of the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut, which conducted the first-of-its-kind survey in September and released it this week in the Concord Review.

  • The survey of 400 high school teachers found that 81 percent never assign history papers that are 20 pages long, or 5,000 words.
  • Some 63 percent never assign papers that are 15 pages long, or 3,000 words.
  • Some 31 percent of teachers said they don't assign lengthy papers because such projects take too much time away from other instruction, while another 27 percent said papers take too much time to read and correct.
  • Forty-nine percent of teachers said it was "very difficult" to grade research papers, while only 4 percent said it was "very easy."

Thirty-five percent said plagiarism occurs "very often" with research papers and nearly half said it occurs "sometimes."

Academic critics point out that research assignments teach students invaluable organizational and writing skills. The trend has become so serious that even some of the nation's top colleges, such as Princeton, have had to add introductory writing courses so incoming freshmen could learn the basics of research writing.

Source: Ellen Sorokin, "History Research Papers Termed 'On Life Support,'" Washington Times, November 22, 2002.


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