A few weeks ago, I had students in my upper-level media class collaborate on a Google Docs study guide for The Name of the Rose. In my freshman writing class yesterday, I did something else with Google Docs… I created a page with three columns, and asked students to type their preliminary thesis statements on the left, and give their peers affirming comments and constructive criticism in the other boxes.The feedback Is not anonymous, because a Google Doc displays our names next to our cursors as we type. (During class, and after, I added my own comments.)
I’ll ask the students to update this document as their thesis statements develop.
Right before this activity, I had the students evaluate a few sample thesis statements. One was from an author who didn’t take a stand, but rather said something like “There are many good arguments for and against topic X.”
Most students caught that problem, helpfully asking the student to take a stand; however, when it came time for the students to write out their own preliminary thesis statements, quite a few of them were “This problem needs to be solved” or “This problem is significant and important.”
Truth be told, we are still at the “research question” phase, and the next assignment in the sequence is an annotated bibliography. But by the time their thesis statement is due in a few weeks, I want to push them from the vague “There are many good arguments pro and con” to something more specific like “Smith cleverly applies Jones’s findings to poke a hole in Lee’s theory, but we can plug that hole with Brown’s study.”
Wish us luck!