Formulating questions: Students often need help formulating questions that will generate a full-length paper. Asking students to submit possible questions that will focus their papers gives you a chance to modify the question, complicate your studentsâ thinking, and push their ideas to a deeper level. Using questions as a basis for class discussion helps students to distinguish solid, scholarly questions from obvious, superficial, or dead-end questions.
Proposing a topic: Once students have identified a good question for a paper, ask them to submit a topic proposal in a paragraph or two, indicating their hypothesis (however tentative it may be at this early stage) and some of the sources they plan to use to provide evidence for their argument.
Preparing a preliminary bibliography: A short time after you respond to the proposal, ask students to submit a preliminary annotated bibliography. This bibliography will show you how much work the student has completed, if the sources are appropriate, and if the student is likely to find sufficient evidence to respond to the question.
Composing an annotated outline: Instead of merely listing headings and sub-headings for sections of the paper, ask students to submit a plan, describing in paragraph form the content of the sections of the essay. This style of outline gives both you and your students a chance to evaluate the logical structure of the argument, to identify gaps, or to discover sections that need to be clarified.
Writing a rough draft of one section: If the course schedule does not allow for students to submit an entire rough draft (either for your response or peer review), ask students to submit a section of the paper. Responding to even one or two pages will help students understand your expectations and focus their attention on possible weaknesses.