Academic News

Juniors Begin the Research Paper Process in English 11

The week of February 1-5 was one of excitement in the English 11 classes. Traditionally, the third quarter in English 11 is devoted to working on the junior research paper. Over the course of seven weeks, English 11 teachers Ashley Whitty and Kirk Ellis will lead students through the process of identifying central themes from a student-selected novel or play written by an American author, locating and interpreting literary criticism, and drafting a paper of approximately 8-10 pages.

In early February, St. Mary’s librarian Cindy Daniels led students through an orientation of the St. Mary’s library and databases, and then took them to the Portland State University library, located only a few blocks away. There, she introduced them to additional online databases and a variety of sources providing literary criticism on their chosen novel and author. Students enjoyed browsing the vast resources in this college library, and they were thrilled when they found useful materials.

During the next few weeks, juniors will have the option to work in the St. Mary’s library or to travel to Portland State’s library. Teachers Ashley Whitty and Kirk Ellis will be able to conference individually with students as they shape their ideas, nurturing them from concept to outline to essay.

The St. Mary’s English department takes great pride in this tradition; this unit instills confidence and independence in the students and gives them the skills they need to transition to the rigorous collegiate environment. SMA alum Natalie Nielsen ’15, who currently attends Regis University in Colorado, recently remarked, “I was immensely prepared for college, and I’ve fallen in love with analytical writing. The junior research paper truly helped me become a more organized and thoughtful thinker and writer.”

Repeatedly, St. Mary’s alumnae comment on how pivotal this experience was, and how effectively it prepared them for college. We look forward to another year of a rich and rewarding process, as students become more independent in their thinking and exploration.