Using Rationale for Supervising Research Papers

Rationale was developed by philosophers to map out the formal structure of arguments and identify logical fallacies. Rationale, however, also has broader applications. For example, I found Rationale useful to monitor and supervise the various stages of undergraduate and even graduate research papers. Such papers are very self directed and autonomous forms of learning that make it at times difficult to monitor and provide timely feedback to students.

In the context of our political science research seminar, the research papers have two stages. The first, and exploratory stage involves turning a student's broad interest into a narrow, re-searchable question. The second and explanatory stage involves turning this question into a thesis which in turn is effectively supported by reasons, evidence and qualified by objections. For each of this stage, I designed two templates that students are asked to use as a starting point. For more details see

Students are required to share the various maps either with me or their peers in order to receive feedback. This feedback is invaluable for the stage after students have settled for a question and before they submit their first draft. That is, this is the stage during which they not only develop their argument but also are most likely to procrastinate and fail to work on their research papers. They are required to submit updated maps every two weeks. This keeps them on track and allows me to give short, effective feedback without having to read what usually would be semi incomprehensible outlines or pre-drafts. This feedback has significantly improved the quality of the final drafts and saved me a lot of time in having to try to make sense of the more muddled ones among them.

by Rationale
6 years ago

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