A Multi-genre Research Paper

As an alternative to the traditional research paper, consider the option of writing a multi-genre paper.  This type of writing is probably different from the kinds you have already done because you write on topics and create a project with a number of writing genres, not just one.  In other words, you don’t just write a research paper or a book report; instead you create a project using such genres as “diaries, reports, sermons, letters, plays, poems, and ethnographic field notes” as described by Robert Davis et al. in the Fall 1998 Oregon English Journal .

Some of you may have written creative non-fiction pieces that contained “meanders” to other forms of writing as described by Mary Paumier Jones in her essay “Meander” (Creative Nonfiction 1 1993)

Multi-genre writing gives you wide latitude for you to pick your forms of exploration of topics, as with your meanders.

Davis et al. gives us a rationale of why this type of writing is important.  He writes, “We live on a multi-world: multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-media, multi educational.  Every day, we are bombarded with a multitude of messages, from a multitude of sources.  A multi-genre research paper lends itself to the real world, and how we  receive information.  We see it on the news, in movies, in music videos, on the Internet; we hear it on the radio, in the halls, the classroom, church, car, locker room, on the phone; and we read it in books, magazines, textbooks, letters, advertisements, newspapers, and e-mail.”  Doesn’t it make sense to draw on the communication types around us to understand our world?

Another way of looking at how we can go about writing in this new approach is described by Tom Lovell of Pendleton High School in Pendleton Oregon who writes,

“A multi-genre research paper is a reflection of the times we live in.  Instead of writing one paper in one genre based on one source, this paper uses a variety of informational sources and incorporates those genres, possibly mimicking or adapting those sources, into a paper.  The multi-genre research paper takes information from multiple sources and presents it in multiple ways.” 

By using this approach, you have freedom in choosing your genres.  While it may be comfortable to stick with the familiar, here is an opportunity to venture into new forms you haven’t dabbled in much before.  Consider how writing a scene from a play is less formidable if it is just one part of a larger group which gets across your ideas about a subject.

What will a multi-genre research paper look like? 

Unlike the traditional research paper which uses only scholarly sources from other writers and researchers, you can pull from a variety of writing.  For example, in a multi-genre research paper on the effects of adoption on children, you can use statistics from the state in which you live and  scholarly journals such as found online in EBSCO and in research libraries, and then expand from such traditional sources to letters from adopted children, transcripts of interviews with parents and children, applications for adoption, diaries of parents traveling to China to adopt, ads from adoption agencies, letters to and from parents and children, court cases of adoption procedures, newspaper articles on families cited for neglect of adopted children, memoirs of adoptees, psychological profiles of children during the first year, and  scenes from screen plays in which adoption is a central theme. The successful multi-genre research paper will be exciting to read and less formulaic than the typical research paper.  The main thesis will be backed by a variety of sources. Of course, the works consulted page will include selections considered but not used in the draft and will provide a broad roadmap of the journey you traveled in looking for material.

Here are some lists of genres from which to choose, thanks to Davis et al. 

Check with your instructor for specifics types to include. You may want to search for “poems, letter, diary/journal entry, advertisement, map, short scene from a play, epithet, obituary, sketch, collage, chart or diagram with explanation, vocabulary page, cartoon, playbill, certificate, historical piece, futuristic piece, comparison/contrast piece, biographical piece, tall tale, myth, jokes, character analysis, personal reaction/ critique.”