When we are considering writing assignments, we have to ask ourselves what our real purpose is in making those assignments. It is valuable for students to learn how to do research and also to learn how to write persuasively, both of which are components in the research paper, but which can be taught in different ways. For example, students can do research by creating an investigation, which reports research without requiring students to support an opinion on top of the research. An I-search paper also does the same thing. Under the teaching possibilities there are persuasive songs--protest songs that were written to persuade people to take on a particular perspective.

We have to be honest in this. Are we assigning a paper because we want students to develop college-level writing skills and we are going to scaffold students into this level of writing and we are willing to get creative in the effort to find topics that inspire students? Or are we trying to find an object to grade, something that will differentiate between "A" students and "D" students, whatever that means to us? Are we going to help students get interested in doing a high level piece of work and scaffold their abilities so that all students can really succeed at this? Or are we going to get a stack of 25 really boring, mostly plaigiarized writing on a Friday afternoon so we can spend all weekend reading them?

There are good and logical reasons to assign a research paper, but we have to be willing to figure out how to make this assignment meaningful to the students, which means finding authentic reasons for putting the effort into this kind of project. A grade is not an authentic reason.