Why "research papers" can be the death of an academic experience.

Most written products by students are poorly written, have a life cycle that lasts as long as it takes to grade and return, and alienate both the writer and reader.  Part of this problem is how we use writing. Frequently, writing is as a means to and end rather than an end in itself. Good writing is good writing because it is an end in itself.

College writing suffers because students fail in three areas: audience, purpose, genre. The problems with audience and purpose come from the artificiality of the environment. It is hard when the person reading the paper is one's professor. Similarly it is hard to have a purpose when the paper will be graded. The environment is artificial, which requires complicity from both students and professors. I have skipped genre because that follows from a genuine writing situation and is likely the one thing we can really teach through four years at college, in large part through exposure to different forms of reading.

Note reading, not writing. Different forms of reading introduce us to different ways of writing, different techniques to engage an audience, and different ways to present an argument.

Were you to write a paper for me, I would need to know first its audience. Are you writing a paper for an academic journal? If so, you will need an rigorous academic apparatus -- the citations, references and sense of response to prior writings. Will you be writing for the Wall Street Journal? If so, you will need to beat the free market drum; even their book reviews can be spoiled by their fierce advocacy. Were you writing for the New Yorker magazine, you would have have a different approach, with a much greater emphasis on writing craft.

You need to have a clearly articulated outlet for your planned writing. Were you writing for a website, you would likewise have a different audience; Slate has a more centrist perspective; Drudge throws bombs. Web writing is often more truncated than magazine or long form writing. Shorter sentences. Often more colloquial.

When you submit your essays, you will have a cover sheet that asks you to specify audience, purpose, and genre. To answer these questions, you should find clear descriptors.

For example, I often have international students in my class. For those students, the audience could be peers who have not had experience in United States.

Similarly for purpose, sticking with the international theme, it might be to explain the difference between privacy in a home culture and privacy in the United States.

To answer the genre question, you should think of where you might read this. Again, sticking with the international theme, it could be for a brochure to assist potential students from the home country deal with culture shock. 

To summarize, my writing example is a brochure written for non-native students explaining perspectives on privacy in the United States.