Teaching Research Papers

One of the more difficult and time consuming types of essays is the Research Paper. A research paper represents a gathering of information that students have evaluated and organized. It is important that students are familiar with the rules regarding research papers so that they can write the best paper possible, and avoid making embarrassing mistakes by including incorrect information or misrepresenting or misquoting their sources.

NOTE: For the purposes of this Guide, “supporting quotations” refers to direct quotes rather than summarizations or paraphrased notes, which may be more difficult to discern and cite.

Day One:

  1. Reserve the Internet Lab at your school for these Day One activities! (You may want to reserve the lab for two days.) Either have your class meet at the Internet Lab or take them there. Distribute and read over the Plagiarism handout, (p.161), making sure that students understand just how serious plagiarism can be. Give them your own classroom rules on plagiarism, so they will know what you, personally, expect of
  2. Hand out Plagiarism WebQuest worksheet. Have students work alone or with a partner, finding and writing out the answers to all of the questions on the worksheet. If time runs out, have students finish at home, or return for a second day in the Internet Lab. Go over their findings as a class when everyone is finished.

Day Two:

  1. Distribute the handouts Research Papers (pp.163-164) and Writing Research Papers (p.165). Discuss the elements of the process, and answer questions as necessary.
  1. Give students their Research Paper topic or have them choose one of their own. If students choose their own topics, make sure to give obvious guidelines for topic selection and insist on teacher approval. Write down each student’s chosen
  2. Give students the parameters of their papers (number of pages, number of required sources, types of sources, etc.)
  3. Once students have been given their topics, have them narrow the topic if necessary.

Day Three:

  1. Handout Researching the “Old Fashioned” Way (p. 166) and Researching in the Modern World (p.167). Have students work to create 5-10 research questions for their paper – questions they want answered in their research (refer to Writing Research Papers, 165, for help).
  2. Once they have created their questions, have students decide what direction they want to take their paper, by having students study the Research Paper Organizer Prompt (p.183), and try to complete their Research Paper Organizer (pp. 184-185) filling in as much information as possible—IN PENCIL! If they don’t know much about the topic, encourage them to try to complete the form with generalities or assumptions. Once they have done their research, they can replace any inaccurate

Day Four:

  1. Distribute the handouts Evaluating Internet Sources (p.168), Using “Research Notes” Pages, and Using “Sources” Pages (pp.179-180). Go over this information as a
  2. Distribute to each student at least three copies of Research Notes and Sources (pp.181-182) printed back-to-back to keep notes with sources. If your copy budget is low, students can copy the format on their own pieces of paper, or the work can be done on index cards.

Explain how the process works, and that you will be heading to the library/media center tomorrow.

Days Five, Six, and Seven:

Be sure to reserve the library or media center!

It is a good idea to reserve the library ahead of time for this portion of the process. Also, tell your librarian or resource person about the research paper your students are completing. He or she may want to take the time to give the students a tour of available resources, or may even set aside helpful books on their topic(s).

  1. Take students to the library to begin their research. Students should have their list of questions, their draft of their Research Paper Organizer, and their Research Notes and Sources pages with them when they visit the library. They should also be clear as to what types of sources you expect them to
  2. Have students gather their information and notes on the Research Notes and Sources pages.

Day Eight:

  1. Have students organize their notes and sources. For each page of notes, they should number the information by body paragraph in the boxes provided. Have them cross out any duplicate information.
  2. Have students work on updating their Research Paper Organizer with their updated information and sources. For help integrating their sources, see Incorporating Support into a Research Paper (pp.171-172).

Day Nine:

  1. Distribute the handouts MLA Format and Style (pp.173-176) and Sample Works Cited Page: MLA Format (p.177-178).
  2. Have students begin writing a rough draft on lined paper, using their notes from the Research Paper Organizer. Have students skip every other line on their page for editing purposes.
  3. For the rough draft, they should work to fix any spelling or punctuation errors, as well as improve their vocabulary and sentence length. Finally, they should compile their Works Cited page (see pages 177-178 for sample).
  4. Students must finish this draft for the peer editing tomorrow.

Day Ten:

  1. Distribute one copy per student of the Research Paper Peer Editing Checklist (p.186), and have students peer edit each other’s
  2. Once students have had their paper edited by a minimum of two peer editors, they are ready to begin the process of polishing their essay. (See pages 218-233). Once students have written their final draft, you can score the essay with the Research Paper Rubric (p.187).