5 Methods to Teach Students How to do Research PapersBy Room 241 Team • January 30, 2013
When teaching students how to construct research papers, the scaffolding method is an effective option. This method allows students to research and then organize their information. The scaffold provides understandable support for expository papers. Students greatly benefit from having the majority of the research and proper structure in place before even starting the paper.
With well-prepared references, students are able to:
- Study informational text
- Practice strategies that are genre-specific for expository writing
- Use an inquiry-based approach
- Work individually
- Work collaboratively
The following tips and methodologies build off the initial preparation:
- Students formulate a logical thesis that expresses a perspective on their research subject.
- Students practice their research skills. This includes evaluating their sources, summarizing and paraphrasing significant information, and properly citing their sources.
- The students logically group and then sequence their ideas in expository writing.
- They should arrange and then display their information on maps, graphs and charts.
- A well-written exposition is focused on the topic and lists events in chronological order.
Formulating a research question
An example research paper scaffold and student research paper should be distributed to students. The teacher should examine these with the students, reading them aloud.
Using the example research paper, discuss briefly how a research paper answers a question. This example should help students see how a question can lead to a literature review, which leads to analysis, research, results and finally, a conclusion.
Give students a blank copy of the research paper Scaffold and explain that the procedures used in writing research papers follow each section of the scaffold. Each of those sections builds on the one before it; describe how each section will be addressed in future sessions.
Consider using Internet research lessons to help students understand how to research using the web.
Have students collect and print at least five articles to help them answer their research question. Students should use a highlighter to mark which sections pertain specifically to their question. This helps students remain focused on their research questions.
The five articles could offer differing options regarding their research questions. Be sure to inform students that their final paper will be much more interesting if it examines several different perspectives instead of just one.
Have students bring their articles to class. For a large class, teachers should have students highlight the relevant information in their articles and then submit them for assessment prior to the beginning of class.
Once identification is determined as accurate, students should complete the Literature Review section of the scaffold and list the important facts from their articles on the lines numbered one through five.
Students need to compare the information they have found to find themes.
Explain that creating a numbered list of potential themes, taken from different aspects proposed in the literature collected, can be used for analysis.
The student’s answer to the research question is the conclusion of the research paper. This section of the research paper needs to be just a few paragraphs. Students should include the facts supporting their answer from the literature review.
Students may want to use the conclusion section of their paper to point out the similarities and/or discrepancies in their findings. They may also want to suggest that further studies be done on the topic.Learn More: Click to view related resources. Tags: Assessment Tools
There are three things every teacher should do before taking their students to the computer lab to research information for their research papers: teach the difference between reliable and unreliable sources, check to make sure every student has a self-generated research question, and help prepare students with key phrases and words to search.
Whenever I begin teaching the research paper, I always share with my students the story of how I wrote my Master's thesis paper. It was a 50 page paper with 50 different sources.
I don't do this to toot my own horn. I don't do this to scare my students away from post-secondary education. I don't do this to make the students feel like their research assignment is petty and small. I do this so that I can explain the process of research to them and so that they know I was once in their shoes.
So how exactly do you write a 50-page research paper that has 50 unique, credible sources? One source at a time.
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Find Credible Sources
When teaching the research paper to my secondary ELA students, I first show them about research and credible sources. Before students can even begin looking for their sources, they have to know how to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources. Being able to do so is the first step in finding a reliable source.
As a rule of thumb, I prefer that my students only use .org, .gov, and .edu sources. I tell them they can use .com sources, but that they have to get my approval first. I also tell my students about Google Scholar and ERIC. Those are both free databases that students can use to find reliable resources.
Once I feel my students have a firm understanding of the sources they will be looking at, we then dive into the research topic, and the students select their issues related to the main topic.
One of the critical parts of teaching the research paper to students is having them come up with their self-generated research question. To do this, I encourage students to work collaboratively and talk about their research topics. They can work in small groups to see what their peers would like to know about that matter. Working in small groups first provides extra support for EL and struggling students. From there, students come up with their question to answer. There is also a graphic organizer in myResearch Paper Writing resource that is especially helpful during this process.
Brainstorm Key Words
Once students have a self-generated question, it is time to get students to think about keywords and phrases they will use in their search for sources. All too often I see students typing precise, wordy questions into a search engine. This only creates frustration for the students as well as the teacher. Taking half a class to discuss keywords and phrases helps students tremendously, and it even speeds up the research process because students can find credible sources a lot easier. When teaching keywords and phrases to my students, I encourage them to type no more than four words into the search engine. I tell them that they must think of the most important words directly related to their topic.
To help students think about keywords and phrases they can use in the search engine, have them think about hashtags for their research topic. This fun, easy, and engaging strategy will get students thinking about what to research and what is explicitly related to their subject.
This blog post is the first post in a series about teaching students about research writing.
If you are interested in teaching the research paper to your students, check out my Research Paper Writing lesson. This lesson includes an editable PowerPoint presentation, a research paper assignment, and everything you will need to work on the entire research paper writing process with your secondary students.
Read more about research in the classroom with Part 2 which covers research paper topics and Part 3 which includes using Google Apps for research.