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Teaching Research Paper Process Middle School


By Phil Nast, retired middle school teacher and freelance writer

Found In:language arts, 9-12

A+ Writing Research Paper Guide includes a step-by-step guide to researching and writing a paper, an information search guide, and links to online resources. NOTE:After 20 years of service, ipl2 is now closed permanently. You may continue using the ipl2 website. However, the site will no longer be updated, and no other services will be available.

Step by Step Research & Writing recognizes that writing a research paper is only half the labor. Exploring subjects, locating information, analyzing issues, and organizing arguments require different skills than writing. Six steps prepare students to:

  • understand an assignment,
  • choose a topic,
  • narrow the focus,
  • gather information to support a topic,
  • form a thesis statement, and finally
  • write and revise the paper.

Each step has additional substeps. For example, Step 1 - Getting Started lists 8 considerations, many of which teachers would consider part of the prewriting stage of the familiar 5-step writing process. Step 1.1 Understanding the Assignment would seem obvious but can’t be stressed enough. (This is the number one step in the “Eisenberg & Berkowitz Big6 Information Problem Solving Process.” Teachers may find the Big6 poster and slideshow useful.) In addition, each step includes links to supporting tips, articles, and forms.

Info Search has an overview of library and web research and links to academic tutorials for the library and web research and interpretation and evaluation of information. A separate section on search strategies is included. As with the research and writing guide, links to supporting materials are provided.

Finally, Links connects to off-site resources on research and writing.

Scholastic’s “Research Papers: A Writing Workshop” offers students (grades 3–5) the opportunity to learn more about a topic that interests them by writing a research paper on it — and makes the task of writing the report less intimidating by dividing the process into easy steps. While the focus of the project is the creation of a research paper, the step-by-step instruction for completing the report focuses entirely on the writing process.

The steps include:

  • Mini-Lesson (1 day): Mini-lesson 1 helps students learn how to choose the best resources for their research. Min-lesson 2 teaches students how to name their sources at the end of their paper.
  • Prewriting (3–4 days): Students choose a topic to research, gather resources, take notes, and create an outline.
  • Drafting (2–3 days): Students review their notes and use their outline to create a rough draft of their report — organizing their work and getting their thoughts down on paper. Encourage them to focus on the content and allow their ideas to flow freely.
  • Revising (2–3 days): Students focus on the content of their report. (Remind them that revising doesn't involve making changes for spelling, grammar, or punctuation.)
  • Editing (1–2 days): Now, students focus on spelling, grammar, punctuation (including use of quotation marks), capitalization, and subject/verb agreement.
  • Reviewing (1–2 days): Students get a final look before taking their work public. They discuss how to conduct a review process, including: peer review, self assessment, and teacher conferencing.
  • Publishing (1–2 days): Students celebrate their accomplishments and post their work on Scholastic.com. Other ideas for publishing their research papers are shared.