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If you are struggling with teaching the research report process, you are not alone. Seriously, we’ve all been there!
I spent several years avoiding research reports in my classroom or depending on the Library-Media Specialist to teach the research process.
One year, I decided to take the plunge and teach my students how to research a topic and write a research report.
The process was clunky at first, but I learned a lot about how students approach research and how to guide them from choosing a topic to completing their final copies.
Before we discuss the HOW , let’s talk about the WHY .
Why should you assign research reports to 5th and 6th grade students?
I have three main reasons for assigning research reports to my students.
First, the skill involved in finding reliable sources and citing sources is valuable.
Beginning in 5th grade, and possibly even before, students need to be able to discern the reliability of a source . They should be able to spot propaganda and distinguish between reputable sources and phony ones.
Teaching the procedure for citing sources is important because my 5th grade students need to grasp the reality of plagiarism and how to avoid it.
By providing information about the sources they used, students are consciously avoiding copying the work of authors and learning to give credit where credit is due.
Second, by taking notes and organizing their notes into an outline, students are exercising their ability to find main ideas and corresponding details.
Being able to organize ideas is crucial for young writers.
Third, when writing research reports, students are internalizing the writing process, including organizing, writing a rough draft, proofreading/editing, and writing a final draft.
When students write research reports about topics of interest, they are fine-tuning their reading and writing skills.
How to Teach Research Reports in Grades 5 & 6
As a veteran upper elementary teacher, I know exactly what is going to happen when I tell my students that we are going to start research reports.
There will be a resounding groan followed by students voicing their displeasure. (It goes something like this…. “Mrs Bazzit! That’s too haaaaaaard!” or “Ugh. That’s boring!” *Sigh* I’ve heard it all, lol.)
This is when I put on my (somewhat fictional) excited teacher hat and help them to realize that the research report process will be fun and interesting.
Step 1: Choose a Topic and Cite Sources
Students definitely get excited when they find out they may choose their own research topic. Providing choice leads to higher engagement and interest.
It’s best practice to provide a list of possible research topics to students, but also allow them to choose a different topic.
Be sure to make your research topics narrow to help students focus on sources. If students choose broad topics, the sources they find will overwhelm them with information.
Too Broad: American Revolution
Just Right: The Battle of Yorktown
Too Broad: Ocean Life
Just Right: Great White Shark
Too Broad: Important Women in History
Just Right: The Life of Martha Washington
Be sure to discuss appropriate, reliable sources with students.
I suggest projecting several examples of internet sources on your technology board. Ask students to decide if the sources look reliable or unreliable.
While teaching students about citing sources, it’s a great time to discuss plagiarism and ways to avoid it.
Students should never copy the words of an author unless they are properly quoting the text.
In fact, I usually discourage students from quoting their sources in their research reports. In my experience, students will try to quote a great deal of text and will border on plagiarism.
I prefer to see students paraphrase from their sources because this skill helps them to refine their summarization skills.
Citing sources is not as hard as it sounds! I find that my students generally use books and internet sources, so those are the two types of citations that I focus on.
How to cite a book:
Author’s last name, First name. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Date.
How to cite an internet article:
Author’s last name, First name (if available). “Title of Article or Page.” Full http address, Date of access.
If you continue reading to the bottom of this post, I have created one free screencast for each of the five steps of the research process!
Step 2: Take Notes
During this step, students will use their sources to take notes.
I do provide instruction and examples during this step because from experience, I know that students will think every piece of information from each source is important and they will copy long passages from each source.
I teach students that taking notes is an exercise in main idea and details. They should read the source, write down the main idea, and list several details to support the main idea.
I encourage my students NOT to copy information from the source but instead to put the information in their own words. They will be less likely to plagiarize if their notes already contain their own words.
Additionally, during this step, I ask students to write a one-sentence thesis statement. I teach students that a thesis statement tells the main point of their research reports.
Their entire research report will support the thesis statement, so the thesis statement is actually a great way to help students maintain a laser focus on their research topic.
Step 3: Make an Outline
Making an outline can be intimidating for students, especially if they’ve never used this organization format.
However, this valuable step will teach students to organize their notes into the order that will be used to write the rough draft of their reports.
Because making an outline is usually a new concept for my 5th graders, we do 2-3 examples together before I allow students to make their outlines for their research reports.
I recommend copying an outline template for students to have at their fingertips while creating their first outline.
Be sure to look over students’ outlines for organization, order, and accuracy before allowing them to move on to the next step (writing rough drafts).
Step 4: Write a Draft
During this step, each student will write a rough draft of his/her research report.
If they completed their outlines correctly, this step will be fairly simple.
Students will write their research reports in paragraph form.
One problem that is common among my students is that instead of writing in paragraphs, they write their sentences in list format.
I find that it’s helpful to write a paragraph in front of and with students to remind them that when writing a paragraph, the next sentence begins immediately after the prior sentence.
Once students’ rough drafts are completed, it’s time to proofread/edit!
To begin, I ask my students to read their drafts aloud to listen for their own mistakes.
Next, I ask my students to have two individuals look over their draft and suggest changes.
Step 5: Final Draft
It’s finally time to write final drafts!
After students have completed their rough drafts and made edits, I ask them to write final drafts.
Students’ final drafts should be as close to perfect as possible.
I prefer a typed final draft because students will have access to a spellchecker and other features that will make it easier to create their final draft.
Think of a creative way to display the finished product, because they will be SO proud of their research reports after all the hard work that went into creating them!
When grading the reports, use a rubric similar to the one shown in the image at the beginning of this section.
A detailed rubric will help students to clearly see their successes and areas of needed improvement.
Once students have completed their first research projects, I find that they have a much easier time with the other research topics assigned throughout the remainder of the school year.
If you are interested in a no-prep, step-by-step research report instructional unit, please click here to visit my Research Report Instructional Unit for 5th Grade and 6th Grade.
This instructional unit will guide students step-by-step through the research process, including locating reliable sources, taking notes, creating an outline, writing a report, and making a “works cited” page.
I’d like to share a very special free resource with you. I created five screencast videos, one for each step of the research report process. These screencasts pair perfectly with my Research Report Instructional Unit for 5th Grade and 6th Grade!
Research Report Step 1 Screencast
Research Report Step 2 Screencast
Research Report Step 3 Screencast
Research Report Step 4 Screencast
Research Report Step 5 Screencast
Hi, If i purchase your complete package on grade 5/6 writing does it come with your wonderful recordings on how to teach them? Thanks
Hi Gail! The recordings on this blog post can be used by anyone and I will leave them up 🙂 The writing bundle doesn’t come with any recordings but I did include step-by-step instructions for teachers. I hope this helps!
Thank you for sharing your information with everyone. I know how to write (I think, haha), but I wanted to really set my students up for success with their research and writing. Your directions and guides are just what I needed to jar my memory and help my students become original writers. Be blessed.
You are very welcome, Andrea! Thank you for this comment 🙂
Hi Andrea, I am a veteran teacher who has taught nothing but primary for 25 years. However, this is my first year in 5th. I’m so excited to have found your post. Can you direct me to how I can purchase your entire bundle for writing a 5-paragraph essay. Thanks, Sue
Sure, Susan, I can help with that! Here is the link for the 5th Grade Writing Bundle: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/5th-Grade-Writing-Bundle-3611643
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7th Grade Writing Research Papers
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Homeschool Help and Curriculum
How to Help T(w)eens Write Their First Research Paper
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We have learned over the years that parents often feel they know how to help teens write their first research paper. Here’s a little encouragement.
How to Help Teens Write Their First Research Paper
Middle schoolers and early high schoolers often feel intimidated by the thought of writing research papers. (Their parents do, too, sometimes!)
Anyone who has more than one kid has discovered that they are all different:
- Their personalities
- Their academic strengths and weaknesses
- Their needs and interests
One thing I have noticed that is the SAME in most tweens and teens: They need some handholding when they begin learning to write research papers. So how do you start that handholding and writing process?
One way is to start by a parent-led report-style research paper. (Remember the papers you used to write- if you went to traditional school in 5th or 6th grade? Those were reports: You were simply presenting information. You were not digesting the information. You were not worried about format or style.)
7Sisters can help with that report-style research paper, and we can do it for free! Simply download this parent-directed, step-by-step guide to writing a very basic, report-style research paper. It is a simple and fairly quick process that will remove some of the intimidation factor for both you and your homeschoolers!
Their next research paper should be a real research paper…but keep up the hand holding!
The next research-writing project should go beyond the simple report. Homeschoolers should be learning some serious research-paper basic concepts like:
- What is plagiarism?
- How do you choose a topic for a research paper?
- How do you actually do the research?
- How do you organize your research?
- How do you create citations?
With this next-step research paper, they do not need to decide on an official style or format for their research paper. They can do that next year.
In the meantime, the concepts listed above are big concepts. Working through the process with a parent will be important.
However, in this real research paper, there will be work that many students will be able to do on their own. To understand what the help/support/let-go process can look like, it is good to have a guide. That’s why we created the writing guide: Research Writing Readiness .
This guide came about because our local homeschool parents kept asking 7Sister, Allison, to help young people write their very first research paper. (You may have noticed that Allison created our popular MLA Research Paper Writing Guide . Homeschooling parents told her they wanted a prequel!)
After teaching our local beginners, Allison (along with 7Sister Marilyn, who constructed 7Sisters’ Middle School Fairy Tale Writing Guide ) created a new writing guide to help homeschooling parents and their homeschoolers to create that very first research paper. It is a homeschooler/parent, do-it-together guide: Research Writing Readiness: Foundational Skills for Successful Research Papers.
Let me explain how to help teens to write their first research paper using 7Sisters Research Writing Readiness downloadable eworkbook.
Research Writing Readiness: Foundational Skills for Successful Research Papers is a step -by-step guide. It provides the tools you need to introduce the research-paper writing process in 20 short lessons. The lessons can be done one per day over 20 school days or (for a more relaxed process) the lessons can be spread out to 1 or 2 steps per week.
Research Writing Readiness helps a student work with a parent on a first research paper.
This easy-to-use guide provides the tools you need to introduce the research-paper writing process. That way, when they are in high school, they will be prepared to write their research papers.
The guide is intended for use:
- in homeschool middle school (7th grade or 8th grade for many students)
- homeschool high schoolers who lack experience or
- homeschool high schoolers who struggle with research writing
This 7Sisters guide does not teach a particular style of research paper (i.e., MLA, APA, Chicago). Instead, it provides:
- Step by step instructions for student from topic choice to final draft
- Practice assignments that will help them create a first research paper
- note taking
- citing sources
- Including: How-to instructions for the parent/teacher
- Sample grading rubric
Download Research Writing Readiness for your homeschoolers and help them develop powerful research paper writing skills that they need in high school (and in college)!
Planning the order of your homeschoolers’ research paper writing? Here’s a post with a suggested order for these papers (although we all know that there’s not ONE right way to homeschool).
For more encouragement for helping your teens with their research paper writing check out these episodes of The Homeschool Highschool Podcast:
- Writing Research Papers: You CAN Do It!
- Writing Research Papers, Interview with Kat Patrick
As you look ahead at Language Arts for homeschooling high school, you may get some encouragement on this how-to post from our friend, Betsy at BJ’s Homeschool.
Click here to view an excerpt from Research Writing Readiness: Foundational Skills for Successful Research Papers .
Research paper fun – practical tips for teens.
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Scaffolding Methods for Research Paper Writing
- Resources & Preparation
- Instructional Plan
- Related Resources
Students will use scaffolding to research and organize information for writing a research paper. A research paper scaffold provides students with clear support for writing expository papers that include a question (problem), literature review, analysis, methodology for original research, results, conclusion, and references. Students examine informational text, use an inquiry-based approach, and practice genre-specific strategies for expository writing. Depending on the goals of the assignment, students may work collaboratively or as individuals. A student-written paper about color psychology provides an authentic model of a scaffold and the corresponding finished paper. The research paper scaffold is designed to be completed during seven or eight sessions over the course of four to six weeks.
- Research Paper Scaffold : This handout guides students in researching and organizing the information they need for writing their research paper.
- Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection : Students use Internet search engines and Web analysis checklists to evaluate online resources then write annotations that explain how and why the resources will be valuable to the class.
From Theory to Practice
- Research paper scaffolding provides a temporary linguistic tool to assist students as they organize their expository writing. Scaffolding assists students in moving to levels of language performance they might be unable to obtain without this support.
- An instructional scaffold essentially changes the role of the teacher from that of giver of knowledge to leader in inquiry. This relationship encourages creative intelligence on the part of both teacher and student, which in turn may broaden the notion of literacy so as to include more learning styles.
- An instructional scaffold is useful for expository writing because of its basis in problem solving, ownership, appropriateness, support, collaboration, and internalization. It allows students to start where they are comfortable, and provides a genre-based structure for organizing creative ideas.
- In order for students to take ownership of knowledge, they must learn to rework raw information, use details and facts, and write.
- Teaching writing should involve direct, explicit comprehension instruction, effective instructional principles embedded in content, motivation and self-directed learning, and text-based collaborative learning to improve middle school and high school literacy.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
Computers with Internet access and printing capability
- Research Paper Scaffold
- Example Research Paper Scaffold
- Example Student Research Paper
- Internet Citation Checklist
- Research Paper Scoring Rubric
- Permission Form (optional)
- Formulate a clear thesis that conveys a perspective on the subject of their research
- Practice research skills, including evaluation of sources, paraphrasing and summarizing relevant information, and citation of sources used
- Logically group and sequence ideas in expository writing
- Organize and display information on charts, maps, and graphs
Session 1: Research Question
You should approve students’ final research questions before Session 2. You may also wish to send home the Permission Form with students, to make parents aware of their child’s research topic and the project due dates.
Session 2: Literature Review—Search
Prior to this session, you may want to introduce or review Internet search techniques using the lesson Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection . You may also wish to consult with the school librarian regarding subscription databases designed specifically for student research, which may be available through the school or public library. Using these types of resources will help to ensure that students find relevant and appropriate information. Using Internet search engines such as Google can be overwhelming to beginning researchers.
Session 3: Literature Review—Notes
Students need to bring their articles to this session. For large classes, have students highlight relevant information (as described below) and submit the articles for assessment before beginning the session.
Checking Literature Review entries on the same day is best practice, as it gives both you and the student time to plan and address any problems before proceeding. Note that in the finished product this literature review section will be about six paragraphs, so students need to gather enough facts to fit this format.
Session 4: Analysis
Session 5: original research.
Students should design some form of original research appropriate to their topics, but they do not necessarily have to conduct the experiments or surveys they propose. Depending on the appropriateness of the original research proposals, the time involved, and the resources available, you may prefer to omit the actual research or use it as an extension activity.
Session 6: Results (optional)
Session 7: conclusion, session 8: references and writing final draft, student assessment / reflections.
- Observe students’ participation in the initial stages of the Research Paper Scaffold and promptly address any errors or misconceptions about the research process.
- Observe students and provide feedback as they complete each section of the Research Paper Scaffold.
- Provide a safe environment where students will want to take risks in exploring ideas. During collaborative work, offer feedback and guidance to those who need encouragement or require assistance in learning cooperation and tolerance.
- Involve students in using the Research Paper Scoring Rubric for final evaluation of the research paper. Go over this rubric during Session 8, before they write their final drafts.
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You can also download these handy templates:
Overall Paper Format
- The paper should be typed and double-spaced, on standard 8 ½” x 11”, 20-pound white paper or a Google Template.
- All four outside margins should be set at 1 inch.
- A header with consecutive page numbering should appear on the upper right-hand corner of each page. It must be flush with the right margin, and one-half inch down from the top margin.
- A title page is not necessary (unless otherwise requested). Instead of the title page, four double-spaced entries are made, beginning at the top left-hand corner of the first page, listing author (your) name, course instructor’s name, course name/number, and the date.
- The title of the paper should be centered, one double-space from the bottom of the previous entry (either the header, or the date if there was no title page).
Sample Subsequent Pages
In-Text Citations of Sources
- When citing a work within the text of a paper, try to mention the material being cited in a “signal phrase” that includes the author’s name. After that phrase, insert in brackets, the page number in the work referred to from which the information is drawn.
- For example: [ In his final study, Smith said that the response “far exceeded our expectations” (253) ]. The reader can then look up Smith in the works cited list for complete information about the publication for which page 253 is being cited.
- In cases where the author is not mentioned in a "signal phrase" the author’s name, followed by the page number, must appear in parentheses. Example: [ When he left that job he felt it was time to move back to the sea (Smith 309). ]
- For citations of Internet resources , refer to the special page that I have set up about this right here.
Bibliography / Works Cited List
- Sources are referred to in a "Works Cited" list that should begin at the top of a separate page after the last page of essay text. (do not capitalize, underline, etc.).
- All entries in the works cited list should be double-spaced with no extra line spaces between entries.
- The first line of each entry in the works cited listshould be flush to the left margin, and each subsequent line for that entryshould be indented one-half inch (i.e. hanging indent).
- For the title of the work being cited, use underliningor italics, not both. They are equivalent in this case. Whichever convention ischosen must be used throughout the essay for all titles cited.
- The works cited list should be arranged in alphabeticalorder, based on the first word of each entry. For most entries, this will bethe last name of the author.
- As a general rule, the names of authors are inverted(i.e. last name first). In cases where a work has more than one author, invert the first author’s name only, followed by a comma, after which the other authors are listed (names not inverted).
- If more than one work by the same author is cited, the entries should appear as consecutive entries in the list, in alphabetical order by title. For the second, and all subsequent entries for that author, replace the author’s name with a line of three hyphens at the beginning of the entry.
- In cases where an author appears both as a sole author of a work, and as the first of a group of authors for another work, place the solo-entry first.
- If the author of a work is unknown, alphabetize the entry by the title of the work.
- Generally, when citing BOOKS, arrange the information into three units, each followed by a period and one space as follows: (1) author’s name (last name first), (2) title and sub-title, underlined (or italics), (3) place of publication, publisher, and date (in that order).
- Generally, when citing ARTICLES, list the information in the following order: (1) author name (inverted), (2) article title (enclosed in quotations), (3) title of the magazine or journal (underlined or italics), (4) date and page numbers (in that order).
- When listing ranges of page numbers, use the format 354-359 for an article appearing on those pages. The efficient form, 354-59, may also be used.
- Questions or Feedback? |