Project Description
Project Components
National Standards Correlations
Lesson Planning Suggestions

Writing a research paper is often a daunting task for students. By dividing the process up into easy to complete steps and providing detailed information to help complete each step, this workshop will make writing a paper a less intimidating task. During the workshop, you'll take students step-by-step through the process of creating a research paper. While the focus of the project is the creation of a research paper, the step-by-step instruction for completing the report revolves entirely around the writing process. An Activity Assessment Rubric assesses the finished product.

Time Required

"Writer's Workshop: Research Papers" offers students the opportunity to learn more about a topic that interests them as they work step-by-step through the writing process. A typical class following the entire lesson plan can expect to spend one class period each school day for two to four weeks, depending on class size, grade level, and resources. Our weekly lesson planner has divided the project up into a three-week schedule. However, you may choose to work at a slower or faster pace than what we've outlined. It should be noted that a good portion of the work required to complete this project (including but not limited to some of the research) may need to be completed away from school.




This "Writer's Workshop" project gives students the opportunity to become comfortable with the writing process as they work to complete their report. The workshop is designed to take students through each step of the writing process and includes tutorials, rerproducibles, online planning tools and interactive mini-lessons.

Mini-Lesson (1 day)
Begin your workshop with two quick mini-lessons designed to enhance students' skills using resources. 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. We've provided both interactive online versions of our mini-lessons as well as printable versions you may copy for each student.

Prewriting (3–4 days)
The pre-writing stage of this project is probably one of the most important. It's during this stage that students will choose a topic to research, gather resources, take notes, and create an outline.

Drafting (2–3 days)
During this step, students will review the notes and use their outline to create a rough draft of their report. A rough draft allows students to begin the process of organizing their work and get their thoughts down on paper. While students are working at this stage, you should encourage them to focus on the content and allow their ideas to flow freely. During this phase of the writing process, grammar, spelling, and punctuation aren't of utmost importance.

Revising (2–3 days)
Students concentrate on the content of their research report. As students begin this process, remind them that revising doesn't involve making changes for spelling, grammar, or punctuation.

Editing (1–2 days)
At this stage, students focus on spelling, grammar, punctuation (including use of quotation marks), capitalization, and subject/ verb agreement.

Reviewing (1–2 days)
The review allows students one more look before taking their work public. Students discuss number of different ways they may conduct a review process including: peer review, self assessment, and teacher conferencing.

Publishing (1–2 days)
This is a time for students to celebrate their accomplishments and allow the rest of the world to view their work. In addition to posting work on Scholastic.com, there are a number of other great ideas for publishing students' research papers.


This is a time for students to celebrate their accomplishments and allow the rest of the world to view their work. In addition to posting work on Scholastic.com, there are a number of other great ideas for publishing students' oral history reports.



"Writer's Workshop: Research Papers" correlates with many of the national standards for language arts.

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) include:

  • 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. 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 non-print texts.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Technology Foundation Standards for Students

  • use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.
  • use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.
  • use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.
  • use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.
  • use technology tools to process data and report results employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.
  • use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.
  • use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.
  • use technology tools to process data and report results.


Week One

Introduction to the Unit & Mini-Lesson (1 day)

Introduction:
Begin the unit with a discussion of research papers. Explain that a research paper is a piece of writing that reports facts, data, and other information on a specific topic. It's called a research paper because you research your subject before writing your paper.

Next, discuss the steps of the writing process and activities involved with each step. Be sure to include how much class time and homework will be involved with this project.

Mini-Lesson
The mini-lessons that accompany this unit, choosing resources and naming sources, align nicely with the type of writing required to create a research paper.

Start by explaining the importance of the choice of good reference materials and resources. Discuss how these skills will not only benefit them now, but throughout their lives. Click here to print a copy of the "Choosing Resources" activity. This sheet will serve as a great reference tool as students work on their projects.

End the day with a quick review why it's so important to give proper credit for the information we use. Due to the fact that research reports often utilize many different resources, be sure to allow ample time for review of the rules for crediting a variety of different sources (books with one author, books with two authors, magazines, newspaper, the Internet…).

Pre-Writing (3–4 days)
The pre-writing activities actually fall under four different headings:

Choose a Topic
Begin this lesson with a classroom brainstorming session. Ask students to name some topics they consider interesting enough to research. Share the following tips for choosing a great topic:
  • Brainstorm a list of subjects that interests you.
  • Review your list and do a small amount of preliminary research to see what topics have sufficient resources and accessible information.
  • Once you decide on a general topic, try to narrow it down or refine to a specific aspect of the general topic.

For example, instead of writing a paper on World War I, write a paper that covers Pearl Harbor. Once you've chosen a topic, state it in the form of a question or as a problem to be solved- this is sometimes referred to as the "essential question" For example, What was the result of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor?

Refer to the reproducible choosing a topic. Discuss the possibilities with students.

Locating Resources
Explain that the success (or failure) of any report can sometimes be directly linked to the quality of the resources or information used for research. Remind students of the importance of their essential question or problem. Tell them to keep that in mind as they review resources.

Discuss the various types of resources:

  • Books:
  • Be sure to check for more recent publication dates to insure up-to-date information.
  • Newspapers and Magazines:
  • Many libraries carry past editions of newspapers on microfilm and many newspapers offer searchable databases online. Your librarian can also help you use indexes to magazine articles by topic in print and online.
  • People:
  • Personal interviews are often overlooked as a source of information, yet can sometimes yield some of the best material for your report.
  • The Internet:
  • Learn proper methods for searching and choose a search engine that is reputable. Carefully evaluate any information found online.
  • Encyclopedias:
  • Print versions are sometimes dated. Look for CD versions or online versions of the printed counterparts- these are constantly updated and thus contain current information.
  • Atlases, Almanacs, and Yearbooks:

Discuss the importance of evaluating resources and review the list of "self-questions" they should ask as they review a reource:

  • Is the information well researched?
  • Is the author an expert on the subject?
  • Is the information relevant to my topic? Just because you find an amazing story or fact doesn't mean it needs to be included in your paper. All information and sources must be related directly to your topic.
Take Notes
Once the students have had time to round up a good group of resources, take a few moments to teach note-taking skills. Share the following note-taking tips with students:

Before you Begin Taking Notes:

  • Skim through your source before you start writing. As you read, you'll see that some information may not pertain to the focus of your paper. Use bookmarks or sticky notes to mark pages you want to read more carefully and take notes on.
  • Start a detailed Source Sheet that lists each resource you use as you take notes. This will come in handy when it's time to name your sources.
  • Assign each source a code or abbreviation. This will keep you from having to write out the entire name on every note or note card.

Writing Your Notes:

  • Use the same type of note card or paper for each note you take.
  • Always identify the source of the information and page number at the top of your note card or paper- use the code for each source if possible.
  • Be sure to include the page number(s) where you located the information. This makes it easier to go back and recheck or get additional information.
  • Only write on one side of the note card or paper. This will help when it comes time to organize and write your outline.
  • Only write a small amount of information on each card. Keep your notes concise and to the point.
  • Use your own words. It's illegal to plagiarize.
  • If you must use the author's words, limit the number of direct quotations you use.
  • Write neatly. You don't want to waste time later trying to decipher your own scribbles.
  • Don't take notes on information that doesn't pertain to your topic. It's easy to get carried away and end up with lots of information you can't use.

Organize & Outline

Once students have completed the research process and taken their notes, spend some time teaching them how to sort and categorize their notes.

  • Begin by having them all their note cards into separate piles or topic stacks.
  • Ask them to assign each pile a name or topic
  • Have students read through the information contained on each card in each pile.

Once the cards have been organized, walk students through the creation of an outline. Explain the importance of an outline and its role in creating a paper that makes sense and flows from one point to another.

Week Two

Drafting (2–3 days)
Once the research has been completed and outlines have been written, regroup and spend time as a class discussing the research process.

  • What did they like?
  • Were they comfortable with the process or uncomfortable?
  • Did they learn anything new?
  • Did everyone get enough information?
Next, send the students to their desks and have them read through their notes and review their outlines. This is a good time students to begin thinking about ways to open their reports.—a great "hook" to keep the reader interested.

Once everyone has had time to review their notes and revisit their outline, it's time to start writing a first draft. Allow students at least one class period and additional time at home to complete this part of the process. Also, remind students that this is simply a time to get their thoughts on paper- get content down now, and go back later to make corrections.

Click here to print the Drafting reproducible.

Revising (2–3 days)
When everyone has completed his or her first draft, it's time to begin the revision process. Spend time discussing what actually happens during a revision. Remind students that they do not need to correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling during this phase of the writing process. Have students check flow, content, and sentence structure by reading their paper out loud.

At this point, you can also encourage a peer review. Click here to print the Peer Review Checklist.

Week Three

Editing (1–2 days)
Once students have drafted and revised their work, prompt them to check for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, subject/verb agreement, and spelling. Click here to print and then distribute an Editing Checklist to each student.

Reviewing (1-2 days)
The reports are almost ready for their debut. The reviewing process comes next. This step is painful to some students, so be sure to offer a variety of options for review.

  • Teacher Conference
  • Peer Review—Click here to print a Peer Review Checklist
  • Self-Assessment
Tell students to think of the Reviewing process as a dress rehearsal—one last time to "get it right" before the rest of the world gets to see their report.

Publishing (1–2 days)
Celebrate students' finished pieces by publishing their work in a way that is meaningful to your class. You may wish to discuss ideas with students. Find creative ideas to publish students' writing on the Celebrate! Page.