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.
About this Daily Classroom Special:
A Survival Guide for Teaching Students How to Write Research Papers was written by former Teachers Network web mentor, Lisa Kihn, a math and language arts teacher at Nevin Platt Middle School in Boulder, Colorado.
A Survival Guide for Teaching Students How to Write Research Papers
Daily Lesson Plans
30 total teaching days
One 3-ring notebook or small steno notebook
Box or pencil bag to keep notecards in
Five resources (minimum)
Day 1: Each student finds his/her “burning interest”
Give personal examples of a “passion” (I tell students that if I didn’t have to do anything else in my life – not even eat or sleep – I would love to study English castles or ghost towns of Colorado! That is how I know these are passionate interests.)
Interview a partner: talk about your interests
Process the interview, i.e., “How did you know this was a “burning interest” or passion? (Did the person talk more excitedly? etc.) Write in your journal how you decided that you have chosen a truly interesting topic to study.
Day 2: In journal write what you already know about your topic and what you would like to know.
Begin searching for resources
Use librarian to teach library research skills at your school
Handout the Topic Commitment Form, pages one and two (found at the end of this document)
Day 3: Continue teaching library research skills
Begin collecting resources
Day 4: Go to the public library and instruct students how to research there
Continue collecting resources
Five resources are due by Day 5
(At this time some students my need to modify their original topic if they are unable to find enough resources.)
Share with the class or in small groups the most interesting or exciting resources they found.
Day 5: Teach two-column note taking by having students fold a piece of paper and on one side write a quote or some interesting fact from a book and on the other side a personal response (i.e., Why is this interesting to you? Do you agree, disagree? etc.)
Begin researching the information in the books and recording interesting information in their journals.
Share this information with their partners
Begin setting up an interview or a visitation for each student so that they have the opportunity to interview an expert in their field of study or get a first hand look at what they are studying
Day 6: Continue reading for information
Teach how to read for information
Teach how to write a bibliography (check with your school for the approved bibliography format).
Day 7: With partners choose 3 – 5 categories into which students can divide their papers.
Label notecards with the title of each category and choose a symbol or picture to represent that category and draw it on the card.
Teach how to write research notes on notecards.
Each notecard should be labeled in the upper right hand corner with the symbol that represents which category the card belongs to. The middle of the card should contain a quote or the main idea from their research text. On the bottom of the card write the name of the book and the page number this information came from.
Students should have 15 to 20 notecards per category.
Day 8: Work on notecards
Share your progress with your partner
Day 9: Teach interviewing techniques (perhaps a speech teacher in your school can help with this)
Work on notecards
Day 10: Work on notecards
On a large sheet of poster paper draw pictures and use phrases to describe what you have learned so far.
Day 11: All notecards due
Teach how to write good paragraphs with strong topic sentences and good supporting sentences.
Day 12: Have students arrange notecards in order within their category, then turn them over and “talk out” (explain verbally) their topics. This method helps students see the big picture and to organize information within each category.
Write rough draft of first topic
Practice and share good topic sentences and supporting details
Put examples on the chalkboard for all to see
Partners should check each other’s progress
Day 13: Continue writing rough drafts and checking topic sentences and supporting sentences.
Teach how to create visuals to enhance their report. Require at least one visual per category.
Day 14: Continue working on rough draft and sharing with their partner
Day 15: Write rough draft of second topic (“talk out” the topic first)
Teach transitional words and sentences to use so that the paper flows smoothly from one category to the next.
Day 16: Share rough drafts and begin third topic (“talk out” third topic)
Teach how to quote when using information from their interviews in their drafts
Day 17: Continue working on rough draft
Day 18: Share rough drafts and work on fourth topic, if needed
Day 19: Teach how to write an introduction and conclusion
Day 20: Share introductions and conclusions
Remind students that their rough drafts, including visuals, cover page and bibliography, are due the next day.
Day 21: Entire rough draft due
Final due on Day 25
Day 22: Teach oral presentation skills
Hand out Speech Preparation Sheet (also found at the end of this document)
- Write presentation on notecards
- Provide a large visual (a poster, video, overhead, slides, etc.)
- Teach an activity to the class (for example students have studied lawyers and set up a mock trial, sports demos and games, cooking activity, drawing techniques, etc.)
Day 23: Work on presentation and final paper
Day 24: Work on presentation and final paper
Day 25: In class do Research Paper Self-Evaluation (also found at the end of this document)
Turn in self - evaluation and final paper
Day 26: Begin presentations (schedule 4 – 5 presentations a day)
To the Project Overview
To the Topic Commitment Forms
To the Speech Preparation Sheet
To the Research Paper Self-Evaluation