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Scaffolding Methods for Research Paper Writing
|Grades||6 – 8|
|Lesson Plan Type||Unit|
|Estimated Time||Seven or eight 60-minute sessions|
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.
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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE
O'Day, S. (2006) Setting the stage for creative writing: Plot scaffolds for beginning and intermediate writers. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
- 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.
Biancarosa, G., and Snow, C. E. (2004.) Reading next-A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.
- 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.
- Expository writing, because its organizational structure is rooted in classical rhetoric, needs to be taught.
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NCTE/IRA NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS
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 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.
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 use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
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Resources & Preparation
MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY
Computers with Internet access and printing capability
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|1.||Decide how you will schedule the seven or eight class sessions in the lesson to allow students time for independent research. You may wish to reserve one day each week as the research project day. The schedule should provide students time to plan ahead and collect materials for one section of the scaffold at a time, and allow you time to assess each section as students complete it, which is important as each section builds upon the previous one.|
|2.||Make a copy for each student of the Research Paper Scaffold, the Example Research Paper Scaffold, the Example Student Research Paper, the Internet Citation Checklist, and the Research Paper Scoring Rubric. Also fill out and copy the Permission Form if you will be getting parents permission for the research projects.|
|3.||If necessary, reserve time in the computer lab for Sessions 2 and 8. Decide which citation website students will use to format reference citations (see Websites) and bookmark it on student computers.|
|4.||Schedule time for research in the school media center or the computer lab between Sessions 2 and 3.|
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- 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
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Session 1: Research Question
|1.||Distribute copies of the Example Research Paper Scaffold and Example Student Research Paper, and read the model aloud with students. Briefly discuss how this research paper works to answer the question, How does color affect mood? The example helps students clearly see how a research question leads to a literature review, which in turn leads to analysis, original research, results, and conclusion.|
|2.||Pass out copies of the Research Paper Scaffold. Explain to students that the procedures involved in writing a research paper follow in order, and each section of the scaffold builds upon the previous one. Briefly describe how each section will be completed during subsequent sessions.|
|3.||Explain that in this session the students task is to formulate a research question and write it on the scaffold. Note: The most important strategy in using this model is that students be allowed, within the assigned topic framework, to ask their own research questions. Allowing students to choose their own questions gives them control over their own learning, so they are motivated to solve the case, to persevere even when the trail runs cold or the detective work seems unexciting.|
|4.||Introduce the characteristics of a good research question. Explain that in a broad area such as political science, psychology, geography, or economics, a good question needs to focus on a particular controversy or perspective. Some examples include:|
|5.||Note that a good question always leads to more questions. Invite students to suggest additional questions resulting from the examples above and from the Example Research Paper Scaffold.|
|6.||Emphasize that good research questions are open-ended. Open-ended questions can be solved in more than one way and, depending upon interpretation, often have more than one correct answer, such as the question, Can virtue be taught? Closed questions have only one correct answer, such as, How many continents are there in the world? Open-ended questions are implicit and evaluative, while closed questions are explicit. Have students identify possible problems with these research questions|
|7.||Instruct students to fill in the first section of the Research Paper Scaffold, the Research Question, before Session 2. This task can be completed in a subsequent class session or assigned as homework. Allowing a few days for students to refine and reflect upon their research question is best practice. Explain that the next section, the Hook, should not be filled in at this time, as it will be completed using information from the literature search.|
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 childs research topic and the project due dates.
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Session 2: Literature ReviewSearch
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.
|1.||Introduce this session by explaining that students will collect five articles that help to answer their research question. Once they have printed out or photocopied the articles, they will use a highlighter to mark the sections in the articles that specifically address the research question. This strategy helps students focus on the research question rather than on all the other interestingyet irrelevantfacts that they will find in the course of their research.|
|2.||Point out that the five different articles may offer similar answers and evidence with regard to the research question, or they may differ. The final paper will be more interesting if it explores different perspectives.|
|3.||Demonstrate the use of any relevant subscription databases that are available to students through the school, as well as any Web directories or kid-friendly search engines (such as KidzSearch) that you would like them to use.|
|4.||Remind students that their research question can provide the keywords for a targeted Internet search. The question should also give focus to the researchwithout the research question to anchor them, students may go off track.|
|5.||Explain that information found in the articles may lead students to broaden their research question. A good literature review should be a way of opening doors to new ideas, not simply a search for the data that supports a preconceived notion.|
|6.||Make students aware that their online search results may include abstracts, which are brief summaries of research articles. In many cases the full text of the articles is available only through subscription to a scholarly database. Provide examples of abstracts and scholarly articles so students can recognize that abstracts do not contain all the information found in the article, and should not be cited unless the full article has been read.|
|7.||Emphasize that students need to find articles from at least five different reliable sources that provide clues to answering their research question. Internet articles need to be printed out, and articles from print sources need to be photocopied. Each article used on the Research Paper Scaffold needs to yield several relevant facts, so students may need to collect more than five articles to have adequate sources.|
|8.||Remind students to gather complete reference information for each of their sources. They may wish to photocopy the title page of books where they find information, and print out the homepage or contact page of websites.|
|9.||Allow students at least a week for research. Schedule time in the school media center or the computer lab so you can supervise and assist students as they search for relevant articles. Students can also complete their research as homework.|
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Session 3: Literature ReviewNotes
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.
|1.||Have students find the specific information in each article that helps answer their research question, and highlight the relevant passages. Check that students have correctly identified and marked relevant information before allowing them to proceed to the Literature Review section on the Research Paper Scaffold.|
|2.||Instruct students to complete the Literature Review section of the Research Paper Scaffold, including the last name of the author and the publication date for each article (to prepare for using APA citation style).|
|3.||Have students list the important facts they found in each article on the lines numbered 15, as shown on the Example Research Paper Scaffold. Additional facts can be listed on the back of the handout. Remind students that if they copy directly from a text they need to put the copied material in quotation marks and note the page number of the source. Note: Students may need more research time following this session to find additional information relevant to their research question.|
|4.||Explain that interesting facts that are not relevant for the literature review section can be listed in the section labeled Hook. All good writers, whether they are writing narrative, persuasive, or expository text, need to engage or hook the readers interest. Facts listed in the Hook section can be valuable for introducing the research paper.|
|5.||Use the Example Research Paper Scaffold to illustrate how to fill in the first and last lines of the Literature Review entry, which represent topic and concluding sentences. These should be filled in only after all the relevant facts from the source have been listed, to ensure that students are basing their research on facts that are found in the data, rather than making the facts fit a preconceived idea.|
|6.||Check students scaffolds as they complete their first literature review entry, to make sure they are on track. Then have students complete the other four sections of the Literature Review Section in the same manner.|
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.
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Session 4: Analysis
|1.||Explain that in this session students will compare the information they have gathered from various sources to identify themes.|
|2.||Explain the process of analysis using the Example Research Paper Scaffold. Show how making a numbered list of possible themes, drawn from the different perspectives proposed in the literature, can be useful for analysis. In the Example Research Paper Scaffold, there are four possible explanations given for the effects of color on mood. Remind students that they can refer to the Example Student Research Paper for a model of how the analysis will be used in the final research paper.|
|3.||Have students identify common themes and possible answers to their own research question by reviewing the topic and concluding sentences in their literature review. Students may identify only one main idea in each source, or they may find several. Instruct students to list the ideas and summarize their similarities and differences in the space provided for Analysis on the scaffold.|
|4.||Check students Analysis section entries to make sure they have included theories that are consistent with their literature review. Return the Research Paper Scaffolds to students with comments and corrections. Note: In the finished research paper, the analysis section will be about one paragraph.|
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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.
|1.||During this session, students formulate one or more possible answers to the research question (based upon their analysis) for possible testing. Invite students to consider and briefly discuss the following questions:|
|2.||Explain the difference between qualitative and quantitative research. Quantitative methods involve the collection of numeric data, while qualitative methods focus primarily on the collection of observable data. Quantitative studies have large numbers of participants and produce a large collection of data (such as results from 100 people taking a 10-question survey). Qualitative methods involve few participants and rely upon the researcher to serve as a reporter who records direct observations of a specific population. Qualitative methods involve more detailed interviews and artifact collection.|
|3.||Point out that each students research question and analysis will determine which method is more appropriate. Show how the research question in the Example Research Paper Scaffold goes beyond what is reported in a literature review and adds new information to what is already known.|
|4.||Outline criteria for acceptable research studies, and explain that you will need to approve each students plan before the research is done. The following criteria should be included:|
|5.||Inform students of the schedule for submitting their research plans for approval and completing their original research. Students need to conduct their tests and collect all data prior to Session 6. Normally it takes one day to complete research plans and one to two weeks to conduct the test.|
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Session 6: Results (optional)
|1.||If students have conducted original research, instruct them to report the results from their experiments or surveys. Quantitative results can be reported on a chart, graph, or table. Qualitative studies may include data in the form of pictures, artifacts, notes, and interviews. Study results can be displayed in any kind of visual medium, such as a poster, PowerPoint presentation, or brochure.|
|2.||Check the Results section of the scaffold and any visuals provided for consistency, accuracy, and effectiveness.|
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Session 7: Conclusion
|1.||Explain that the Conclusion to the research paper is the students answer to the research question. This section may be one to two paragraphs. Remind students that it should include supporting facts from both the literature review and the test results (if applicable).|
|2.||Encourage students to use the Conclusion section to point out discrepancies and similarities in their findings, and to propose further studies. Discuss the Conclusion section of the Example Research Paper Scaffold from the standpoint of these guidelines.|
|3.||Check the Conclusion section after students have completed it, to see that it contains a logical summary and is consistent with the study results.|
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Session 8: References and Writing Final Draft
|1.||Show students how to create a reference list of cited material, using a model such as American Psychological Association (APA) style, on the Reference section of the scaffold.|
|2.||Distribute copies of the Internet Citation Checklist and have students refer to the handout as they list their reference information in the Reference section of the scaffold. Check students entries as they are working to make sure they understand the format correctly.|
|3.||Have students access the citation site you have bookmarked on their computers. Demonstrate how to use the template or follow the guidelines provided, and have students create and print out a reference list to attach to their final research paper.|
|4.||Explain to students that they will now use the completed scaffold to write the final research paper using the following genre-specific strategies for expository writing:|
|5.||Distribute copies of the Research Paper Scoring Rubric and go over the criteria so that students understand how their final written work will be evaluated.|
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- 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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Grades 9 – 12 | Printout | Graphic Organizer
I-Search Process Reflection Chart
This chart asks students to consider their challenges and successes across the span of the research process, from question formulation to the final write-up.
Grades 9 – 12 | Printout | Graphic Organizer
As part of an I-Search writing process, this handout facilitates the formation of meaningful questions and subquestions for student inquiry.
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Grades 8 – 12 | Strategy Guide
Promoting Student-Directed Inquiry with the I-Search Paper
The sense of curiosity behind research writing gets lost in some school-based assignments. This Strategy Guide provides the foundation for cultivating interest and authority through I-Search writing, including publishing online.
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Grades K – 8 | Professional Library | Book
Setting the Stage for Creative Writing: Plot Scaffolds for Beginning and Intermediate Writers
Want to foster creativity and originality in student writing? This practical guide shows how plot scaffolds can be used to help beginning and intermediate writers.
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December 15, 2016
I'm a high school special ed. teacher. Probably half of my kids are college bound, and this tool is really going to set them up for success today... and into the future. Thanks.
This is such an amazing and useful tool! I feel that for a large majority of emerging researchers, that this has been extremely effective!
We are using this lesson to work on writing a research article. I created a model article out of the example paper and posted it to our blog. Take a look here - http://kidblog.org/2017Purple/mrsquam/example-research-synthesis-article/
November 18, 2010
While I was looking for replacements for a few of the links that are now defunct I found an interesting search engine that actually includes links to numerous different metasearch engines, search engines, reference and research engines, calendars, the World Fact Book, news sites, and more great site! It redirects you to the site under which you searched.
One of the many reasons I love teaching third grade is witnessing the amazing growth that takes place throughout the year, especially in writing. Many of my students have gone from working on writing complete sentences with capital letters and periods in September to writing research reports by the third quarter. How do they come so far? My students learn research skills, note-taking, and purposeful expository writing in a step-by-step manner that makes it easy and manageable for young writers.
This week, I’m happy to share with you my strategies and graphic organizers that help my students write clear, informative, five-paragraph research reports. While my focus is on the specific reports that we do, the ideas can easily be adapted to any topic of your choosing.
Before beginning this project, my students have already been introduced to nonfiction text features. To see some of the activities that take place see my previous posts:
Step 1: Choose a High-Interest Topic and Build Background
One of the most important things I do to prepare for this project is introduce nonfiction text that is high interest. I’ve discovered the topic that engages my students like no other is disasters. For this report we concentrate on natural disasters. You can use any topic of interest to your students that has plentiful resources available such as endangered animals or habitats.
To begin, we read the book, Pompeii . . . Buried Alive, as a class. Each year students are fascinated to learn how repeated eruptions of Mount Vesuvius covered an entire city that no one even realized existed for centuries. We connect this story to our science lessons, looking at how volcanoes form, what causes them to erupt, and the types of damage they can cause.
Over the next few days, I introduce different disasters using short video clips found on Discovery Education Streaming and Scholastic’s StudyJams!. We focus on earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, and wildfires. Tip: no matter what nonfiction topic you choose to focus on, StudyJams! most likely has a video and information on it!
During this period of background building, I also make a tub of my disaster-themed books available for independent reading.
Step 2: Model Note-Taking Strategies
While watching the video clips and reading books from the disaster tub, my students take notes in their writer’s notebooks. Before doing so, however, I go over some note-taking strategies that younger students are not always familiar with, such as:
Write down key words and phrases — complete sentences aren’t needed
Bullet or number your notes
Categorize your notes with headings
Use images to help you remember key ideas
This year, for the first time, I introduced my students to visual note-taking, which I had just read about the previous day in a post by fellow blogger, Meghan Everette. Many of my students loved using this method to make their notes more visual.
When you are just beginning to teach note-taking, the resource below can be a big help.
Step 3: Students Choose the Topic They Want to Research
When students have a choice in what they write about, I find they tend to be more engaged in the effort. Therefore, after we have been introduced to the last disaster, students write down the names of three disasters, in ranked order, that they would like to learn more about on a slip of paper and turn it in to me.
Step 4: Make it a Team Effort
Putting students into groups by topics allows them to help and support each other through researching, writing, editing, and publishing.
I use the student ranking slips from Step 3 to place students on their disaster teams. If possible, I make sure all students get their first choice for a topic, however, having a second choice is helpful if I need to separate students who have shown they don’t work well together. (Teacher confession: the third choice I have them write down is just to make them feel good that they got their first or second choice!)
Each disaster team is assigned a headquarters. That’s their special area of the room to meet with their teammates to work during this two-week research project.
Step 5: Gather Resources and Take Notes
Once teams have been established, I pass out a note-taking graphic organizer for students to use. It is divided into sections that align with the main idea of each paragraph. This will help them easily translate their notes into topic and detail sentences for their report. Feel free to download and print the note organizer below. You can customize it to fit any topic you choose by changing the headings on each page.
Click on the image above to download and print these graphic organizers.
Students use books from the classroom and school library as well as online resources to begin taking notes. The key teaching point here is to stress the importance of putting information they find in their own words. Students who write down the exact words from their sources tend to include those “great-sounding” sentences in their research papers which leads to a whole new lesson on plagiarism.
During the two to three days students are taking notes, I sit down with each team to look over what they have completed and steer them onto the right track if necessary. Visiting each group and providing guidance is important to setting them up for success when it comes time to write.
Step 6: Write and Revise the Report
Once students have taken sufficient notes for each section of the report, they are ready to start writing! Each student receives a new graphic organizer which we first discuss, page-by-page, as a whole class. Students use the organizer to follow a simple, five-sentence paragraph pattern that includes a topic sentence, three detail sentences and a closing sentence. Using this formula approach helps students understand the basic format of a paragraph and how the paragraphs blend together to form a report.
The organizer students use for their writing is shown below. Remember, when you download and print the note organizer below, you can customize it to fit any topic by changing the headings on each page.
The very first paragraph, which introduces the reader to the topic, is completed while the students are still sitting on the carpet. Sentence by sentence (there are only five!) students volunteer to share what they have written. Hearing their peers’ topics and detail sentences often inspires other students, giving them the confidence to write their own. After the first paragraph is completed, students are sent to their team headquarters to continue writing.
At the start of the next class period, we gather to review what was written the day before and set a writing goal for that day. It normally takes the majority of my third graders three to four class sessions to complete their report.
Just as I did with note-taking, I visit each team at their headquarters at least once a day while they are writing independently. This allows me to provide any necessary support and guidance. It’s during these visits I also remind the students that as a team, they are there to help each other as well with revising and peer editing.
If you would like to teach students to write a well-constructed single paragraph, I love using this printable with my class.
Step 7: Publish!
Getting to type their reports is the favorite part for most students. As part of publishing, students are asked to incorporate text features that are frequently found in nonfiction text. See the sheet below for the checklist my students use as they publish their reports.
Step 8: Proudly Display and Share the Finished Product!
After approximately three weeks from start to finish, the students have a finished report they can proudly share with classmates and parents!
Writing research reports can be a daunting task at any grade level, but using a step-by-step approach with young writers breaks it down into an easy-to-manage process that will make all writers feel successful. Whether you choose natural disasters or any other topic to delve into with your students, I'm sure you will feel as excited to see your students rise to this writing challenge as I do every year!