I once made a research paper due one week before the end of the grading period. I sat down to grade them. After the first one, I cried. After the second one I cut myself. After the third one I swore I’d rather eat razors and drink cow urine than read another one.
I got many strange looks while eating razors and drinking cow urine.
Luckily I came up with a research paper lesson plan that wouldn’t cause me to want to lick a curling iron while stepping on Lego pieces. I now share this lesson plan for writing a research paper with you. It also serves as a research skills lesson plan.
ELA Common Core Standards for Writing a Research Paper Lesson Plan
- RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
- Common Core Writing Standard 2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
- W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of L.9-10.1-3.)
- W.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
- W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
- W.9-10.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
- L.9-10.3a Write and edit work so that it conforms to the guidelines in a style manual (e.g., MLA Handbook, Turabian’s Manual for Writers) appropriate for the discipline and writing type.
Keep it simple.
This particular research skills lesson plan’s purpose is to give students confidence. The teacher takes them through the steps. It may take a week or two. The materials I used for my research paper unit involves The Odyssey. I utilized the text book and web sources.
If you’d rather get struck in the forehead by a boulder thrown by a Cyclops than read another research paper, keep reading.
Step 1: Instruct students how to create a works cited page. Include examples on your works cited page. Numerous handouts exist online. Here’s one I use: Citation Expectations.
Step 2: Students will now take notes on a specific topic. This works best if it’s aligned thematically with a unit you’re about to begin. Before taking the first note, instruct students to write down the citation information in MLA format. For example, we were about to begin The Odyssey, so I found introductory material in our text book for them to read and take Cornell Notes on. By the end of day 1, they had one page of Cornell Notes, properly cited.
Step 3: At this point you’re simply repeating step 2. For this day I found another article in the text book about epic poems. At the end of day 2, students had 2 pages of Cornell Notes with citation information in MLA format.
It takes a hero to teach research to high-school students.
Step 4: We’re doing the same thing, except you’ll want to mix in a different type of citation. I used The Hero’s Journey video from TedEd. If you checkout my Hero’s Journey Resource Page, there’s a video and a few other things. By the end of day 3, students have three pages of notes and three sources properly cited in MLA format.
Step 5: One more time. For these notes, I find a source online and project it on a screen. For this exercise, I used a document on epic conventions from Carson-Newman University. In addition to learning about epic conventions, we learned that Carson-Newman University is in Tennessee. Now you know. Each student now has 4 pages of notes, all with the correct MLA citation.
*Obviously, you can modify the assignment to suit the ability and needs of your students. I prefer to keep it simple and focus on the technical aspects of research papers.*
Step 6: Put together the works cited page. Refer to the Citations Expectations or just Google it. I recommend the Purdue OWL website. I revert back to 1973 and make students hand write their works cited page in class as a rough draft. Despite teaching for 17 years, I’m still amazed at the number of times I can repeat something and still have 2/3 of students do the exact opposite.
Step 7: Teach students how to cite sources directly in their paper. Again, the Internet abounds with help, if you’re not sure or forgot. Most English teachers have written enough research papers that we know how. Even so, I still referenced the Purdue OWL site for certain things, mostly pertaining to online sources, since there was no such thing when I was in grad school.
Step 8: Instruct students to write the rough draft in class. Emphasize the importance of citing in the correct format.
Step 9: They’re on their own. You’ve gone through it step-by-step. Make the final draft due in a few days.
Here’s how I assess the mini-research paper.
- *MLA Works Cited Page: 40 pts. The works cited page must be absolutely perfect to get 40 points. Take off a point or two for typos and other minor errors. Errors in overall quality–excluding a source, not double spacing, wrong size font, no title, not indenting correctly are major errors and will be treated as major errors in the scoring.
- Direct Citation of Sources: 35 pts. I require a minimum of 3 directly cited sources. Either it’s done right or it isn’t. It must be perfect to get the full 35 points. All mistakes are penalized. Major mistakes–not including a page number, not including an author, not setting the citation up in context–are penalized accordingly.
- Spelling, Mechanics, Grammar, etc: 15 pts. The key here is not to look stupid. One of the challenges of a research paper is establishing credibility. Any mistake in this area requires a penalty.
- Content: 10 pts. This is the opposite of what I usually do. The major objective of this assignment is to teach technical research writing skills. Once the basic skills of research writing are complete, I can then focus on content.
*According to MLA, you should only include works in the works cited page that you actually cite. For this assignment, however, it’s a good idea to make them cite all the sources you go over in class.Share This:
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.