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.
The introduction is the first thing readers read. It's the part that needs to capture their attention and make them want to keep reading. It also helps them focus on what they will be expected to understand or agree with at the end of the writing. Writing and introduction and conclusion can be one of the hardest part of writing and therefore, it comes at the end of the process, when writers have developed their draft and have a stronger sense of what they want their readers to understand.
In order to write a strong introduction, a writer might use one of these techniques:
- Tell a story about one person who benefited from this information in the essay. You can use the words, “What (that person) and others need to know is that…”
- “Many people (don’t know, don’t think, don’t realize) but I’ve (now realize, think its important)…”
- “Did you know…? Have you ever (wondered/wanted to know)…? I have found…”
- Raise a question that people ask…and show that this essay will answer it. “Many people wonder … You will learn…”
I then ask students to share with a partner, one way they might write their introduction. They can use one of these ideas to try out.
Students need to also think deeply about the type of conclusion they will write. The writer wants the reader to know that they have been effected by the essay and that they now think or understand something in a different way. Writers do this by using one of the examples below:
- (My thesis) is true. If my thesis is true than so is…
- I understand that…
- This makes me think…
- I believe that when I …, I feel…
- Other people should care about this because …
- This is important because…
I also ask students to pick one and try it out with a partner before returning to their own independent work.
When they return to work on their essay, I suggest they try a few different examples. They never know which one will work the best. Just like before, they need to practice a few different introductions and conclusions, asking themselves what way is most clear and convincing.