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I can tell you that homeschooling my children was one of the hardest and most rewarding ventures in my life, but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.
I have no regrets. . . not even tackling the LONG research paper.
With a folding table in the living, headphones, a computer, two monitors, a printer, notebooks, and pencils, my kids and I walked step-by-step through topics like global warming, urban gardening, the benefit of team sports, and the ethics of elective brain implants.
Using that experience and my years of teaching research writing, I want to help other parents who find themselves wondering how to successfully teach research writing.
If you missed the beginning of this series, go back and start with Part 1, which entails the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE of research writing. Part 2 covers the first five steps of HOW to attack a substantial paper.
In this article, we’ll wrap up the HOW of teaching research writing, including . Let’s get started—it’s time to write!
Step 6 – Research and Take Notes
Return to Step 5. Using the questions at the top of the notebook pages, begin the research process in earnest.
Take notes directly under questions
Each main topic should have about three pages of notes. Students should jot their notes right below each question. They probably won’t use everything they write down, but extra information is better than not enough.
Here’s an important takeaway: Next to each fact or quote, ALWAYS write the author’s last name or key word from the article title.
- Internet articles are sometimes hard to find a second time. Save links to “Favorites” or print the material and keep it in a manila folder.
- For the most part, paraphrase notes.
- Keep only a few direct quotes intact for the body paragraphs.
- Make sure to correctly record statistics and facts.
- To avoid plagiarism, always give credit to the source for each fact, detail, or direct quote.
Do not take notes on the computer
I’ve lost count of the number of students whose computer crashed or who accidentally deleted their notes or faced some other disaster (spilled coffee, anyone?).
Instead, use a spiral notebook. All that research stays in one place, and students can easily flip through notes and cross out information as they use it without having multiple documents open on the screen.
Before writing, take time to help your teen organize the notes in a way that makes sense for the topic.
Look through the topics and the notes, and discuss how the topics fit together. This is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. And, like a jigsaw puzzle, once the topics are organized, they flow together to form a beautiful picture.
To do this, encourage your student to mark the topic headers in the order that makes the most sense for the paper.
- Abbreviate using T1, T2, T3 for Topic 1, Topic 2, Topic 3, etc.
- If some topics don’t seem to fit in at this point, that’s okay. Those notes might be useful as a sprinkling of genius once the writing begins.
- Other topics may end up not working at all. It’s fine to cast aside research that doesn’t fit with the overall theme or thesis statement.
Make an outline
After they mark the majority of the topic headers, students create a working outline for the paper. On the computer or a separate piece of paper, they write the topic headings and maybe some subpoints in the order they’ve decided. As they write, they can cross off the topics in the spiral notebook to keep track of what they’ve added to their outline.
Step 7 – Write
Yay! The writing!
As students write, they’ll use their notes from Step 6. The body of a research paper should contain one-third concrete detail (expert opinion, details, or statics, etc.) and two-thirds commentary (their own words).
Some kids like to start with the introduction, such as laying down some background information or hooking their audience with an attention-grabbing true story. Others like to write the body paragraphs and then tie the introduction and conclusion together later.
At this stage, don’t worry about transitions or perfection. Allow your teen to type whatever comes to mind. Getting something on the page is the goal!
Step 8 – Edit and Revise
After they write rough drafts and edit their papers, instruct them to make all the corrections before turning in the draft to you for parent editing. (By the way, WriteShop teaches this editing process—even at the elementary age!)
Once your kiddos finish editing, it’s time to pull up their rough drafts on the computer and re-work them to make their revisions as thorough as possible.
Step 9 – Parent/Teacher Edits
Step 10 – Final Draft
Students take the parent or teacher edits and work the suggestions into the paper’s final draft.
A research paper of this size should include:
- A title page
- An outline
- The paper
- A reference page
The format of these pages depends on the style you choose. Guide books provide invaluable help with formatting, organization, and grammar.
Step 11 – Parent/Teacher Evaluation
It’s finally time to grade the paper. Using a predetermined rubric or checklist, make positive comments on your child’s paper, along with a few constructive criticisms. Hopefully, your student has already fixed the items that needed work, so you can celebrate the completion!
When my kids finished their papers, we tore down the living room table and had a party! Then the kids slept for an entire day. Revel in the milestone and savor the memories.
And remember, WriteShop is here to help you successfully teach writing. Give us a call anytime.
As WriteShop’s curriculum consultant, Misti Lacy draws from her years of experience as a veteran writing teacher and homeschool mom to help you build a solid writing foundation. Whether you’re deciding on products for your family, exploring our program for your school or co-op, or needing someone to walk you through your WriteShop curriculum, Misti is your girl! She has a heart for building relationships with you and your kids, and through her warm encouragement, she takes the fear out of teaching writing.