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Middle School Research Paper Lesson

Lesson Plan

Teacher: A. Gresko Date: November 17, 2003
Class: English: Literature and Writing Grade Level: 10th Grade
Unit: Research Papers Lesson: Introduction to Research Papers

PA Academic Standards:
1.5.11A- Write with a sharp, distinct focus. *Identify topic, task, and audience.
1.5.11C-Write with controlled and/or subtle organization. *Sustain a logical order throughout the piece.
1.6.11A-Listen to others *Ask clarifying questions *Synthesize information, ideas, and opinions to determine relevancy. *Take notes.
1.6.11D-Contribute to discussions. *Respond with relevant information or opinions to questions asked. *Listen to and acknowledge the contributions of others. *Introduce relevant, facilitating information, ideas, and opinions to enrich the discussion.

Goal of this lesson:

Students will understand the components and requirements of a research paper.

I will need: Students will need:
Chalkboard Notebook
Chalk Pen/Pencil
Poem Example Template
List of Questions Two topic worksheets
Homework Sheet

Clerical/Administrative Tasks:
-Print out Poem Example
-Print out List of Questions
-Copy Template
-Copy the two topic worksheets
-Copy Homework Sheet

Instructional Objectives:
TSWBAT create a template for a research paper in their notebooks within the class period.
TSWBAT name the components of a research paper within the class period.
TSWBAT discuss the importance of the components and relate them to other pieces of literature.
When given a sample writing, TSWBAT identify the topic sentence within groups.
When given a sample topic, TSWBAT write possible topic sentences within groups.
TSWBAT construct an outline for a research paper for homework, including a sample introduction paragraph, transitions, and conclusion paragraph.
TSWBAT work cooperatively in groups.

We've read many different pieces of literature in this class and discussed different forms of writing, such as poetry, short stories, novels, and essays. But, what about when you need to deliver a bulk amount of factual, in-depth information on one subject? By a show of hands, how many people think that there is a type of writing for that purpose? (Students show hands.) You bet! It is called a research paper. And, although up to this point you haven't been asked to do one, you will be surprised to find out how much you already know about them. Together we are going to create a template for a research paper and discuss what you need to do to write one. (1 minute)

Developmental Activities:

1. I (teacher) will make an outline on the chalkboard and use a short Question and Answer session to help students fill in the template. (15 minutes) **(NOTES FOR QUESTION AND ANSWER PERIOD ARE ATTACHED TO LESSON PLAN.)

Now that we all know the basics of a research paper and all the things that need to be in there, we're going to spend the next few class periods focusing on specific parts. The first step, and sometimes the most difficult, is picking the topic and creating the topic sentence. As we've already discussed the topic is the subject of your paper, or what it's all about. There are countless topics for a research paper, but in this class we're going to focus on Literary Analysis, which will really narrow your choices. Remember, you need to have enough information about your topic to be able to write a paper on it. If you lack factual information, you will be filling your paper with "verbal fluff."
The hardest part, after choosing your subject, is to decide what you want to say about it. The key to getting a good topic sentence for your subject is to know your argument. I could say, "I'm going to write a paper about William Shakespeare." or I could say, "I am going to write a paper about how William Shakespeare's plays changed the theater." The second option actual has an argument.
(5 minutes)
So, first of all I'm going to pass out some examples of introduction paragraphs for research papers and you're going to identify the topic sentence by either underlining, circling, or highlighting it. Underneath the paragraph, write how you knew it was the topic sentence. The second sheet I am giving you has example topics that could be used for a literary analysis. Based on what we've learned in class, I want you to write a possible topic sentence for each subject. The directions are on both worksheets, so read them carefully. Each person must fill out the worksheets! You will be sharing examples with the class tomorrow, so you really want to finish these worksheets. (I pass out worksheets.) You will work in groups for this project, each row will be a group. Row 1 work in the right, front corner of the room, Row 2 you're in the left, front corner, Row 3 in the middle, Row 4 back, right corner, and Row 5 back, left corner. Go ahead and move. (Students move into groups.)
(5 minutes)

2. Student work in groups identifying, creating and discussing topic sentences. (15 minutes.)

Listen up! If you have not completed your worksheets in the group, I want you to take them home and do them for homework. Please move back to your seats so we can finish up and I can pass out the rest of your homework. (Students move back to their seats.) (2 minutes)

3. We will review the research paper template. I will call on students individually to name the component I am pointing to on the template. (4 minutes)

4. I pass out homework assignment. Students ask questions about the lesson or assignments.
(3 minutes)

(IF TIME PERMITS: I will ask a few review questions concerning topics and topic sentences.
- What do need to make sure about your subject before you write a paper on it?
(There is enough information to write about.)
- What makes a good topic sentence?
(It makes a good argument.)


(Question/Answer Session) This is a diagnostic form of evaluation. Even though they have not done a research paper yet, I will be able to gauge how much help they will need with organization based on their answers to the questions.

(Developmental Activity #2) This is a formative evaluation. As I walk around the class, I will be able to see if students are having difficulty with the worksheets. I can evaluate their each student's participation in the group to see who is catching on and who may need more explanations.

(Developmental Activity #3) This is a summative evaluation because we are reviewing a concept we covered earlier in class. We will review the research paper template. I will call on students individually to name the component I am pointing to on the template.

(Developmental Activity #4) I pass out homework assignment. Students ask questions about the lesson or assignments.

***all information about research papers is from The Bedford Handbook, 5th Edition by Diana Hacker.

 Margins- between 1 inch and 1 and � inches
 Spacing- double spaced
 Identification- Name, Instructor's Name, the Course Name, Date
 Title- Centered, Title Case
 Indentation- � inch, 5 spaces
 Introduction- Thesis or topic sentence
 Transitions- First, Next, To continue
 Conclusion- summary of ideas presented
 Works Cited
 Headers

*Show example of poem and ask for the two things that make up poem.

1. Here is a poem, a piece of literature that you have already worked with this year. Think back to poetry and tell me the two important aspects of this poem. Raise your hand once you know one.
--If you're having trouble recalling, think what pops at you. What would you call the set up of this poem? (FORM)

2. Ok, if form is one part of this poem, what's the second part?
--What would you call what the poem is all about, or what it's trying to tell you? (CONTENT)

Form and content, things you already know about, are the same two things that you need to focus on for a good research paper, but the requirements are different. Now, we're going to use the template I gave you to put together all the components of form that you will need to know to organize your paper.

3. The paper you have is blank other than some lines, but I'm sure you can help me to fill this in. Let's start with some formatting. What are the spaces around the outside of the pages called? (MARGINS)
--Good, why would you use a margin for a research paper? (TO MAKE IT LOOK PROFESSIONAL AND KEEP IT UNCLUTTERED.)

4. Another formatting option that is very similar to margins occurs between each line of your text. Does anyone know what this is called? (SPACING)
--In what way is the importance of spacing like the importance of margins? (BOTH MAKE IT LOOK PROFESSIONAL AND KEEP IT UNCLUTTERED.)

5. Moving on down, can anyone guess what would go at the top of a paper in these four lines? (HEADING OR NAME, INSTRUCTOR'S NAME, THE COURSE NAME, DATE)
--It may sound silly to ask this, but why is it important to have a heading like this? (EASY TO SEE WHO WROTE IT, WHEN IT WAS WRITTEN, AND FOR WHAT CLASS IT WAS WRITTEN)

6. Alright, on we go. If you look under the heading area of your template there is a line that is centered? What do you think this line would be? I'll give you a hint: almost all pieces of literature have this.
--If you're not sure, remember our poem example. What is at the top of a poem? (TITLE)
--Why put a title on a research paper? (SO THE READER KNOWS WHAT THE PAPER IS ARGUING)

7. As we move into the body of the text, you can see that there is a slight difference between the position of the first line of the paragraph and the rest of the paragraph. What is this extra spacing at the beginning of the paragraph called? (Indentation)
--Now, think about what we said concerning margins and spacing. Indentation is also used to keep the paper looking professional and uncluttered, but it also has another purpose.
When you're writing why do you indent a paragraph? (TO SHOW THAT YOU'VE MOVED ON TO A NEW IDEA.)

8. Ok, after all that naming and discussing, we're still only at the beginning of your text. I know you haven't learned this yet, but can anyone give a guess on what the first paragraph of a research paper would be called? It is the same as the first paragraph of a book report. (INTRODUCTION)
--Good, what's the purpose of an introduction? Meaning, what should it do? (TELL WHAT THE PAPER IS ABOUT)
--Obviously, why would you want to do this in the first paragraph of your paper? It's the same reason you have a title (SO THE READER KNOWS WHAT YOU'RE ARGUING)

9. As you write your paper, you're going to indent your paragraphs to start new ideas, but there's also another way to show that you are switching ideas, it is called transitioning. Transition words show order and change. For example, I might say "When I got up this morning I did many things. First, I ate breakfast. Second, I picked out clothes. Lastly, I brushed my teeth. Can someone please tell me what the transition words were in that story?
--Exactly, will someone else give me some other examples of transition words?

10. Finally, you make it to the end of the body of the paper. There is final paragraph or an ending. What's another word for an ending? (CONCLUSION)
--What do you think the conclusion should do? (SUMMARIZE MAIN POINTS AND THESIS)

11. There is one very important page that will end your research paper. You haven't had to do one of these yet, so I will tell you it is called a WORKS CITED page. The title of the page will say WORKS CITED. Now, what does the title WORKS CITED make you think will be on that page? (WORKS THAT YOU USED IN THE DOCUMENT FOR INFORMATION)
--By a show of hands, how many of you have heard the word plagiarism?
--Would one of you please explain to the class what plagiarism is? (COPYING SOMEONE'S WORK AND NOT GIVING THEM CREDIT FOR IT)

12. The final step of your research paper is to add headers with your name and page number to the top of each page like you've already done for your book reports.

Now you have a complete template for writing your paper. At the beginning of class we said that there were two aspects of a research paper. We just discussed form. What was the other one? (CONTENT) Exactly, we will be discussing content tomorrow. Also, I will be helping you to learn how to choose a good topic.

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.

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