Research Papers

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by AF Mom, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. AF Mom

    AF Mom Rookie

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    Oct 19, 2008

    I would like my 7th graders to do a research paper. Any ideas on topics? I was thinking about sports, animals, and famous people, but I would really like new ideas. Also, any suggestions on where to find info on writing a research paper? I don't want to do something major but I want to give them a start on writing a paper.
     
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  3. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Oct 19, 2008

    In my district, we've moved away from having the kids do full blown research papers. The high school actually asked us to teach research skills using smaller projects and leave the major paper project for them.

    Instead of a paper, I'm thinking of having my kids do this:
    http://www.studentcam.org/

    It's a documentary video message to the new president about an issue of national importance. I haven't read all of the rules yet, but I envision the kids working on it in small groups based on interest. When I asked the kids if this was something they'd be interested in doing, they were ALL emphatic in their YES response.
    Because I teach in a workshop model, it is important for me that my kids write about topics that are interesting for them and that have an audience beyond my classroom walls. This is the perfect project for that.
     
  4. KLily21

    KLily21 Companion

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    Oct 20, 2008

    Ooo I love the C-SPAN Student Cam idea! Mrs. R, you teach social studies, right? How are you tying the project into the social studies curriculum? (Obviously the project lends itself to social studies, but I'm just curious about more specifics.)
     
  5. trina

    trina Companion

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    Oct 20, 2008

    AF Mom,

    In our school, research papers are included in our curriculum for 6,7, and 8 language. The format and "how-to" is included in our textbook. I find that the hardest part of teaching the research paper is how important citation is and how to do it. This is a skill they will need all the way through college, so I'm kind of a stickler about it. It takes me a good 2 weeks (mini-lesson each day) just to get through the 3x5 and 4x6 cards and the correct way to write them. And even then they turn in cards with mistakes. The second hardest part is making sure the kids don't plagiarize. I require 1 encyclopedia source, 1 book source, and 1 "other" source. If the other source is the internet, they must include a printout of that webpage. This has virtually eliminated copying from wikipedia.

    In 6th they choose a historical event from before the year of their birth. In 7th they can choose from either a famous person or place. In 8th they choose their own topic with teacher approval.

    I have a very detailed letter that goes home to parents with due dates for the various pieces listed (topic due, notecards due, rough draft due, final draft due) and a plagiarism contract that parent and student sign and return. This is in response to my first year of teaching when I had to call parents to ask why their child did not turn in a research paper and being asked, "What research paper?"
     
  6. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Oct 20, 2008

    Actually, I teach language arts. I taught social studies for 14 years, though. The way our curriculum in SS is set up, there is practically no way I could do this there. HOWEVER, I have almost complete freedom in my LA class, as long as I meet the state standards. I have 80 minute blocks, I can incorporate all of my reading and writing into the project, and I have 2 digital video cameras that live in my room as well as a laptop cart I can check out several days a week. I'm really excited about doing this with my kids!
     
  7. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Oct 20, 2008

    Trina,
    I'm wondering, with all of the technology available today, why you are still teaching the notecards? This isn't a criticism. I'm truly curious. Have you considered teaching your students how to use Purdue's online writing lab (OWL) or the citation machine for creating their bibliography or works cited pages?

    I agree with you about the difficulty in teaching kids how not to plagiarize. This is one of the areas I've struggled with most in the past. It's hard to break the kids' habit of trying to go sentence by sentence "putting it into their own words." Teaching them to chunk text and summarize is HARD!
     
  8. trina

    trina Companion

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    Oct 20, 2008

    I actually use the OWL site as main resource for me to teach from. I have not taught them the citation machine due to the fact that we have had to outlaw typing the research papers. After 2 years of plagiarized papers and papers that mom, dad, older sibling, etc. obviously wrote (or helped out way too much) we have found the best way to curtail that is to require them to write it longhand themselves.

    Another reason has to do with the mechanics of citation. As middle schoolers learning this process, they are CLUELESS as far all those little parts of a citation, so they couldn't put it in the machine right to begin with! I spend a week with a pile of different book from our library teaching them what to do if there's not an author, what if there's 2 or more authors, how to find the publisher, deciphering obscure publishers (associations and the like), what to do when there's a long list of publication dates, what to do when there's not a pub. page, how to not get sidetracked by other stuff on the pub. page, and so forth. Last year I thought I would pull my hair out after having spent all this time teaching the fundamentals only to have them put author first name, author last name.

    Working from my recent experience with writing papers for a class in my master's program, I am trying to teach the kids real world skills. When I was at the library research computer reading Eric documents, I wrote down the info I needed to cite that article in my paper. I had to know what info I needed. Later when I was at home writing the paper, I plugged that info into the citation machine, and out popped my perfectly formatted citation, ready to copy & paste. So I think that teaching the kids how and where to find the essential info is worth the pain.

    Personally, I do not use notecards anymore. But I think they still have their place in learning the process, because whereas I can look at several pages of notes and mentally arrange them into a 5 paragraph essay, middle schoolers cannot. I think they need to be able to physically arrange those notecards and work their rough draft from there. Do you have any other better methods that you'd share?
     
  9. wig

    wig Devotee

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    Oct 21, 2008

    I don't know if mine is BETTER, but it has worked very well for me for many years. I switched to this the year after I kept finding note cards that belonged to no one :rolleyes:

    Mine have to do a short outline first. Then they take one sheet of paper for each main idea under their topic. They write the main idea on the top of each page.

    When taking notes, they may ONLY use phrases - not complete sentences - and they must skip a line between each detail.

    They use one source at a time, putting the notes on the correct sheet of paper.

    When finished with the notes, they go back and cross out duplicates and anything that does not really "fit" with the other information.

    Then they number them in the order they plan to use them.

    I agree with you. They also have a sheet of paper with a fill in the blank citation parts to complete with each source. I spend about a week showing them how to do the basic ones. As the "odd" ones come up, I show the entire class how to do it. They also have a fake bibliography page with examples of every type on it. However, we do use a citation site to make our Citation Page at the end.

    Our seventh and eighth grade teachers have them choose a topic on anything covered in their science or social studies books or an author study.
     
  10. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Oct 21, 2008

    Wig,
    I use a system similar to yours when we do research projects. For so many years I co-taught my language arts class with a special education teacher, and we had LOADS of kids with executive functioning issues who couldn't keep track of those notecards for any amount of money. Keeping track of four or five pieces of paper in a brightly colored folder was a bit easier for them.
     
  11. dtrim

    dtrim Rookie

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    Oct 28, 2008

    When I taught the research paper, we used Inspiration to take notes and make summaries. The outline feature that changes their webs into outlines was magical for some kids who never caught the outline concept before. Students had to use two books and then reliable online research souces like EBSCO and ProQuest.

    Anyway, here's my all-time favorite research topic: crop circles.

    Put on your foil hat and join in the fun with that one! :)
     

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