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How to Help Students Write a Research Paper

Jan 8, 2019 by

Research papers are as much a staple in a student’s educational career as finger painting is to preschool. For many students, writing research papers is much less fun than getting your hands dirty and being creative. But with a little guidance and the right tools, students can learn a lot while writing research papers and might even have fun doing it!

Choose a Relevant and Interesting Topic

One of the biggest complaints by students about writing research papers is that it’s boring. The best way to combat this is by helping them choose a topic that’s relevant to their lives, current events, or one they’re interested in. Research papers don’t have to be boring. If you’re teaching a specific lesson or covering a certain time period in history, you’ll need to get creative. Use the students personal interests and build form there. If a student is heavily involved in sports, suggest a paper on the Roman colosseum and the gladiators. You can also help the student research specific historic figures, battles, movements, or events that spark their curiosity. Things like the Salem witch trials, prohabition, and Martin Luther King are all fascianting and engaging topics that might spark and retain a student’s attention. Once they’ve selected a topic of interest, you’d be surprised how involved students become in the research process. They’ll become hungry for information. The best part is, a single topic for one research paper could potentially turn into future topics and papers once the student becomes more knowledgeable about the topic.

Create at Outline

Once the student has selected a topic of interest, it’s time to start organizing their thoughts. Starting is often the hardest part of the writing process. Help students by creating an outline. They should start with their topic. Help them determine what the main point of the research paper is. This is known as the thesis statement. Once they’ve crafted their thesis statement, they can now start their outline. Most basic research papers are approximately 5 paragraphs long and include an introduction, three supporting paragraphs, and the conclusion. The introduction will include the thesis statement and help guide the rest of the student’s paper. Each paragraph must include a topic sentence that supports the thesis statement. The conclusion is where the student can reinforce their thesis and summarize the most important information. By creating this outline, students can easy document their thoughts, important facts and then progressively build on them, saving time and frustration.

Use Multiple Sources of Information

Using multiple sources to gather information is the best way to craft a research paper. Not only does it help flush out the paper with different pieces of relevant information, but it also gives students a large pool of information to choose from. When a student limits their research, it also limits their creativity and the ability to expand on the information they’ve gathered. The library is the perfect place to start when it comes to research. Not only do the shelves of any library contain countless useful resources, but most libraries have computers with access to scientific and educational databases. With the right approach, the internet is another great source of information. But it’s important that students learn about search engines so that they only use reliable sources. Help students research information online and differentiate between reliable and reputable sources and less reliable websites. The more information a student gathers, the more diverse their research paper will be.

Don’t Plagiarize

One of the most important things for students to remember when writing research papers is not to plagiarize. This can be difficult, especially for students new to research process. That’s because when writing non-fiction material that includes documenting specific facts, dates, and information, some students struggle to present this information in unique ways. Students can easily fall into the trap of simply regurgitating the information they find, word for word. Not only is plagiarism unethical, but it’s actually illegal and may result in expulsion from school. Practice reading specific information with students and finding new and innovative ways of retelling the important and necessary facts. Over time, students will learn to do this on their own.

Fact Check

Another part of the research process is fact checking what you find. Just because a student finds a piece of information in one location, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily true. It’s important to check multiple sources to determine if the information is accurate. Suggest that students have at least 2 or 3 supporting resources for a single piece of information. They’ll quickly discover a pattern between their resources, painting a clear picture of what actually happened and how. Then it’s time to relay this information in a creative way. Research papers are based in fact and therefore, guaranteeing the information is correct is a key component. This is also where citations and bibliographies come into play.

Write a Rough Draft

Now that the student has gathered all of their information, checked their facts, and made an outline, they can create a rough draft. Reassure students that this is the unpolished version of their final paper. The main purpose of a rough draft is simply to get the main ideas down on paper. Then, the student can look back, read through, and make decisions about what the next steps in the process are. If they need more supporting information, they can perform additional research. They should also look for grammatical errors. Students tend to repeat the same words or phrases multiple times. Help them pick out these small points and edit them accordingly. Encourage students to write their rough draft at least 1 week before the final paper is do. This gives them ample time to go back, read it over a few more times, and make necessary changes. Often times, a writer needs distance from their work in order to see it with fresh eyes.

Not all students will fall in love with writing research papers. But you can help them smoothly navigate the process by choosing a topic of interest and gathering multiple sources of information. An outline will help them organize their thoughts and fact checking helps avoid plagiarism and misinformation. Finally, encourage them to write at least one rough draft before handing in their final paper. Writing research papers is a skill like any other and will take some time to master. But it can be done!

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