Modeling Academic Writing Through Scholarly Article Presentations

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Six 50-minute sessions, plus additional sessions for continued presentations
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Students prepare an already published scholarly article for presentation, with an emphasis on identification of the author's thesis and argument structure, as well as an examination of source integration (the critic's engagement with primary and secondary source information). The class first analyzes a sample article of literary criticism and discusses how to annotate it for presentation. Each student then uses an online database to access an appropriate article of literary criticism connected to a work of literature they have already read as a class assignment. They analyze the article, and then prepare the article for presentation by highlighting key elements of its structure and content. Finally, they present the article to their peers.

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From Theory to Practice

Analyzing a published piece of literary criticism supports literacy learning because it is a research task (using a database); it introduces the idea of critical discourse in the field of literature (that many understandings of a masterful work of literature are possible); and it is a review of sound academic argument, highlighting its conventions but also revealing the individual style of the writer. This lesson reinforces the concept that writing is not a template. Students will encounter scholars who prefer first person voice to third, scholars who offer implied thesis statements rather than explicitly stated ones, scholars who bury their thesis within a paragraph of introduction, and scholars who do not restate thesis in conclusion but offer a final provocative thought. Students are encouraged to reflect on how their learning through this process can inform their choices as writers.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Scholarly articles for each student (accessed from the databases listed in the Websites section or other resources)




  • Students should finish a literary text before beginning this assignment. This assignment works best with a work that is widely read, taught, and discussed (e.g. Hamlet, Beloved, The Great Gatsby), as students need to have a substantial selection of criticism from which to choose.
  • This lesson requires a fairly sophisticated level of understanding of reading, writing, and literary analysis. For students who are less ready to embark on a genre study of this sort, consider focusing on a work that is more accessible (Of Mice and Men rather than Grapes of Wrath, for example) or shift the activity to a collaborative project rather than an independent one. More information about essay structure and other topics to facilitate this genre study can be found at Seven Types of Paragraph Development and Writing Resources from Harvard University's Writing Center.
  • Make transparencies of the Sample Scholarly Article or an article you select and the Annotated Sample Scholarly Article or an article you select and annotate yourself. Instructions for annotation for this lesson can be found on the Guide to Annotating the Scholarly Article handout.
  • Make copies/transparencies of the Guide to Annotating the Scholarly Article handout and the Rubric for Presentation of a Scholarly Article so students understand expectations.
  • Make copies of the Scholarly Article Presentation Reflection Questions for distribution after the presentations.
  • Reserve the media center or computer lab for Sessions Two and Three of this lesson.
  • Consult with your school librarian and familiarize yourself with available research databases. Explore them ahead of time yourself to gauge the number of hits students will get in their researching the selected novel or play.   Ideally, each student will select a different article for presentation to avoid redundancy.  (You may wish to open up the assignment to two or more literary texts, perhaps a novel from earlier in the year.)
  • Alternatively, if students do not have access to an online database at school, you can make collections of criticism available in the classroom.  Check out anthologies of criticism from the school or local library and make them available to students within a certain window of time that you determine for in-class use. You can also create a collection of critical essays for student use in class by printing out a single copy of a work of criticism and placing it in a binder with other works of criticism on the literary text.
  • Have students bring in pencils to annotate the selected article once they have printed it out.
  • Test the Essay Map on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • research a work of literature by accessing literary criticism through a database.
  • identify the thesis of a scholarly article.
  • analyze the structure of a scholarly article, noting the balancing of interpretation against evidence that is academic argument and identifying rhetorical devices such as narration, description, analysis, etc.
  • present the article to the class for discussion.

Session One

  1. Introduce the activity by explaining to students that they will be exploring what scholars have said about the text they have recently read by looking for a scholarly article in an online database. Let them know that this search should make them aware of what a wide range of interpretations of the work scholars have put forth, but that you also want them to explore the diversity in the way they presented those thoughts through writing, specifically through the academic essay form.
  2. Using the transparency of the unannotated Sample Scholarly Article or an article you select, ask a student to read the first three paragraphs aloud.  Engage students in the following discussion points:
    • Has the thesis been stated yet by the scholar?  If so, where exactly is it stated? 
    • How did they identify the thesis: by placement or by language choice?  That is, does the author indicate the thesis with language ("I want to prove..." or some other phrasing) or by placement (within its own paragraph, for example)?
    • Did the title of the essay prove useful in identifying the central argument?
    • Has the writer embarked upon the body of evidence and interpretation yet or are all three paragraphs introductory paragraphs? 
    • What is accomplished in the introduction:  definition of terms, background/context, specific illustration as example, or some other rhetorical goal(s)?
  3. Select one or more paragraph(s) of the essay's body to read closely with the class. Have students identify one of the author's interpretation or arguments and engage students in the following discussion points:
    • Does the author provide evidence for this claim, and if so, where is the evidence? 
    • Is the evidence from the primary source (the work of literature itself) or is the scholar citing and documenting another critic's ideas.
    • How can they tell the difference between claim and evidence? 
  4. Place the concluding paragraphs of the essay on the overhead projector and engage students in the following discussion points:
    • Where is the restatement of thesis (if it is, in fact, restated)?  How did they recognize it? How close is it in language to the actual thesis provided in the intro? 
    • Is a final thought offered?  (If so, what is it?) 
    • What is accomplished in the offering of a final thought for consideration as the reader finishes the essay?
  5. Give each student a copy of the Guide to Annotating the Scholarly Article handout and explain that they will use it to work through a reading of their article and to prepare for their presentations. Go over the Guide to Annotating the Scholarly Article and explain that the class will look at the same article, this one prepared for presentation according to the guidelines.
  6. Now place the Annotated Sample Scholarly Article or an article you selected and annotated on the overhead and discuss it as a model for what they will be doing over the next several days. 
  7. Explain that in the next session, students will be looking for their own article to read, analyze, annotate, and present.

Session Two

  1. Review with students the process for accessing articles through the database(s) that they have available to them. Because students are embarking on an exploration of a new genre (and because the success of their presentations rests on their selected article), provide ample assistance to them as they are making their selections.  Help students find an essay that matches their interests and is an appropriate fit for their reading and learning style.
  2. Allow students access to databases. (If students do not have access to such databases, you can make collections of criticism available in the classroom as described in the Preparation section.) Encourage students to take their time in searching for an appropriate article for their in-class presentations, resisting the temptation to settle for the first article they find.
  3. Remind students to read abstracts as short cuts to identifying the article they wish to select. They should be looking for an article that approaches the literature in a way that interests them.
  4. For homework, if students can access these databases remotely, have students continue to review their choices.

Session Three

  1. If necessary, give students an additional day to search the database(s). By the end of the session students should have selected and printed an article to annotate for their presentation. 
  2. As students select and print their articles (or for homework, depending on when they have a printed copy of their article) students should read, but not mark up, their selection. They may wish to use the ReadWriteThink Essay Map to guide their thinking about essay structure. Instead of preparing for writing their own essays, they should apply the Map in consideration of the selected article's organization/structure, looking for ways the published essay fits and/or deviates from the format of the Map.

Sessions Four and Five

  1. Have students get out their Guide to Annotating the Scholarly Article as you place the Annotated Sample Scholarly Article or an article you selected and annotated on the overhead. Review for students what they are to do to prepare the article for presentation.
  2. Provide students with a copy of the Rubric for Presentation of a Scholarly Article and answer any questions students have about the expectations for the activity. 
  3. Give students time to begin the process of annotating the text of the article.
  4. Assist students in preparing their articles for presentation. Encourage peer collaboration at this point of the task.
  5. For homework (after Session Five) students should complete the preparation of their selected article for presentation.

Session Six and Beyond

  1. Have students present their essays, beginning with title and author, in the format of the Guide to Annotating the Scholarly Article.
  2. You may wish to shorten the presentations by varying the items to which you wish a student to respond. For example, you can ask one student to respond to four selected elements on the handout and then direct the next student to respond to a different set of four items, providing variety and taking up less time in actual presentations.  All students should, of course, still annotate all items so they benefit from the entire experience.
  3. After each presentation, allow students to ask the presenter any questions they may have regarding the content and structure of the article.
  4. Individual presenters should respond to the Scholarly Article Presentation Reflection Questions after each presentation.


  • Students can discuss the multiple interpretations of a literary text as not being mutually exclusive.  Have them review all the approaches to a text they discovered in their presentation assignment.
  • Students can apply the Guide to Annotating the Scholarly Article handout when reviewing their own critical essays, or in offering feedback on essays written by their peers in the workshop setting.

Student Assessment / Reflections

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