Scaffolding Methods for Research Paper Writing
- Preview |
- Standards |
- Resources & Preparation |
- Instructional Plan |
- Related Resources |
Students will use scaffolding to research and organize information for writing a research paper. A research paper scaffold provides students with clear support for writing expository papers that include a question (problem), literature review, analysis, methodology for original research, results, conclusion, and references. Students examine informational text, use an inquiry-based approach, and practice genre-specific strategies for expository writing. Depending on the goals of the assignment, students may work collaboratively or as individuals. A student-written paper about color psychology provides an authentic model of a scaffold and the corresponding finished paper. The research paper scaffold is designed to be completed during seven or eight sessions over the course of four to six weeks.
- Research Paper Scaffold: This handout guides students in researching and organizing the information they need for writing their research paper.
- Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection: Students use Internet search engines and Web analysis checklists to evaluate online resources then write annotations that explain how and why the resources will be valuable to the class.
From Theory to Practice
- Research paper scaffolding provides a temporary linguistic tool to assist students as they organize their expository writing. Scaffolding assists students in moving to levels of language performance they might be unable to obtain without this support.
- An instructional scaffold essentially changes the role of the teacher from that of giver of knowledge to leader in inquiry. This relationship encourages creative intelligence on the part of both teacher and student, which in turn may broaden the notion of literacy so as to include more learning styles.
- An instructional scaffold is useful for expository writing because of its basis in problem solving, ownership, appropriateness, support, collaboration, and internalization. It allows students to start where they are comfortable, and provides a genre-based structure for organizing creative ideas.
- In order for students to take ownership of knowledge, they must learn to rework raw information, use details and facts, and write.
- Teaching writing should involve direct, explicit comprehension instruction, effective instructional principles embedded in content, motivation and self-directed learning, and text-based collaborative learning to improve middle school and high school literacy.
- Expository writing, because its organizational structure is rooted in classical rhetoric, needs to be taught.
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.
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).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 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.
- 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
Computers with Internet access and printing capability
|1.||Decide how you will schedule the seven or eight class sessions in the lesson to allow students time for independent research. You may wish to reserve one day each week as the “research project day.” The schedule should provide students time to plan ahead and collect materials for one section of the scaffold at a time, and allow you time to assess each section as students complete it, which is important as each section builds upon the previous one.
|2.||Make a copy for each student of the Research Paper Scaffold, the Example Research Paper Scaffold, the Example Student Research Paper, the Internet Citation Checklist, and the Research Paper Scoring Rubric. Also fill out and copy the Permission Form if you will be getting parents’ permission for the research projects.
|3.||If necessary, reserve time in the computer lab for Sessions 2 and 8. Decide which citation website students will use to format reference citations (see Websites) and bookmark it on student computers.
|4.||Schedule time for research in the school media center or the computer lab between Sessions 2 and 3.
- Formulate a clear thesis that conveys a perspective on the subject of their research
- Practice research skills, including evaluation of sources, paraphrasing and summarizing relevant information, and citation of sources used
- Logically group and sequence ideas in expository writing
- Organize and display information on charts, maps, and graphs
Session 1: Research Question
|1.||Distribute copies of the Example Research Paper Scaffold and Example Student Research Paper, and read the model aloud with students. Briefly discuss how this research paper works to answer the question, How does color affect mood? The example helps students clearly see how a research question leads to a literature review, which in turn leads to analysis, original research, results, and conclusion.
|2.||Pass out copies of the Research Paper Scaffold. Explain to students that the procedures involved in writing a research paper follow in order, and each section of the scaffold builds upon the previous one. Briefly describe how each section will be completed during subsequent sessions.
|3.||Explain that in this session the students’ task is to formulate a research question and write it on the scaffold. Note: The most important strategy in using this model is that students be allowed, within the assigned topic framework, to ask their own research questions. Allowing students to choose their own questions gives them control over their own learning, so they are motivated to “solve the case,” to persevere even when the trail runs cold or the detective work seems unexciting.
|4.||Introduce the characteristics of a good research question. Explain that in a broad area such as political science, psychology, geography, or economics, a good question needs to focus on a particular controversy or perspective. Some examples include:
|5.||Note that a good question always leads to more questions. Invite students to suggest additional questions resulting from the examples above and from the Example Research Paper Scaffold.
|6.||Emphasize that good research questions are open-ended. Open-ended questions can be solved in more than one way and, depending upon interpretation, often have more than one correct answer, such as the question, Can virtue be taught? Closed questions have only one correct answer, such as, How many continents are there in the world? Open-ended questions are implicit and evaluative, while closed questions are explicit. Have students identify possible problems with these research questions
|7.||Instruct students to fill in the first section of the Research Paper Scaffold, the Research Question, before Session 2. This task can be completed in a subsequent class session or assigned as homework. Allowing a few days for students to refine and reflect upon their research question is best practice. Explain that the next section, the Hook, should not be filled in at this time, as it will be completed using information from the literature search.
You should approve students’ final research questions before Session 2. You may also wish to send home the Permission Form with students, to make parents aware of their child’s research topic and the project due dates.
Session 2: Literature Review—Search
Prior to this session, you may want to introduce or review Internet search techniques using the lesson Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection. You may also wish to consult with the school librarian regarding subscription databases designed specifically for student research, which may be available through the school or public library. Using these types of resources will help to ensure that students find relevant and appropriate information. Using Internet search engines such as Google can be overwhelming to beginning researchers.
|1.||Introduce this session by explaining that students will collect five articles that help to answer their research question. Once they have printed out or photocopied the articles, they will use a highlighter to mark the sections in the articles that specifically address the research question. This strategy helps students focus on the research question rather than on all the other interesting—yet irrelevant—facts that they will find in the course of their research.
|2.||Point out that the five different articles may offer similar answers and evidence with regard to the research question, or they may differ. The final paper will be more interesting if it explores different perspectives.
|3.||Demonstrate the use of any relevant subscription databases that are available to students through the school, as well as any Web directories or kid-friendly search engines (such as KidzSearch) that you would like them to use.
|4.||Remind students that their research question can provide the keywords for a targeted Internet search. The question should also give focus to the research—without the research question to anchor them, students may go off track.
|5.||Explain that information found in the articles may lead students to broaden their research question. A good literature review should be a way of opening doors to new ideas, not simply a search for the data that supports a preconceived notion.
|6.||Make students aware that their online search results may include abstracts, which are brief summaries of research articles. In many cases the full text of the articles is available only through subscription to a scholarly database. Provide examples of abstracts and scholarly articles so students can recognize that abstracts do not contain all the information found in the article, and should not be cited unless the full article has been read.
|7.||Emphasize that students need to find articles from at least five different reliable sources that provide “clues” to answering their research question. Internet articles need to be printed out, and articles from print sources need to be photocopied. Each article used on the Research Paper Scaffold needs to yield several relevant facts, so students may need to collect more than five articles to have adequate sources.
|8.||Remind students to gather complete reference information for each of their sources. They may wish to photocopy the title page of books where they find information, and print out the homepage or contact page of websites.
|9.||Allow students at least a week for research. Schedule time in the school media center or the computer lab so you can supervise and assist students as they search for relevant articles. Students can also complete their research as homework.|
Session 3: Literature Review—Notes
Students need to bring their articles to this session. For large classes, have students highlight relevant information (as described below) and submit the articles for assessment before beginning the session.
|1.||Have students find the specific information in each article that helps answer their research question, and highlight the relevant passages. Check that students have correctly identified and marked relevant information before allowing them to proceed to the Literature Review section on the Research Paper Scaffold.
|2.||Instruct students to complete the Literature Review section of the Research Paper Scaffold, including the last name of the author and the publication date for each article (to prepare for using APA citation style).
|3.||Have students list the important facts they found in each article on the lines numbered 1–5, as shown on the Example Research Paper Scaffold. Additional facts can be listed on the back of the handout. Remind students that if they copy directly from a text they need to put the copied material in quotation marks and note the page number of the source. Note: Students may need more research time following this session to find additional information relevant to their research question.
|4.||Explain that interesting facts that are not relevant for the literature review section can be listed in the section labeled Hook. All good writers, whether they are writing narrative, persuasive, or expository text, need to engage or “hook” the reader’s interest. Facts listed in the Hook section can be valuable for introducing the research paper.
|5.||Use the Example Research Paper Scaffold to illustrate how to fill in the first and last lines of the Literature Review entry, which represent topic and concluding sentences. These should be filled in only after all the relevant facts from the source have been listed, to ensure that students are basing their research on facts that are found in the data, rather than making the facts fit a preconceived idea.
|6.||Check students’ scaffolds as they complete their first literature review entry, to make sure they are on track. Then have students complete the other four sections of the Literature Review Section in the same manner.
Checking Literature Review entries on the same day is best practice, as it gives both you and the student time to plan and address any problems before proceeding. Note that in the finished product this literature review section will be about six paragraphs, so students need to gather enough facts to fit this format.
Session 4: Analysis
|1.||Explain that in this session students will compare the information they have gathered from various sources to identify themes.
|2.||Explain the process of analysis using the Example Research Paper Scaffold. Show how making a numbered list of possible themes, drawn from the different perspectives proposed in the literature, can be useful for analysis. In the Example Research Paper Scaffold, there are four possible explanations given for the effects of color on mood. Remind students that they can refer to the Example Student Research Paper for a model of how the analysis will be used in the final research paper.
|3.||Have students identify common themes and possible answers to their own research question by reviewing the topic and concluding sentences in their literature review. Students may identify only one main idea in each source, or they may find several. Instruct students to list the ideas and summarize their similarities and differences in the space provided for Analysis on the scaffold.
|4.||Check students’ Analysis section entries to make sure they have included theories that are consistent with their literature review. Return the Research Paper Scaffolds to students with comments and corrections. Note: In the finished research paper, the analysis section will be about one paragraph.
Session 5: Original Research
Students should design some form of original research appropriate to their topics, but they do not necessarily have to conduct the experiments or surveys they propose. Depending on the appropriateness of the original research proposals, the time involved, and the resources available, you may prefer to omit the actual research or use it as an extension activity.
|1.||During this session, students formulate one or more possible answers to the research question (based upon their analysis) for possible testing. Invite students to consider and briefly discuss the following questions:
|2.||Explain the difference between qualitative and quantitative research. Quantitative methods involve the collection of numeric data, while qualitative methods focus primarily on the collection of observable data. Quantitative studies have large numbers of participants and produce a large collection of data (such as results from 100 people taking a 10-question survey). Qualitative methods involve few participants and rely upon the researcher to serve as a “reporter” who records direct observations of a specific population. Qualitative methods involve more detailed interviews and artifact collection.
|3.||Point out that each student’s research question and analysis will determine which method is more appropriate. Show how the research question in the Example Research Paper Scaffold goes beyond what is reported in a literature review and adds new information to what is already known.
|4.||Outline criteria for acceptable research studies, and explain that you will need to approve each student’s plan before the research is done. The following criteria should be included:
|5.||Inform students of the schedule for submitting their research plans for approval and completing their original research. Students need to conduct their tests and collect all data prior to Session 6. Normally it takes one day to complete research plans and one to two weeks to conduct the test.
Session 6: Results (optional)
|1.||If students have conducted original research, instruct them to report the results from their experiments or surveys. Quantitative results can be reported on a chart, graph, or table. Qualitative studies may include data in the form of pictures, artifacts, notes, and interviews. Study results can be displayed in any kind of visual medium, such as a poster, PowerPoint presentation, or brochure.
|2.||Check the Results section of the scaffold and any visuals provided for consistency, accuracy, and effectiveness.
Session 7: Conclusion
|1.||Explain that the Conclusion to the research paper is the student’s answer to the research question. This section may be one to two paragraphs. Remind students that it should include supporting facts from both the literature review and the test results (if applicable).
|2.||Encourage students to use the Conclusion section to point out discrepancies and similarities in their findings, and to propose further studies. Discuss the Conclusion section of the Example Research Paper Scaffold from the standpoint of these guidelines.
|3.||Check the Conclusion section after students have completed it, to see that it contains a logical summary and is consistent with the study results.
Session 8: References and Writing Final Draft
|1.||Show students how to create a reference list of cited material, using a model such as American Psychological Association (APA) style, on the Reference section of the scaffold.
|2.||Distribute copies of the Internet Citation Checklist and have students refer to the handout as they list their reference information in the Reference section of the scaffold. Check students’ entries as they are working to make sure they understand the format correctly.
|3.||Have students access the citation site you have bookmarked on their computers. Demonstrate how to use the template or follow the guidelines provided, and have students create and print out a reference list to attach to their final research paper.
|4.||Explain to students that they will now use the completed scaffold to write the final research paper using the following genre-specific strategies for expository writing:
|5.||Distribute copies of the Research Paper Scoring Rubric and go over the criteria so that students understand how their final written work will be evaluated.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Observe students’ participation in the initial stages of the Research Paper Scaffold and promptly address any errors or misconceptions about the research process.
- Observe students and provide feedback as they complete each section of the Research Paper Scaffold.
- Provide a safe environment where students will want to take risks in exploring ideas. During collaborative work, offer feedback and guidance to those who need encouragement or require assistance in learning cooperation and tolerance.
- Involve students in using the Research Paper Scoring Rubric for final evaluation of the research paper. Go over this rubric during Session 8, before they write their final drafts.