Teach Research Paper Writing Skills by Having Students Create Research Booklets


Ever tried to get middle or high school students interested in learning how to write a research paper? Not an easy task. But it can be done if you are a teacher willing to work hard and expect great things from your pupils. One project worth trying is the creation of research booklets by an upper grade to be used by students in a lower grade.

The topic of the research booklets can be practically anything that you know the lower grade students will be learning sometime during the school year. Simply have your students choose a topic for their booklet, conduct appropriate research and then write about the topic.

The actual size and content of the booklet are up to you. You can require how many pages, whether there should be images or drawings or graphs or data. Should they include sidebars and tidbit items like a Did You Know bulleted list or a top ten list of the most important things to remember? The booklet can be as simple or complex as you think is appropriate.

A few things you do want to include aside from the information are a title page, proper bibliography page, and an author bio in which your student writes about herself and why he or she felt qualified to write on that topic.

Drafts and Evaluations

Once the first drafts of the booklets are turned in, it is time for peer evaluations. Remind the students that this isn’t about attacking another student, but helping with revisions and rewrites and fact-checking. Be prepared for sniping and complaints because this process will reveal a multitude of flaws, errors and mistakes.

Of course, even after the students finish the evaluations, you will probably catch quite a few errors as well. What you may not expect is that some of your students will actually be happy when their mistakes are caught. These are the students who will be the first to catch on to what you are trying to teach with this project, which is not how to write a research booklet, but how to become a more careful research paper writer.

When the kids understand that their work will be read and evaluated by younger students, much more will be happy their mistakes were caught before publication. Among the other qualities, the peer evaluation session is good for is determining if the proper format and referencing has been followed, close and careful proofreading and editing, and overall presentation. The final edition of the handbooks should be designed and produced by the students with only a minimum of input from you. Once you’ve gotten them printed up, it is time to hand them out.

Gathering Suggestions via Survey

The lower grade students should be given a survey along with the booklets that ask them for a fair and honest assessment of what they liked and did not like about the booklets. Among the questions to be included are such things as whether the information in the booklet was easy to understand, including an option for it being too simple and not age-appropriate.

Get specific responses as to what they liked and did not like. Ask them for suggestions on how the booklets could be improved. Share these responses with your students and engage in discourse over which of the responses and suggestions were helpful and which were not. Ask them why a certain suggestion would not result in an improved booklet.

Students love to be in control and this kind of assignment provides opportunities to learn many aspects of writing-and publishing-while also being empowered with decision-making capabilities.

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