The writing of the research paper can be broken down into the following sections:
2. Context and summary of research
3. Claims supported by evidence from research. Discussion of both sides.
4. Synthesis of research
5. Call to Action
6. Take-away statement (akin to a slogan)
7. Images/Visuals/Self-produced film (Students must use technology meaningfully)
The technology-rich discussion begins in the following second, labeled "Teaching Strategies – Technology."
The first part of the project requires a narrative. Students will use story-telling skills that they have practiced for years. This begins in elementary school. The rubric calls for necessary details that engage the listener and reader. This should be written as a story for the audience that grabs their attention and makes them care about the issue.
The second part, context and summary of research, requires careful research skills and organization. Based on years of experience, I suggest the following teaching strategies. First, early in the year, speak to your librarian about the newest research engines online. According to CCSS, students must be able to use more than simple online search engines. They need peer-reviewed articles, both for their depth and level of text complexity. Librarians are also helpful because they see a broad range of students that an individual teacher has little access to. The librarian will have a greater understanding of where students are coming from and where they are going in their research skills. Finally, many librarians have lesson plans and units already developed. They may already have worksheets and organizational tools to help your students. The librarian will be able to help students one-on-one even better because he or she created the worksheets and know the databases. For students to be college and career ready, they need access to the best databases and the latest tools. Your librarian is the expert on these.
For organization, I like to start with a folder for each student. I count this as part of their final grade. I attach a checklist and the rubric to the front and inside. The folder also contains all of the handouts that a student will need for the project. For my freshmen, this means Source Information Sheets, List of Works Cited How-To, Paragraph organizers, Brainstorming pages, a full model of what I am looking for in a final draft, and a rubric for them to fill-out that is separate from the one I will fill-out. Again, I staple this to the inside of the folder to keep them on track. When students find and print resources, they will staple the pages together with a Source Information Sheet on the top. This page contains all the information they will need to create a List of Works Cited online. Using Bibme.com, they will easily create this important page.
For claims supported by evidence and research, I go through this throughout the year, allowing students more and more autonomy with each unit. They are assessed on this in body paragraphs. In accordance with the standards, I teach the freshmen how to write a paragraph with a topic sentence, evidence, explanation of how this evidence relates to the topic sentence, and a concluding statement. When beginning with students who have not done this before, I like to say that they need four to six sentences of explanation for each piece of evidence. When they are not sure what to write, I continue to tell them to return to the topic sentence, then the thesis statement. Again, this is modeled heavily throughout the year. It also helps to tell students to remember that your audience is intelligent, but they do not know anything about your topic. You must explain it to them.
Synthesis of research brings together all the different sides of the argument. This is like a conclusion to any essay. After each point is delineated in a body paragraph, all ideas are brought together in a conclusion. I teach students to open this paragraph by rewording the main point of each paragraph. In a research paper, though, and based on the standards, students must "Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented." For this research, this is a Call to Action. I find that this wording empowers students to make a change, or be the change. They feel power over the issue when presenting a solution, not just a summary of the issue. This is the end of argumentation, anyway: A proposed solution to the problem that follows from the research presented.
The take-away statement can be a student's favorite part of the paper. I tell students that the audience, either a reader or a listener, is unlikely to remember many specific facts or details. However, they often remember an emotional, true statement that makes them think. Give students examples of your own or any empowering phrases from their favorite celebrities. You can also use silly expressions from celebrities that sound serious, but when they are broken down, show a lack of thoughtfulness. Examples include, "You can't change the world, but you can change yourself," Ghandi's "Be the change you wish to see in the world," Shakespeare's modern translation as, "Be true to yourself," or one from my students, "Animals do need us, but we also need them," and "Everyone should be able to love anyone." The statements are short and they are developed after careful research. This is important because students learn a lot while researching, and their initial beliefs on a topic may change. One student began her project on gay marriage in a highly negative, hateful way. By the end, she said, "Gay people are normal, just like me." While this may not be a sophisticated statement, it shows growth and a new understanding of a critical, moral issue.
The visuals are meant to support the research, not stand in the way of it. A visual may be presented as a PowerPoint, but limit this to two or three slides. I have found that with too many slides, students simply read their slides and do not learn how to speak extemporaneously. They also focus heavily on the slideshow, and not on the research and synthesis of a paper. Also, a poster is not sufficient to meet the demands of CCSS. There are limited applications of this in college or careers. Additionally, there is a richness to building visuals online that can teach graphic design and flow, that a simple poster cannot. Optimally, students would develop their own images, such as taking their own pictures and uploading them, or designing a Prezi presentation that students can refer to later. The research paper must include any images or slides and an explanation of why they are chosen and how they will be used. This also helps students during their oral presentations, as they will have more to say than, "This shows injured animals." Visuals must support and enrich the argument.