Common Core Writing: Research and Writing

January 10, 2015

A research paper is not the only way to have students practice their research skills. Activities like evaluating sample research questions and the credibility of sample websites will help middle school and high school students to build their research skills.
This is number seven in a series of posts about my online course, Common Core: Implementing the Writing Standards. In my first post, I gave an overview of the writing standards. In my second post, I showed how the gradual release process can be used with writing. In my third post, I explain why it is so important that basic writing skills be explicitly taught, no matter the age or grade level. I then covered the three types of writing in the Common Core: argument writing, informational writing, and narrative writing.

Research is the focus of Common Core Writing Standards 7, 8, & 9. Can't you already hear the students' groans? "Not another research paper!" But a research paper is not the only way to have students practice their research skills. Let's look at each of the standards and activities you can engage your students in to practice research skills.

First, Standard 7 states, "Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation."

While selecting a topic for research may be easy for students, they often struggle with creating an appropriate research question. After reading a short article as a class, show students sample research questions to help them determine which questions are appropriate.

Ask students:
-Is the question too broad or too narrow?
-Does the question require inferences or analysis to answer?
-Is the question centered around a topic of debate?
-Does the answer require information from just one or multiple sources?

For practice, give students short articles on a variety of topics to create research questions. Post the student-created questions around the room. Have the students do a gallery walk using rubrics to evaluate each others questions. Collect the highest rated questions to use as exemplars when the students do write a research paper.

Then comes Standard 8: "Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation."

A research paper is not the only way to have students practice their research skills. Activities like evaluating sample research questions and the credibility of sample websites will help middle school and high school students to build their research skills.When doing any kind of research, students need to be able to select sources of information that are useful, relevant and reliable. To assess prior knowledge, ask students how they decide what sources to use when doing research. Review with students reasons what makes a source credible or not.

You can also share Wikipedia's protection policy with students, or if you create an account, you can even show students how they can edit an entry. Eek! So not reliable.

For practice, give students a list of websites on a similar topic, such as immigration or gun control. Ask them to visit the sites, noting signs that the site may or may not be credible, and make a decision about whether or not they would use this source for research. Allow students to work in groups at first and then independently.

And finally, Standard 9 states, "Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research." Let's say your students have been studying Shakespeare and you have asked them to write an essay analyzing theme in one of his plays.

You want them to include literary criticism as a part of their essays, but where to find it? Google Scholar is an excellent source for academic literature. Students will find articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions. You can read more about using Google Scholar here.

And remember, research writing does not have to happen in isolation. Research can be a part of argumentative, informational, and even narrative writing.

I would love to hear about how you help students to practice their research skills. Up next: writing across the curriculum.


For more writing lesson ideas and resources:

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