Writing Research Papers

High School Curriculum: Writing Research Papers mylearningtable.com

High School Skills

Learning how to write effective research papers is an important skill for students to master before they head off to college. Research paper writing is a very different type of writing than most students are accustomed to, and the process can seem daunting to both students and homeschool parents. Writing Research Papers: The Essential Tools, an Institute for Excellence in Writing course by Lesha Myers, is a comprehensive high school level resource that covers all the steps involved in the research paper process. The course includes a teacher’s manual and a student book. In addition, students will need The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers or access to the internet for formatting guidelines. Students will also need to visit the library and access the internet for research, as well as for some activities, such as determining website credibility.

The author clearly outlines the differences between basic essay writing and research paper writing and provides multiple tools for parents and students to utilize throughout the research paper process. The Writing Research Papers course is divided into seventeen chapters of lessons covering beginning, intermediate, and advanced research papers. Students are meticulously guided through the stages of research, note-taking, developing a thesis statement, outlining, and drafting.

Advantages of Writing Research Papers

The versatility of this course makes it suitable for both homeschool and classroom use. The lessons are laid out clearly and methodically, breaking the research process down into incremental steps and gradually adding more techniques. Some of the features of the course include the following:

  • choice of having all students research the same given topic or having students choose their own topics
  • complementary e-book downloads featuring graphic organizers and grading sheets
  • note taking outlines
  • samples of note cards, note pages, and a research paper
  • worksheets for group and independent work, such as evaluating sources for credibility
  • evaluation checklists and rubrics

Students are given ownership of their research papers, and I especially like how the author incorporates self-evaluation methods in this course. Students have numerous opportunities to reflect on and synthesize what they have learned.

Though not overtly biblical in content, the course does contain a section which speaks to the reader as a Christian, and the sample research paper is on the topic of missionaries. There is also mention of abortion in the section regarding using the Bible as a resource:

In some cases it is useful to quote the Bible to all audiences, when explaining a biblical allusion in a literature essay, for example; however, in other situations this might not be your first choice, especially if your audience is secular or hostile to Christianity. Take for example a values-laden topic such as abortion. If you are writing an anti-abortion argument to a friendly audience, to fellow Christians perhaps, quoting the Bible will be strong support for your case. If, however, your audience is anti-abortion, there is a good possibility it does not consider the Bible an authoritative source; in fact, it might consider the Bible a collection of myths and legends. If you use the Bible as support for your claims, you might be diminishing your credibility. (p. 12-13)

Another aspect of this curriculum to be aware of:  the “Beginning Research Papers” section has all students work on the same topic, “Are social networking sites good for our society?” Included within this topic is research into various social media sites and some discussion of cyber bullying and sexual predators online. The academic skills involved in this course would be suitable for middle school through high school, but the sensitive content might not be suitable for a middle school audience. Unfortunately, children in school are exposed to these topics earlier than most homeschool students. This content can be easily edited out in the examples you share with your children, and a different research topic can be chosen.

Research paper writing is such an important skill for students to understand that I feel it should not be overlooked in the homeschool setting.

Click here to see how our Real Teens Read literature group tackled research paper writing.

Writing Research Papers: The Essential Tools is a vital part of our language arts curriculum. It is one of the best investments I’ve made for high school curriculum. The program makes a perfect stand-alone unit study, as well as a go-to reference for the high school years as students master research paper writing in both language arts and other courses. I am now requiring all of my son’s essays for English, history, and fine arts, to be fully cited and formatted in proper MLA style so that he will be better prepared for college academic writing.

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