High School Research Paper Steps For Middle School


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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.

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O'Day, S. (2006) Setting the stage for creative writing: Plot scaffolds for beginning and intermediate writers. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • 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.


Biancarosa, G., and Snow, C. E. (2004.) Reading next-A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

  • 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.

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7. Create Notes and Align them with Your Sources
All writers must cite their sources in order to give original authors credit for their ideas and phrasing. If you were to portray their ideas or phrasing as your own, you’d be committing plagiarism. Thus, as you create notes during your research, be sure to associate each piece of information with its correct source. You can accomplish this by using the Notecard feature in NoodleTools.

8. Establish Your Thesis and Outline Your Paper
Establishing a thesis statement should occur before outlining your paper. Your thesis, or the main argument around which your paper will stay focused, is a one- or two-sentence answer to your primary research question. After settling on a thesis, organize your supporting evidence by outlining your paper using the Outline feature within NoodleTools.

9. Begin Writing Your Research Paper
Once your thesis has been established and your outline has been completed, it’s time to begin writing your paper. All papers should start with a quality introductory paragraph.

10. Finish Writing and Properly Format Your Research Paper
Following the introductory paragraph, you’ll want to write informative body paragraphs that begin with clear topic sentences. All topic sentences and body paragraph information must support your thesis. As you write you’ll also want to properly format your paper to comply with MLA style guidelines.

11. Evaluate Your Work
Unless you’re out of time and your due date is upon you, consider addressing any shortcomings in your work. You can review your work by using the SMHS Research Paper Rubric.

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