Choosing a Topic
More important than any other aspect of the research paper project is the need for each student to select a topic in which he or she displays a genuine interest. The project will run for roughly six to eight weeks, and a clear and steady motivation to conduct research, write, and edit is critical to having the project be a worthwhile endeavor. Teachers are traditionally flexible in approving topics, but they will definitely steer students away from topics that are not feasible.
In choosing a topic about which to write, students should consider the availability of information on their chosen subject, and aim for one that is relatively easy to research. Teachers will help students select topics that are well represented in articles, books, etc. available through either the Saint Ann’s library or a nearby library.
Yet another consideration in selecting a topic is whether or not it will fit into the six to eight page limit. Again, teachers will help students make this decision.
Finally, students need to pick a topic that can be researched and written about in the allotted time for the research paper project. Again, the intention is for the entire project to be completed in six to eight weeks.
We begin this project with an early February meeting of the entire 8th grade and their History and English teachers, though classes may begin discussing the project before the meeting. Students are asked to do some thinking about their potential topics over the mid-winter break.
Once back from vacation, classes will visit the library and students will begin their research in earnest. Working from guidelines about note taking on index cards, as well as footnoting, students will use class time in both English and history classes to conduct research and begin shaping their ideas.
Teacher teams may take different approaches to the next stages of the paper, but all will require students to form their ideas into a first draft of a detailed outline. Students will then revise this detailed outline in a second draft before moving on to write the final draft of their paper. Teachers will determine, on a case by case basis, if a second draft of a paper is warranted.
The first draft of the detailed outline is due, roughly, in the third week of the project, and the second draft of the detailed outline is due in the 4th or 5th week.
Deadlines tend to float a little bit as the paper progresses, but teachers will routinely make clear exactly what is expected from each student for each week. Students will not receive a schedule for the entire project, other than the six to eight week goal.
Teachers are looking for a typed, six to eight page research paper with a bibliography and footnotes. Although it does not have to be a history paper, the paper needs to be an analytical one — it should not be a biography, an opinion piece, or a literary criticism. In other words, the paper needs to have a clearly stated and supported argument.
How Parents Can Help
Let your children do the work.
Make sure students have note cards, highlighters, and access to a computer and the internet. Students may arrange to use the school’s growing supply of Google Chromebooks if these last two items prove difficult for parents to provide.
Help students stay on task: make sure they bring their materials to school each day. For the first two weeks of the project, students work on research in their English and history classes. If they arrive without notecards, xeroxed readings, etc, precious time is lost.
Check in with your children regularly.
Useful Links and Documents for Parents & Students