Two years ago I purchased an ancestry database for our library and put our seniors to work researching their family history. This became our MLA formatted senior research paper and we've seen students pulling together everything from census records and enlistment records to ship manifests and Ellis Island records to piece together who their family was and how they fit into the world from their tiny part of the planet. The project requires interviewing family members and researching the times and places their research leads them. They have been in every database I have and scour the internet. It is the perfect time to explore themselves- just before they head out into the world on their own. Parents and family members often comment it is the best project they have ever seen and they love the chance to talk to the students one on one before they leave the nest. I have yet to encounter a student who was not successful no matter what their background and I find that our exchange students enjoy the project even more than the others.
I am teaching a group of students going into the 11th grade at Upward Bound this summer. I assigned a research essay to them as a final project and they told me they had never written an essay like this before. I had to take a step back in my planning and teach them from beginning to end on how to organize and write this essay. This should be taught so much earlier. I feel it is a great learning experience for them as this program prepares students for college. I had high expectations for them and still do but had to adjust my entire plan to help them learn the basics so that they can prepare and write a good essay.
StoneBridge School in Chesapeake, Virginia is a private Christian school that utilizes a method of instruction called The Priniciple Approach. Essentially, StoneBridge students are taught to rely on primary source documents as they research the different subject areas of English, History, Mathematics, etc. Seniors at StoneBridge spend much of their year researching and developing a twenty-five page thesis paper on the topic of their choice. The topic they choose can range from current political issues to advances in the field of medicine, education, or any other field; yet they are developed within the context of a Biblical worldview. Once their thesis is completed, they are required to orally present and defend their thesis in front of a group of faculty, parents, and outside members of the community. Occasionally, their thesis defense is also presented at functions within the larger community and even overseas; as StoneBridge seniors culminate their educational experience with a European missions trip.
In a required project called "State of the World," and as part of our world-history curriculum, students study the rise of industrialism and colonialism leading up to World War I. In a joint assignment, the history teacher and English teacher assign a research paper in which students study the perspective of different classes of people -- social, religious, and agricultural, for example -- in specific countries and then write papers summarizing their findings.
This can be an enormous problem when you're trying to do serious research on the internet. Too much information is almost worse than too little, because it takes so much time to sort through it to see if there's anything useful. The rest of this section will give you some pointers to help you become an effective internet researcher.
Before you start a research session, make a new folder in your bookmarks or favorites area and set that folder as the one to receive new bookmark additions. You might name it with the current date, so you later can identify in which research session the bookmarks were made. Remember you can make a bookmark for a page you haven't yet visited by holding the mouse over the link and getting the popup menu (by either pressing the mouse button or right clicking, depending on what flavor computer you have) to "Add bookmark" or "Add to favorites." Before you sign off your research session, go back and weed out any bookmarks which turned out to be uninteresting so you don't have a bunch of irrelevant material to deal with later. Later you can move these bookmarks around into different folders as you organize information for writing your paper—find out how to do that in your browser.
Be sure you can use your browser's "Go" list, "History" list, "Back" button and "Location" box where the URL can be typed in. In Web research, you're constantly following links through to other pages then wanting to jump back a few steps to start off in a different direction. If you're using a computer at home rather than sharing one at school, check the settings in your "Cache" or "History list" to see how long the places you've visited will be retained in history. This will determine how long the links will show as having been visited before (i.e, purple in Netscape, green in our site). Usually, you want to set this period of time to cover the full time frame of your research project so you'll be able to tell which Web sites you've been to before.
Choose a color to represent a research topic and give each student a card in that color to record their discoveries. For example, an invention timeline might include a card from each child that records an invention and a date. (And for younger students, you can write in some of the information yourself on the cards to make the research easier.
For each new area of study, repeat this exercise with a different color: for example, I use green for authors/illustrators, blue for Olympic events, orange for art, red for space. Encourage students to browse the evolving time line throughout the year. The color-coded cards make it easy for them to see what else was happening at the time of whatever they are researching.
When you are summarizing opposing arguments, be charitable. Present each argument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look foolish. You want to show that you have seriously considered the many sides of the issue and that you are not simply attacking or caricaturing your opponents.
The two outlines below are intended to show both what are the standard parts of a proposal and of a science paper. Notice that the only real difference is that you change "expected results" to "results" in the paper, and usually leave the budget out, of the paper.
Introduction Topic area Research Question and its significance to knowledge Literature review Previous research Your preliminary work on the topic The remaining questions and their inter-locking logic Reprise of your resulting question in this context Methodology Approach to answering the question Data needs Analytic techniques Plan for interpreting results Budget Expected results Bibliography / References