I appreciate that you're final product incorporated 21st century skills. But your title "How to make writing research papers relevant to students" also got me thinking about the changing process of research. When I was in school, research skills meant being able to use the card catalog for the limited books available in our small school library. With the development of the internet and search engines, research was no longer about just matching to info on a card to the right book on the self. We had to be able to sort through volumes of sites and determine what was quality information and what was junk. Then came Wikipedia and we could not just consume but contribute to the collection of information. And now we have Diigo and other social bookmarking tools that allow us to share the valuable resources we find. The highlighting and posit-notes tools allow us to interact with the text, but more importantly it allows you to read what I thought was most important about the page and skip the rest.
So my question is have the projects we assign students also evolved with these new tools? Or are we still asking students to jump through the same hoops? Are we ready to accept that being able to effectively do research (or find information) is no longer a task I do in isolation, but rather something I do within my personal learning network? Granted not all information can be found within our communities and we still need to be proficient at searching the vast oceans of the world wide web for the buried treasures we seek. But it seems to me that social bookmarking is as much of a game changer as search engines were. Perhaps the social nature of this tool will help make research more relevant and engaging for some students than the historical isolated research process of our own educational experiences.
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.
A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.
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.
Children in grades 2 and 3 benefit from memory aids, so try playing a password game when they visit the library. Give students a clue at the beginning of the period, and then ask for the answer — their "password" — as they exit. For example, I might give this clue: the name of the person who decided how to organize all these books. (Students will really hang on to Dewey's first name: Melvin!) Students who guess incorrectly can listen to the next child in line and try again.
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.
As a new blogger, this advice was very helpful. I also appreciate how you stress how long it takes to write a good blog post - the time, the research, the level of detail, etc. I've seen a lot of others claim that blogging is simple and it doesn't take much time to write one (I read a post similar to this one saying that a 1000+ word blog post only takes 30-45 minutes). As a beginning blogger AND a freelance writer, this really angers me - it shows a real lack of appreciation for the skill of blogging and article writing. This disrespect often reflects in the pricing too. Many websites that want ghostwriters for their blog offer really low payment - only a couple dollars for a 500 word article, as I often see advertised on Elance and Guru.com. Are they insane? Well, I guess you get what you pay for, and I'm glad blogs like this are around to speak the truth about craft of blogging.
The exact figures presented in these headlines are all framed within a context of providing actionable advice to other marketers and startups. “Case study” blog posts like this often perform well, due to their transparent nature (which pulls the curtain back from successful growing businesses and the people who run them) and the “how-to” angle (which attracts people who want to accomplish the same thing by following real-world examples).
This doesn’t mean that all bloggers are insincere fakers. On the contrary, many bloggers’ natural curiosity is what makes them great at what they do. If you blog for a living, you have to be comfortable jumping from one topic to the next, even if you don’t know anything about it. What allows us to do this, and to write authoritatively about subject areas that are new to us, is knowing how to properly research a blog post.
Hey Jim, thanks for taking the time to comment. In terms of content promotion, social media is still the best way to get the word out there about a new blog. Unfortunately, just as it takes time to build a regular audience, the same applies to social followings. At first, you might find that very few people are coming across your content due to the limited size of the blog's audience and the limited reach on social. This is why SEO remains very important. As long as your content is optimized (logical internal linking, strong image optimization, smart keyword targeting), and you're patient and committed to building an audience and a social following, you will see results - it just takes time. This is why so many blogs fail (and why many people dismiss content marketing in general). It's definitely not a quick fix, it takes a lot of time and dedication to succeed.