Friday, June 29, 2012


In case you've missed earlier posts, I've been teaching Lars and Anders how to plan and organize a large research project this summer.  Their respective essays have just been posted on their blogs today (Anders researched Irish folklore and Lars wrote about a Japanese historical figure, Toyotomi Hideyoshi).  So far they are right on schedule with this multi-assignment project, and haven't had to spend more than an hour or two working on it on any given day.  If you're looking for any of the earlier lesson plans, you can find them all here.  I also found some clear, child-friendly guidelines for developing thesis statements in Research Papers for Dummies, available on Amazon here, and excerpted here on the publisher's web site. 

Without further ado, here's
WAIT!!  Put down that pen!!!  Without a plan, you can waste a lot of time writing down the wrong information, and that will make it even harder to write a good paper later.  So, pick up your first resource and…

1.      SURVEY YOUR SOURCE:  Before you begin, “survey” your resource by skimming through the material, paying attention to chapter titles, headings, pictures and their captions, etc. to get an overview of what kinds of information you are going to get from this source.

2.     QUESTIONS:  Jot down some questions for yourself that you will be answering on your notecards as you read this source.  Make sure your questions have something to do with your THESIS STATEMENT, because you want to take notes that will help you prove your position in your paper.  Depending on how long the source is and how many notecards you need from each source, you may be turning all of the headings and bold-face words into questions (if it’s a short article), or you may have to be very selective and choose only the main points or those that best relate to your research project (especially true for a long book or a website that is packed with information).  You can either write your list of questions on a sheet of paper, or you can put them at the top of blank notecards so you know what information you’ll be writing on each card.  These questions are just for you, so they do NOT need to be complete sentences.  It can be as simple as “Famine Causes?” or “Shogun Legacy?” 

3.     READ:  Now start reading through your source, keeping an eye out for the information that will answer your research questions. 

What Goes on One Notecard?  Remember the LEGO Rule!  Photo courtesy Instructables
4.   WRITE NOTES: When you come to information that answers your question, jot it down on your note card.  Remember, note cards do not get complete sentences.  Each notecard should have either one “piece” of information, like one LEGO brick that can’t be taken apart, or several related facts that need to stay together to make sense (the way a LEGO figure’s head and arms COULD come apart, but they make more sense attached to the body!).  For example, one notecard might look like this:

Causes of French Revolution?
n  Government went bankrupt b/c couldn’t agree on tax reform
n  1788-1789 food shortages
n  Enlightenment ideas about equality
n  Louis XVI was not a strong ruler

Or like this:
U.S. Education?
n  Literacy: 99% over age 15 can read & write
n  Free K-12 paid for by fed, state & local taxes
n  Compulsory for children, ages vary by state
n  Private schools, colleges & universities optional but $$$

Here’s an example of what NOT to do (listing random, unrelated facts on the same note card):
n  Neutral in both World Wars
n  No team sports at Spanish schools
n  40% of adults are smokers
n  Lunch eaten at 2 PM, dinner at 9 PM

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