Choosing A Topic For Research Papers

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SWBAT utilize research skills to choose a topic for research.

Big Idea

So many people, so little time! Narrowing down from hundreds to one.

Reading Time

10 minutes

Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time.  This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.

Direct Instruction On Choosing A Topic and Prelimary Research

33 minutes

Today's lesson begins the research unit. I take students step by step throughout the process they will go through as it is a new experience for them. They are not used to writing research papers of this magnitude and with this many steps. It helps students in the long run when they are able to focus on each step rather than the final product. This makes it less overwhelming and they can devote their energy onto that specific step. The first step, which will be covered as part of today's lesson, is choosing a topic. I am always a little nervous about starting this project because my students are very nervous. There will be a lot of components and it will be the most challenging part of the year. I feed off of their nervous energy at times but I try and think about all the good that will come out of it.

The research paper will focus on the influence of a historical or notable figure. We use historical figures for many reasons. The research is readily available and helps students when they have to prove a thesis. It seems to make the process easier when their thesis has to focus on the impact of a person. It's important to make sure there are resources available for students before any research topic is assigned.

The first step of the process is showing them my web-site. I pull up my web-site, specifically the research project portion, so they can see the various resources available to them throughout the process. On there I have the documents we will use throughout class, links to search engines and databases that will help them, and necessary due dates. This video discusses the use of my web-site.

Today's class focuses on choosing a topic so I pull up the Topic Choice Explanation Handout. Most of the class is devoting to me explaining this handout to the class. My class is not usually set-up in a manner where I stand in front of the class room explaining a lot. For this step, it is necessary so students understand what they need to. As I explain the handout, there are always questions, and they are usually good questions, so I have no problem answering them throughout my explanation. The handout reviews the steps students will need to go through in order to complete this first step, choosing a topic. They will review List Of Research Topics. This list has been culled from years of doing this project. They will research people they are interested in researching to see if there is an appropriate amount of research available on that person.

The last step is to submit in a few days a list of six possible choices. I will then assign them a topic based on their choices. There will be no duplicates. Only one student will be researching one person. I do not allow duplicates as I want students to feel a sense of ownership over who they are researching. It helps them when they, and only they, can become the expert on a certain topic.

I devote the rest of class time to showing them the various tools they can use to research topics. We are fortunate enough to have subscriptions to various databases and our County Library System has a wonderful web-site that shows materials available. We review each of these individually so students know how to use them.

With class time permitting, I allow students to begin the first step. They are able to spend time researching to see if there is research available on those influential people they may be interested in researching.