Science for High School

Research Papers

Do you remember having to write research papers? What feelings does the idea of writing one conjure up today? Dread? Stress? Uncertainty? Fear? Now that we home school, we need to encourage our high schoolers to write at least one research paper. Let’s not give those feelings to our children!

When I assign scientific research papers to my students, I break it down into steps. The steps make it seem less daunting, and more doable for them. The first step is to pick a topic. The topic can be a person that contributed to something we studied during the semester, or a particular topic that intrigued them.

During the following two weeks, I encourage them to make notes from various sources. They need to select and document three or more sources and hand these in. When they write their paper about their topic they need to have several specific ideas that they want to include in their paper, with a good introduction and a conclusion. For my students, I ask that they type their paper double spaced, with at least three pages of content. I give them the opportunity to turn in a rough draft. After reviewing these, I return them with suggestions and they write their final draft. When they turn it in a week later, they will have a cover page, the three pages of their research and a fourth page listing their sources.

When research papers are written in segments, it makes it seem less of a mountainous task. They don’t have to be a source of contention between you and your student either! They can be a great opportunity for you to help your student realize how capable he/she is.