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research paper assignment instructions high school

How to Write a Research Paper in High School

What’s covered:, how to pick a compelling research paper topic, how to format your research paper, tips for writing a research paper, do research paper grades impact your college chances.

A research paper can refer to a broad range of expanded essays used to explain your interpretation of a topic. This task is highly likely to be a common assignment in high school , so it’s always better to get a grasp on this sooner than later. Getting comfortable writing research papers does not have to be difficult, and can actually be pretty interesting when you’re genuinely intrigued by what you’re researching. 

Regardless of what kind of research paper you are writing, getting started with a topic is the first step, and sometimes the hardest step. Here are some tips to get you started with your paper and get the writing to begin! 

Pick A Topic You’re Genuinely Interested In

Nothing comes across as half-baked as much as a topic that is evidently uninteresting, not to the reader, but the writer. You can only get so far with a topic that you yourself are not genuinely happy writing, and this lack of enthusiasm cannot easily be created artificially. Instead, read about things that excite you, such as some specific concepts about the structure of atoms in chemistry. Take what’s interesting to you and dive further with a research paper. 

If you need some ideas, check out our post on 52 interesting research paper topics .

The Topic Must Be A Focal Point

Your topic can almost be considered as the skeletal structure of the research paper. But in order to better understand this we need to understand what makes a good topic. Here’s an example of a good topic:

How does the amount of pectin in a vegetable affect its taste and other qualities?

This topic is pretty specific in explaining the goals of the research paper. If I had instead written something more vague such as Factors that affect taste in vegetables , the scope of the research immediately increased to a more herculean task simply because there is more to write about, some of which is overtly unnecessary. This is avoided by specifications in the topic that help guide the writer into a focused path.

By creating this specific topic, we can route back to it during the writing process to check if we’re addressing it often, and if we are then our writing is going fine! Otherwise, we’d have to reevaluate the progression of our paper and what to change. A good topic serves as a blueprint for writing the actual essay because everything you need to find out is in the topic itself, it’s almost like a sort of plan/instruction. 

Formatting a research paper is important to not only create a “cleaner” more readable end product, but it also helps streamline the writing process by making it easier to navigate. The following guidelines on formatting are considered a standard for research papers, and can be altered as per the requirements of your specific assignments, just check with your teacher/grader!

Start by using a standard font like Times New Roman or Arial, in 12 or 11 sized font. Also, add one inch margins for the pages, along with some double spacing between lines. These specifications alone get you started on a more professional and cleaner looking research paper.

Paper Citations 

If you’re creating a research paper for some sort of publication, or submission, you must use citations to refer to the sources you’ve used for the research of your topic. The APA citation style, something you might be familiar with, is the most popular citation style and it works as follows:

Author Last Name, First Initial, Publication Year, Book/Movie/Source title, Publisher/Organization

This can be applied to any source of media/news such as a book, a video, or even a magazine! Just make sure to use citation as much as possible when using external data and sources for your research, as it could otherwise land you in trouble with unwanted plagiarism. 

Structuring The Paper

Structuring your paper is also important, but not complex either. Start by creating an introductory paragraph that’s short and concise, and tells the reader what they’re going to be reading about. Then move onto more contextual information and actual presentation of research. In the case of a paper like this, you could start with stating your hypothesis in regard to what you’re researching, or even state your topic again with more clarification!

As the paper continues you should be bouncing between views that support and go against your claim/hypothesis to maintain a neutral tone. Eventually you will reach a conclusion on whether or not your hypothesis was valid, and from here you can begin to close the paper out with citations and reflections on the research process.

Talk To Your Teacher

Before the process of searching for a good topic, start by talking to your teachers first! You should form close relations with them so they can help guide you with better inspiration and ideas.

Along the process of writing, you’re going to find yourself needing help when you hit walls. Specifically there will be points at which the scope of your research could seem too shallow to create sizable writing off of it, therefore a third person point of view could be useful to help think of workarounds in such situations. 

You might be writing a research paper as a part of a submission in your applications to colleges, which is a great way to showcase your skills! Therefore, to really have a good chance to showcase yourself as a quality student, aim for a topic that doesn’t sell yourself short. It would be easier to tackle a topic that is not as intense to research, but the end results would be less worthwhile and could come across as lazy. Focus on something genuinely interesting and challenging so admissions offices know you are a determined and hard-working student!

Don’t Worry About Conclusions

The issue many students have with writing research papers, is that they aren’t satisfied with arriving at conclusions that do not support their original hypothesis. It’s important to remember that not arriving at a specific conclusion that your hypothesis was planning on, is totally fine! The whole point of a research paper is not to be correct, but it’s to showcase the trial and error behind learning and understanding something new. 

If your findings clash against your initial hypothesis, all that means is you’ve arrived at a new conclusion that can help form a new hypothesis or claim, with sound reasoning! Getting rid of this mindset that forces you to warp around your hypothesis and claims can actually improve your research writing by a lot!

Colleges won’t ever see the grades for individual assignments, but they do care a bit more about the grades you achieve in your courses. Research papers may play towards your overall course grade based on the kind of class you’re in. Therefore to keep those grades up, you should try your absolute best on your essays and make sure they get high-quality reviews to check them too!

Luckily, CollegeVine’s peer review for essays does exactly that! This great feature allows you to get your essay checked by other users, and hence make a higher-quality essay that boosts your chances of admission into a university. 

Want more info on your chances for college admissions? Check out CollegeVine’s admissions calculator, an intuitive tool that takes numerous factors into account as inputs before generating your unique chance of admission into an institute of your selection!

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research paper assignment instructions high school

How to Write a Research Paper as a High School Student

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By Carly Taylor

Senior at Stanford University

6 minute read

Open notebook in front of a laptop doing research paper next to cup of tea and dried flowers

Read our guide to learn why you should write a research paper and how to do so, from choosing the right topic to outlining and structuring your argument.

What is a research paper?

A research paper poses an answer to a specific question and defends that answer using academic sources, data, and critical reasoning. Writing a research paper is an excellent way to hone your focus during a research project , synthesize what you’re learning, and explain why your work matters to a broader audience of scholars in your field.

The types of sources and evidence you’ll see used in a research paper can vary widely based on its field of study. A history research paper might examine primary sources like journals and newspaper articles to draw conclusions about the culture of a specific time and place, whereas a biology research paper might analyze data from different published experiments and use textbook explanations of cellular pathways to identify a potential marker for breast cancer.

However, researchers across disciplines must identify and analyze credible sources, formulate a specific research question, generate a clear thesis statement, and organize their ideas in a cohesive manner to support their argument. Read on to learn how this process works and how to get started writing your own research paper.

Choosing your topic

Tap into your passions.

A research paper is your chance to explore what genuinely interests you and combine ideas in novel ways. So don’t choose a subject that simply sounds impressive or blindly follow what someone else wants you to do – choose something you’re really passionate about! You should be able to enjoy reading for hours and hours about your topic and feel enthusiastic about synthesizing and sharing what you learn.

We've created these helpful resources to inspire you to think about your own passion project . Polygence also offers a passion exploration experience where you can dive deep into three potential areas of study with expert mentors from those fields.

Ask a difficult question

In the traditional classroom, top students are expected to always know the answers to the questions the teacher asks. But a research paper is YOUR chance to pose a big question that no one has answered yet, and figure out how to make a contribution to answering that question. So don’t be afraid if you have no idea how to answer your question at the start of the research process — this will help you maintain a motivational sense of discovery as you dive deeper into your research. If you need inspiration, explore our database of research project ideas .

Be as specific as possible

It’s essential to be reasonable about what you can accomplish in one paper and narrow your focus down to an issue you can thoroughly address. For example, if you’re interested in the effects of invasive species on ecosystems, it’s best to focus on one invasive species and one ecosystem, such as iguanas in South Florida , or one survival mechanism, such as supercolonies in invasive ant species . If you can, get hands on with your project.

You should approach your paper with the mindset of becoming an expert in this topic. Narrowing your focus will help you achieve this goal without getting lost in the weeds and overwhelming yourself.

Would you like to write your own research paper?

Polygence mentors can help you every step of the way in writing and showcasing your research paper

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Preparing to write

Conduct preliminary research.

Before you dive into writing your research paper, conduct a literature review to see what’s already known about your topic. This can help you find your niche within the existing body of research and formulate your question. For example, Polygence student Jasmita found that researchers had studied the effects of background music on student test performance, but they had not taken into account the effect of a student’s familiarity with the music being played, so she decided to pose this new question in her research paper.

Pro tip: It’s a good idea to skim articles in order to decide whether they’re relevant enough to your research interest before committing to reading them in full. This can help you spend as much time as possible with the sources you’ll actually cite in your paper.

Skimming articles will help you gain a broad-strokes view of the different pockets of existing knowledge in your field and identify the most potentially useful sources. Reading articles in full will allow you to accumulate specific evidence related to your research question and begin to formulate an answer to it.

Draft a thesis statement

Your thesis statement is your succinctly-stated answer to the question you’re posing, which you’ll make your case for in the body of the paper. For example, if you’re studying the effect of K-pop on eating disorders and body image in teenagers of different races, your thesis may be that Asian teenagers who are exposed to K-pop videos experience more negative effects on their body image than Caucasian teenagers.

Pro Tip: It’s okay to refine your thesis as you continue to learn more throughout your research and writing process! A preliminary thesis will help you come up with a structure for presenting your argument, but you should absolutely change your thesis if new information you uncover changes your perspective or adds nuance to it.

Create an outline

An outline is a tool for sketching out the structure of your paper by organizing your points broadly into subheadings and more finely into individual paragraphs. Try putting your thesis at the top of your outline, then brainstorm all the points you need to convey in order to support your thesis.

Pro Tip : Your outline is just a jumping-off point – it will evolve as you gain greater clarity on your argument through your writing and continued research. Sometimes, it takes several iterations of outlining, then writing, then re-outlining, then rewriting in order to find the best structure for your paper.

Writing your paper


Your introduction should move the reader from your broad area of interest into your specific area of focus for the paper. It generally takes the form of one to two paragraphs that build to your thesis statement and give the reader an idea of the broad argumentative structure of your paper. After reading your introduction, your reader should know what claim you’re going to present and what kinds of evidence you’ll analyze to support it.

Topic sentences

Writing crystal clear topic sentences is a crucial aspect of a successful research paper. A topic sentence is like the thesis statement of a particular paragraph – it should clearly state the point that the paragraph will make. Writing focused topic sentences will help you remain focused while writing your paragraphs and will ensure that the reader can clearly grasp the function of each paragraph in the paper’s overall structure.


Sophisticated research papers move beyond tacking on simple transitional phrases such as “Secondly” or “Moreover” to the start of each new paragraph. Instead, each paragraph flows naturally into the next one, with the connection between each idea made very clear. Try using specifically-crafted transitional phrases rather than stock phrases to move from one point to the next that will make your paper as cohesive as possible.

In her research paper on Pakistani youth in the U.S. , Polygence student Iba used the following specifically-crafted transition to move between two paragraphs: “Although the struggles of digital ethnography limited some data collection, there are also many advantages of digital data collection.” This sentence provides the logical link between the discussion of the limitations of digital ethnography from the prior paragraph and the upcoming discussion of this techniques’ advantages in this paragraph.

Your conclusion can have several functions:

To drive home your thesis and summarize your argument

To emphasize the broader significance of your findings and answer the “so what” question

To point out some questions raised by your thesis and/or opportunities for further research

Your conclusion can take on all three of these tasks or just one, depending on what you feel your paper is still lacking up to this point.

Citing sources

Last but not least, giving credit to your sources is extremely important. There are many different citation formats such as MLA, APA, and Chicago style. Make sure you know which one is standard in your field of interest by researching online or consulting an expert.

You have several options for keeping track of your bibliography:

Use a notebook to record the relevant information from each of your sources: title, author, date of publication, journal name, page numbers, etc.

Create a folder on your computer where you can store your electronic sources

Use an online bibliography creator such as Zotero, Easybib, or Noodletools to track sources and generate citations

You can read research papers by Polygence students under our Projects tab. You can also explore other opportunities for high school research .

If you’re interested in finding an expert mentor to guide you through the process of writing your own independent research paper, consider applying to be a Polygence scholar today!

Your research paper help even you to earn college credit , get published in an academic journal , contribute to your application for college , improve your college admissions chances !

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Interested in doing an exciting research project? Click below to get matched with one of our expert mentors!

research paper assignment instructions high school

Scaffolding Methods for Research Paper Writing

Scaffolding Methods for Research Paper Writing

  • Resources & Preparation
  • Instructional Plan
  • Related Resources

Students will use scaffolding to research and organize information for writing a research paper. A research paper scaffold provides students with clear support for writing expository papers that include a question (problem), literature review, analysis, methodology for original research, results, conclusion, and references. Students examine informational text, use an inquiry-based approach, and practice genre-specific strategies for expository writing. Depending on the goals of the assignment, students may work collaboratively or as individuals. A student-written paper about color psychology provides an authentic model of a scaffold and the corresponding finished paper. The research paper scaffold is designed to be completed during seven or eight sessions over the course of four to six weeks.

Featured Resources

  • Research Paper Scaffold : This handout guides students in researching and organizing the information they need for writing their research paper.
  • Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection : Students use Internet search engines and Web analysis checklists to evaluate online resources then write annotations that explain how and why the resources will be valuable to the class.

From Theory to Practice

  • Research paper scaffolding provides a temporary linguistic tool to assist students as they organize their expository writing. Scaffolding assists students in moving to levels of language performance they might be unable to obtain without this support.
  • An instructional scaffold essentially changes the role of the teacher from that of giver of knowledge to leader in inquiry. This relationship encourages creative intelligence on the part of both teacher and student, which in turn may broaden the notion of literacy so as to include more learning styles.
  • An instructional scaffold is useful for expository writing because of its basis in problem solving, ownership, appropriateness, support, collaboration, and internalization. It allows students to start where they are comfortable, and provides a genre-based structure for organizing creative ideas.
  • In order for students to take ownership of knowledge, they must learn to rework raw information, use details and facts, and write.
  • Teaching writing should involve direct, explicit comprehension instruction, effective instructional principles embedded in content, motivation and self-directed learning, and text-based collaborative learning to improve middle school and high school literacy.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

Computers with Internet access and printing capability

  • Research Paper Scaffold
  • Example Research Paper Scaffold
  • Example Student Research Paper
  • Internet Citation Checklist
  • Research Paper Scoring Rubric
  • Permission Form (optional)


Student objectives.

Students will

  • Formulate a clear thesis that conveys a perspective on the subject of their research
  • Practice research skills, including evaluation of sources, paraphrasing and summarizing relevant information, and citation of sources used
  • Logically group and sequence ideas in expository writing
  • Organize and display information on charts, maps, and graphs

Session 1: Research Question

You should approve students’ final research questions before Session 2. You may also wish to send home the Permission Form with students, to make parents aware of their child’s research topic and the project due dates.

Session 2: Literature Review—Search

Prior to this session, you may want to introduce or review Internet search techniques using the lesson Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection . You may also wish to consult with the school librarian regarding subscription databases designed specifically for student research, which may be available through the school or public library. Using these types of resources will help to ensure that students find relevant and appropriate information. Using Internet search engines such as Google can be overwhelming to beginning researchers.

Session 3: Literature Review—Notes

Students need to bring their articles to this session. For large classes, have students highlight relevant information (as described below) and submit the articles for assessment before beginning the session.

Checking Literature Review entries on the same day is best practice, as it gives both you and the student time to plan and address any problems before proceeding. Note that in the finished product this literature review section will be about six paragraphs, so students need to gather enough facts to fit this format.

Session 4: Analysis

Session 5: original research.

Students should design some form of original research appropriate to their topics, but they do not necessarily have to conduct the experiments or surveys they propose. Depending on the appropriateness of the original research proposals, the time involved, and the resources available, you may prefer to omit the actual research or use it as an extension activity.

Session 6: Results (optional)

Session 7: conclusion, session 8: references and writing final draft, student assessment / reflections.

  • Observe students’ participation in the initial stages of the Research Paper Scaffold and promptly address any errors or misconceptions about the research process.
  • Observe students and provide feedback as they complete each section of the Research Paper Scaffold.
  • Provide a safe environment where students will want to take risks in exploring ideas. During collaborative work, offer feedback and guidance to those who need encouragement or require assistance in learning cooperation and tolerance.
  • Involve students in using the Research Paper Scoring Rubric for final evaluation of the research paper. Go over this rubric during Session 8, before they write their final drafts.
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Teaching Research Papers with High School Students

Teaching research papers with high school students? Here are guidelines to make this writing unit a success. Teaching the research paper requires various tools.

Teaching research papers with high school students? Teaching students how to write a research paper is an important part of an ELA class. Here are guidelines to make this writing unit a success.

Teaching research papers provides ample opportunities for teachers to provide a strong foundation for future work, to encourage literacy . As a professional, I research ideas and implement best practices daily. Most professionals create mini-research papers for their careers. As a teacher, I often research methods to help struggling students or the best way to present a concept. That research and my commentary ends up in my lesson plans, in front of administrators or parents, and sometimes in student files.

Lawyers, political organizers, advertisers, real estate agents: most jobs require ethical research and then a written report. As a citizen, I research concepts important to my community and family. As knowledge in our world grows, student will only have more reasons to be ethical digital citizens.

Providing students with a sustainable foundation is a humbling responsibility. Teachers know that teaching students how to write a research paper is important. While teaching students how to research, I share those sentiments with them. I want students to know I take research seriously, and my expectation is that they will as well. My research paper lesson plans take into account the seriousness of ethical research.

Even after teaching for a decade, I sometimes overwhelm myself with this duty. I handle teaching research papers with these three ideas in my mind.

Teaching research papers with high school students requires teaching ethical research. Teaching students how to write a research paper includes following the writing process, organizing student essays, & connecting gramamr to writing. Conferencing with students makes teaching research papers easier. This process of how to teach research to high school students walks through research paper lesson plans. Teaching the research paper in high school English classes meets writing standards.

Provide clear expectations.

A feeling I always hated as a student was the unknown . Sure, part of the learning process is not knowing everything and making mistakes. I, as the teacher, don’t want to be the source of frustration though. I never want students to wander down a path that won’t advance them toward our end goal: a well-researched paper. Part of teaching research skills to high school students is providing clear expectations.

As writing in the ELA classroom becomes more digital, I simply give students tools on our online learning platform. That way, I can remind students to check a certain section or page as we collaborate on their writing.

Research lesson plans high school: include a writing overview for expectations.

Writing overview

Every teacher grades a little differently. Sometimes, terminology differs. Throw in the stress of research, and you might have a classroom of overwhelmed students. An overview before teaching research papers can relax everyone!

I start every writing unit with clear expectations, terminology, and goals. I cover a presentation with students, and then I upload it to Google Classroom. Students know to consult that presentation for clarity. Initially, covering the basics may seem wasteful, but it saves all of us time because students know my expectations.

Furthermore, parents and tutors appreciate my sharing that information. As students work independently (inside or outside of class), they can take it upon themselves to consult expectations. Their responsibility with this prepares them for their futures. Finally, having established that overview with students during virtual classes was invaluable.

Research lesson plans high school: give students an overview.

Research overview

Before you begin teaching students how to research, outline what strong research looks like. You might consider these questions:

  • What (if any) secondary sources will I accept? What about Wikipedia?
  • Should students use a balance of books and online material? Do they have access to books?
  • Are dates for certain topics important? Will I not accept research from before a certain date?

I’m not answering these questions for you, but I’ve seen teachers provide such guidelines while teaching research skills to high school students. Whatever parameters you have for teaching the research paper, share those with students.

Add this revision and editing sheet to your high school writing unit. Perfect addition to any Writing curriculum high school.

Stress and model ethical research.

I stress to students that conducting oneself with honesty and integrity is crucial to writing. When teaching research papers with high school students, I connect these ethics to their very near futures. Aside from the basics of documenting and citing, I highlight these two points.

Teaching the research paper will require teaching thorough research.

  • Citing material. This includes direct quotes and paraphrasing. I review both of those concepts throughout our research and writing. The majority of a paper should be the writer’s thoughts, supported by research. Students need those concepts repeated, and they are important, so I spend time emphasizing them.

Often, I turn the basics of research into a writing mini lesson . Modeling ethical research is a very specific part of ELA classes. I understand that other classes require research and that parents might teach research skills as well. Still, to have a functioning society, students must view resources with critical eyes. Teaching students how to write a research paper includes clear guidelines for research and one-on-one conferencing.

Teaching research papers with high school students requires teaching ethical research. Teaching students how to write a research paper includes following the writing process, organizing student essays, & connecting gramamr to writing. Conferencing with students makes teaching research papers easier. This process of how to teach research to high school students walks through research paper lesson plans. Teaching the research paper in high school English classes meets writing standards.

Encourage strong writing.

Hopefully, students write with passion. Hopefully, they want to show or prove their statements. Teaching students how to write a research paper is easier when students enjoy their topics.

I cover grammar with students (all year), and I always make the connection for them to implement those lessons. Teaching students to write a research paper requires some focus on writing skills. Primarily, students will work on strong verbs and syntax.

Teaching research papers will require a discussion of verb use

Students possess strong verbs in their vocabularies. Sometimes in writing, humans get lazy, myself included. Every verb is a linking verb, and every sentence reads subject + linking verb + predicate adjective. (Nothing is wrong with a linking verb, but students should break from the mold.) When I see that a paper can be improved with strong verbs, we conference about ways to improve the verbs without thesaurus abuse.

Ask students to pick their least favorite paragraph in a research paper and to highlight every verb . Chances are, they are not conveying their message because of weak verbs. Help them turn the predicate adjectives into verbs or think of an action that will convey their meaning. Additionally as you continue teaching students how to research, you’ll cross strong verbs in research. Point out those verbs to students.

Teaching students how to write a research paper requires sentence structure lessons.

Just as every sentence shouldn’t contain a linking verb, not every sentence should be a simple sentence. Sentence syntax takes practice, and often teamwork! Ask students to provide a sentence that needs improvement. Break the sentence down into phrases and clauses. (If it is a simple sentence, ask for another sentence to attach.) What is the best arrangement? What is the student’s goal? Would a conjunctive adverb lead readers to a conclusion? What if a subordinating conjunction started the sentence, or, should the dependent clause come second in the complex sentence? Play with the language of students’ papers! By connecting grammar to writing, you have empowered students to improve their writing.

Sentence structure is also part of teaching students how to write a research paper because the information must be factual. Sometimes students report information incorrectly, and sometimes, their sentence structure is to blame. Focus on a return to simple syntax for ethical research, and then work on sentence diversity if possible.

All parts of an ELA classroom fit together like puzzle pieces, and when teaching research papers, that neatly assembled puzzle sits on display. By giving students clear expectations, you are ready to guide them through ethical research and through strengthening their writing. Teaching the research paper is a large task, so you should know what you want to accomplish.

All activities mentioned in this post are included in my writing bundle for freshmen and sophomores .

What do you focus on with when teaching research papers? Read how Melissa from Reading and Writing Haven differentiates when teaching research writing .  

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The Big Con: Tricking the High School Student into Writing a Research Paper


Senior English students in Atlanta public schools are required to complete a senior research paper. Booker T. Washington High School has assigned a "career paper," which ends up reading like a fifth grade career report. While very appropriate for a communication skills or business technology class, the career paper is out of place in British and World Literature, and its lack of literary focus does little to prepare students for English "101" in college. I have tried to find a way to make the assignment a real research paper by having students examine a controversy within their chosen career, but my students find it hard to make the connections needed for higher level thinking. When completing the career assignment the student never really utilizes all facets of Bloom's Taxonomy. I wish to make the research paper more interesting while still addressing Bloom's dimensions and, more importantly, to create a paper more appropriate for seniors preparing to enter college.

One of the most heartbreaking moments of my teaching career occurred when one of my graduated seniors emailed me from college to tell me she had failed her research paper in English "101". She said that she was very upset because she had worked hard in my class on her research paper and had received a high B from me. Her professor told her that her paper was very superficial and didn't show any insight into the topic. I was devastated, but not surprised. The powers that be at Washington High mandate that seniors complete a research paper, which makes up 10% of their final grade. This is a worthy assignment, but unfortunately the topic is careers.

A career paper is, in my opinion, appropriate for an eighth or ninth grader. It will help the student grasp the skills curriculum they will need for pursuing their chosen path. A high school senior who aspires to become a doctor is not well served when he finds out later that he needs 4-5 units of science and upper level math classes just to be considered for a premed program. In addition to being "too little, too late," the career paper is not remotely like the research papers assigned in college level English classes. It involves no powers of interpretation and no great depth of research; the lion's share of information needed to complete the project can be found on one website, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics online. While research skills are used, a works cited page does not a research paper make.

After lamenting the plight of our students once they reach college, I received permission from our department chair and principal to rework the senior paper. While the AP students were doing a full-on literary research paper, they were still having great difficulty, and I knew my "regular" kids would need a transitional assignment to teach them the fundamentals of expounding on literary works. I still want my students to do the basic research needed for their future science and history classes, but I want them to be able to analyze a piece of literature with the ability the author intended for his or her readers to bring to bear. I want my students to be able to find others who agree with their contentions and also to see the point of view of those who disagree.

A study of folk stories from various cultures around the world is extremely appropriate for World literature, and when the syllabus is structured regionally instead of chronologically, the six to eight weeks spent on the research paper are continually relevant. While seniors respond well to creation stories and various other types of folk mythology, one character has consistently held their attention: the trickster.

According to Wikipedia online, a trickster is "a , goddess, spirit, human or anthropomorphic animal who plays or otherwise disobeys normal rules and norms of behaviour. 1 " With a description such as this it is not surprising that the trickster is a high school senior's favorite character. Any given day, a walk through the halls will reveal shirts with Bart Simpson holding a gun or stack of cash, Pacino as Scarface, any number of Looney Toon characters misbehaving, and even occasionally Sesame Street puppets (again, doing something unseemly). My school's culture reveres the con artist or anyone who can get one over on "the man". Why should I not use this fascination to further my agenda, the bulking up of these kids' brains? I have had no problem keeping students engaged when sharing various trickster tales during story time with children's books, having them write original tales in the style of a kid's book, and even staging performances of original trickster tale puppet shows. It therefore seems obvious to me that combining the trickster with my—and their—least favorite assignment, the dreaded research paper, could be a way to sugar-coat the pill.

Tricksters appear in folktales from almost all cultures. They can be varied in form, usually appearing as an animal, man or some combination thereof. Popular forms include, but aren't limited to, a spider-man, coyote, raven, rabbit or leprechaun. Tricksters are usually trying to pull one over on another character, usually a larger or "superior" creature. Often they get away with it; occasionally they are tricked in turn. The best of the tricksters, including the modern American incarnation—the confidence man—can trick a character out of a prize without said character realizing he's been had.

William Hynes and William Doty, in their introduction to Mythical Trickster Figures: Contours, Contexts and Criticisms, list several correspondences in regards to trickster's traits beginning with:

The fundamentally ambiguous and anomalous personality of the trickster. Flowing from this are such features as deceiver/trick player, shape-shifter, situation-inverter, messenger/imitator of the gods, and sacred/lewd bricoleur. 2

In Campbell Reesman's book Cristiano Grotannelli "supports this dualistic view of the trickster's creative consistency-and-irregularity: 'Prometheus is the ultimate example of the duplicity of tricksters; criminal and savior, guilty and heroic, impure and sacred, antagonist and mediator." 3 My students eat these character traits up. The trickster proliferates in modern culture in such various forms as Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner to Sawyer on ABC's Lost to the new animated film Hoodwinked. Students already know the character; they just don't know that they do.

Many trickster tales, mostly oral in tradition, share remarkably similar characteristics. A "gum man" appears in the South American story Love and Roast Chicken , a "tar baby" appears in the American slave tales of Brer Rabbit, and the southwestern United States character Coyote gets stumped by a lump of pitch 4 . For my students the recognition of these similarities leads to the realization that the stories traveled by way of the slave trade routes. With some having slave ancestors, my students really enjoy discussing the tradition of oral tales and the passing on of stories to preserve culture.

The trickster lends himself so well to the research project because he is everywhere in a rich literature. After students have a foundation of knowledge about the trickster and background on his stories they will be able to find him featured in literature as well as in subtle references. It is an exciting time for a teacher when the students start making the leaps without help. In her book on myth in American culture, Jeanne Campbell Reesman states: "writers in many traditions have made trickster an elusive but ever-present character in American literature." She also states that the trickster challenges "us to read across historical, cultural, and disciplinary divisions." 5

As half of the senior English class consists of British literature, finding the trickster in Shakespeare and Chaucer becomes a fun challenge for the students. The trickster pops up in several of William Shakespeare's plays, including but not limited to, A Midsummer's Night Dream, As You Like It, A Comedy of Errors, Love's Labor's Lost, and The Taming of Shrew6 . The Trickster makes an appearance in several of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales such as "The Nun's Priest's Tale", "The Miller's Tale", "The Merchant's Tale", "The Pardoner's Tale", and "The Reeve's Tale" among others. "The Pardoner's Tale" and "The Reeve's Tale" are two excellent examples of the trickster getting tricked. My students love to see that death is the one tricking the three drunken rioters in "The Pardoner's Tale".

As we weave our way through World Literature, the trickster shows up in ancient Greek and Roman literature in the form of Hermes/Mercury. As we move forward in time we begin to study areas culturally and find a plethora of folk tales involving him as Iktomi and Coyote in the southwestern United States, Raven in the northwestern U.S., Monkey-King in Asia 7 , Anansi in western Africa, and Legba in the Caribbean 8 . If we have time we will culminate our study with a film depicting a modern confidence man, as in Matchstick Men.

In order for the research paper to address relevant standards, the structure will be the same for each student. The first part of the paper will address the trickster and trickster tale in general. This will allow for cooperative learning, as well as ease in using research facilities. Because Washington has a very weak media center, I inevitably spend two or three weekends at the downtown Atlanta Public Library helping students do their research. When several students can share the research materials, I find they stay at the library longer and find the assignment less isolating.

Main Objective

Students will research and compose an original research project which will prepare them for freshman level English at a four year university.

For Research Project

Students will compose an original literature-based research paper utilizing the Modern Language Association citation format. Students will evaluate media to distinguish between scholarly or other appropriate sources and unsubstantiated opinion. Students will complete a thesis, introduction, bibliography cards, note cards, outline, and a rough draft.

Students will read a novel of their choice and identify trickster characters, identifying possible reasons for why the author chose this character. Students will compose a series of letters to the instructor concerning what they have read and how they feel about what they have read. Students will compare and contrast the trickster character of their piece of literature with the tricksters we study as a class. Students will research the background of the trickster and the culture(s) from which he comes; they will then make connections with the piece of literature they have read.

Students will present findings to the class utilizing all public speaking conventions. Students will create visual aides consisting of maps and artifacts of their chosen culture.

For Supplemental Activities

Students will compose an original script for a trickster tale in the form of a puppet show. Students will create puppets utilizing various materials. Students will perform an original play incorporating the conventions of trickster stories.

I plan to introduce the trickster unit to the students by sharing with them various trickster tales from around the globe. These stories will include Knutson's Love and Roast Chicken , Kimmel's Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock , MacDonald's Please, Malese!, and McDermott's Raven, Papagayo and Jabuti stories.

In the following days, a list of 40-50 books, plays, poems, and short stories will be available for the students to study, and by the end of the week they will have chosen their piece of literature. While we are examining the Ashanti culture and going through the research paper process, students will be reading and taking notes on their literary pieces. They will be identifying trickster characters in the pieces and doing research on the author. Earlier in the year we will have reviewed the conventional elements of literature, so students will know what to look for.

Over the next couple of weeks we will read a different Anansi trickster tale each day and take notes about the relevant history, conventions, variations, and character motives involved. Also, we'll complete a brief cultural study of the Ashanti tribe in Western Africa. Basically, as a class we will complete the first part of the research paper together. Thanks to inclusion, the skill levels in an average senior English class may range from 3rd grade reading level to college level. This makes teaching a research paper a very difficult thing. Also, since it is not necessary to pass the previous year's English class before being promoted to senior English, many students have never acquired even the basic, fundamental research skills needed to complete a complex 8-9 page paper.

Owing to the very wide range of skill levels in each of my classes, some students will regurgitate what we discuss in class in their paper. Most of these students don't end up going to a four year university, so I don't feel that I'm robbing them of anything if they do nothing more sophisticated. At least they have gone through the motions of writing a research paper for any future schooling they may choose. I am usually fully aware of which of my students are headed to college because of information about them in surveys, prior writing assignments and many letters of recommendation. While I don't feel I can fairly require these students to research a different culture than that which we study in class, I will strongly encourage them to explore a different culture. As certain aspects of the rubric will be subjective, the student's willingness to rise to the challenge will be factored in.

Also, during this period students will be reading their choice of literature from my reading list. In order to monitor students' reading progress, we will exchange a series of letters—probably five or six—over three weeks' time. In each one to two page letter, students will tell me about major plot events and the characters to which they have been introduced. They will predict where they think the plot will go, and, if some sort of intrigue has arisen, they will determine character motives, including who the possible tricksters are and what role they will play. When we have done similar assignments in the past, the students have enjoyed rereading their letters after they have finished the books and seeing what assumptions were correct or off base and which predictions came to pass.

Three Saturdays during this period of time will be spent at the Auburn Avenue library of African American studies in downtown Atlanta. Acquiring a library card is a homework assignment the first week of school, so all children will have access to this fantastic resource. I will spend each Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. helping the students with the actual digging for research materials. In a perfect world the students could look up the books they need online prior to our Saturdays; however, internet is limited in my room and with temperamental computers it is easier to go through the research process at the actual library. I fax a copy of the assignment sheet and rubric to the librarian ahead of time so that students who work there on Saturdays get quality help. I help them locate the proper books needed, we sit at a large reserved table, and I help them write out bibliography citations and note cards. Since several students will not study African tricksters or pieces of literature, we will split our time between Auburn and the main downtown library, which also has an extensive reference collection.

While all of this research is going on outside of class we will be preparing the thesis statement, bibliography cards, note cards, and outlines in class. Students will also be reviewing all punctuation rules and sentence structure rules. We will have a mini-lesson on commonly confused words and a fun spell check lesson similar to the one passed around through email.

The Thesis Statement

As a class, we will read the first page of several sample research papers from all subjects and writing levels, and the students will identify the thesis statements. Up until now our students have been writing 5-8-8-8-5 essays and their thesis statements have been something like: If I went to Mars and could only bring one item with me it would be my computer so I could listen to music, play on the internet, and email all of my friends. While this passes as a thesis statement for a short, but not very good, essay, it lacks style. Style and voice are what we will work on over the next few days. Students will learn that in a research paper the thesis statement may take up several sentences. Parallel structure rules will be reinforced in this lesson. We will look at several research papers, written in various ways, that still convey relevant information.

Bibliography Cards

Bibliography cards are one of the most important lessons we learn in preparing to write. Students learn that if they complete their bibliography/note cards in the proper format and number them appropriately, their works cited page will write itself and it will be very difficult to unintentionally plagiarize. Our bibliography cards are arranged as follows: upper right corner, number in numerical order starting with the first source you find; bottom left corner, location of the source, e.g., Washington Park Library; bottom right corner, call number; and middle body, an MLA citation of the book, article or website. This is the time when we focus on appropriate sources. The students and I usually surf the internet looking for sites on aliens. We evaluate the sites on how realistic they seem and then search to find out who put them on the web. When the students see that Joe Blow from Podunk touts his site as the definitive work on alien life on this planet, they get the point. We look at the suffixes of web addresses and what they mean by looking up whitehouse.gov and whitehouse.com. That also drives home the point of misinformation on the web as well as distinguishing between an article and an advertisement. I am with them for the trips to the library, so evaluating books and articles takes place on a one on one basis. Students will be required to turn in twenty bibliography cards.

It is very important that the lesson on note cards immediately follow that on bibliography cards; otherwise students run the risk of misnumbering the cards. Each note card should be filled out as follows: upper right corner, the note card number—this should correspond with the number on the upper right of the bibliography card source in which you took the note; upper left corner, a brief summary of contents of card, e.g., "trickster as cultural hero"; bottom right, page number from which note was taken; and middle body, an appropriately punctuated note or paraphrase. It is vital that students understand the logic behind numbering both sets of cards. They sometimes find it difficult to grasp that they may have ten note cards with the number 12. This system of numbering makes the works cited page easy to do. Students will be required to turn in fifty note cards.

The Outline

After completing their statement of controlling purpose, the students will use their note cards to assemble their outlines. We move desks out of the way and the students spread out on the floor, and occasionally the hall, and then "deal" their note cards. Students group their cards in the order assigned in the assignment sheet (parts one, two and three) and then in the subdivisions that make sense to them. We have previously studied the outline format of Roman numerals, letters and numbers; students are now just "writing" the outline on the floor with their note cards. Outlines become a lot easier when the students can move around their ideas in space. Revisions become painless because nothing has to be rewritten; they simply move the card to a new place. Also, seeing their cards laid out next to each other helps the students to evaluate which cards have valuable information and which contain filler. They are only required to use 15 of their cards in the actual paper, and the outline process is usually the point at which they make their decisions on which to use. Once they have found a series of ideas that makes sense to them (and me, since I am making the rounds), students transfer the ideas to a sheet of paper under the proper numeral or letter. If we have time, I will make loose Roman numerals, numbers, and lower case letters that they can manipulate along with their cards.

The Research Project

The students will then begin on their research paper, following their outlines. The questions they need to answer in their paper are already answered in their properly ordered note cards. This will largely be completed outside of school. The paper will consist of three main parts: the trickster background, the specific cultural background of the trickster, and the literary analysis of a piece of literature featuring a trickster. All of this information is given to the students in the intial assignment sheet; therefore, they know what to research. In the first section, after the introduction, students will look at the character of the trickster in general. Each student will answer fundamental questions such as:

What is a trickster? What makes a trickster tale?

How is the trickster a culture hero? What did he "do" for humanity? How can a trickster tale act as a creation myth?

What are the trickster's various motivations for his actions?

How do trickster tales vary by culture? What similarities do they share? How did these similarities come to exist?

Describe the evolution of the trickster. Where can he be found today? What forms of media are used to share his stories?

The second part of the paper will be the breakdown of one particular culture's trickster mythology and folklore. The students will be free to choose a culture that interests them. "Culture" will remain a loose term, so it can be adapted for students of various levels. A less adept student may find it easier to write broadly on one Asian trickster while another may find it easier to focus on the Ashanti or Tsimshian.

Who is the trickster or tricksters? Is he a deity, animal, human?

Is he based on a real animal or person?

Describe this culture. How are his stories passed on? How old are they?

Is he original to this culture or was he brought from another?

These are just a few of the questions students will be able to answer. This portion of the paper should cover two to three pages.

The third portion of the paper will include a two to three page literary analysis of a character from the student's selected work. The student will identify the trickster in a piece of literature and will address possible motives for his/her actions, the relevance of these actions in relation to the plot, possible reasons the author chose to use a trickster, and similarities in plotlines or actions of characters to the myths we've read in class. The trickster found in our classroom literature does not (and probably won't) match up with the student's studied culture. This last part of the paper serves as preparation for college literary analyses.

Papers will be 8-10 pages in length and only 12 point, Times New Roman will be accepted. Students will include a cover page and a copy of their rubric in the back. Neatness will be a rubric dimension, so papers should be in a transparent presentation folder.

Students are informed of the paper due date on their syllabus. There is also a countdown calendar on the wall so they are always kept abreast of how many months, weeks, or days are left. The students sign a contract when the project is first introduced informing them (it is also on their syllabus) of the 10% weight towards their final grade and the fact that their papers will, under no circumstances, be accepted late. Papers will not be accepted after 11:59 p.m. on the due date. A hard copy is due to me on the due date unless the student is absent, in which case they must send it electronically before 11:59 p.m. He or she may then bring the hard copy the following school day. Absence from school is not an excuse and only a death in the family, with proof, or a hospitalization, again with proof, will gain the child a reprieve.

These parameters may seem harsh for high school students, but I find stringent deadlines help prepare them for the "real world" where excuses are rarely taken into consideration and you are almost never given a second chance at a job. Atlanta's population of students has been living in a culture of entitlement, and that stops when they get to my class. Before I required them to sign contracts, I would receive over half of the papers late. I would take off ten points per day that the paper was late. When the highest score is usually a high B and most average in the C or D range, the median score would then be in the 50s. That did not work. This is what works for me.


After completing the papers, students will present their masterpieces to the rest of the class. If it is available, we will use the teaching theatre. Students will place key points on note cards (to avoid merely reading their papers aloud) and present to their classmates. After the formality of the paper, the presentations will be less rigid. Presentations will be ten to twelve minutes in length and all conventions of public speaking will be followed. Students will be required to have two visual aides. The first will be either a found or homemade artifact from the culture they studied. The second will be a poster board containing a map of the country or region studied, a representation of the studied trickster and a biography of the author of the literary piece critiqued. All key points of the papers will be touched upon. All domains of Bloom's Taxonomy will have been addressed after the presentations, and lessons will really be driven home when students present their research to the others in the class. This activity is designed to help the researcher remember his/her research and serves as an overview of cultures, tricksters, and literary works for the rest of the class.

Supplemental Activities

While the research paper, after the introduction and bibliography card/note card/outline process, is an outside assignment, various tie-ins can keep the students interested and focused in the classroom. I will continue to share children's books that feature a trickster. Also, they have so much fun with the puppet shows that it is an activity I am loathe to skip. To share their found stories with the rest of class, groups will perform the stories using paper bag characters. The puppet show is a great decompression activity after the length and weight of the research paper. The paper counts as 10% of their final grade and really stresses the students out. A few days of scripting, making puppets, and rehearsing the tales keep the students engaged in their cultural study but relaxes them. The two days we spend watching the plays are a pure joy.

Classroom Activities

The introductory book share day.

Materials needed: Books listed in Student Bibliography and any others that are relevant.

Objective: Students will identify various tricksters in various cultures by reading a selection of short stories and sharing the tales with their classmates.

Students will be introduced to various trickster tales by reading a selection of stories. These stories will include Knutson's Love and Roast Chicken , Kimmel's Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock , MacDonald's Please, Malese!, and McDermott's Raven, Papagayo and Jabuti stories.

Students will be seated in three or four desk "islands" and a few books will be on each "island". Students will, as a small group, read the stories together and then share with the rest of the class. After reading and sharing these introductory stories, each group will note key characters and plot points. They will identify whether or not the trickster succeeded in his ploy, his motives for the ploy, and the methods he used to trick his victim. We will then discuss, as a group, the similarities and differences between the stories and characters.

A Sample Library Session

Materials: A library, blank note cards.

Objective: Students will utilize a library to research their various cultures and to do a literary search on their chosen piece of literature.

My classes do their library research on Saturdays, so preparation may be different if you have a school library to use. Students are polled before the weekend to find out who can come which Saturday and a rudimentary schedule is made. Prior to arriving, students know to bring all supplies with them (so I don't have to); we also go over appropriate library behavior, including the librarian's role in their research. I send the reference librarian a copy of the assignment sheet and book lists when we begin the paper so she can help students who can't make it on a weekend. I try not to have more than ten kids with me at one time; otherwise very little individual attention is possible.

Typically I will pull books like the CLC literary criticism encyclopedias for recent years so I can show a whole group how to find their author in the index and write down the volumes they'll need before going into the stacks. Once students have found the books they need we shuttle back and forth in twos to the stacks. Most students have never done literary criticism before and the reference section is unfamiliar to them. Showing them how to use the reference section, how to find the needed books, and how to find the information within multi-volume works takes up the majority of my time.

To help students do a search for their cultures and tricksters we use the librarian to help us search the library holdings. The students are used to this type of research and don't need the same kind of individual instruction as with literary research. I break the kids up into groups of two and we do the appropriate searches with the librarian's assistance. Then I take the kids to the stacks to retrieve the books while the librarian helps another group do their search. The librarian is an invaluable resource and she appreciates that I inform her of the project before showing up with a group of ten kids. Prior to my weekend trips, Atlanta Public Schools brought the entire senior class to the library at once. Needless to say, no one got much work done when 300 students were vying for the same resources and instruction.

After we have retrieved books I work with everyone at the tables on completing their note cards and bibliography cards. The students have learned how to do these in class but don't always remember when faced with several books spread in front of them. Students are encouraged to work together and to share their resources. Since a good portion of the paper will contain common research, the students who work together can knock out this portion of the research in one sitting.

Galileo and other online references are available to the kids through our media center's website, so we learn how to search those in the classroom. Students are discouraged from doing their internet research during library time, as it can be done at school. They know they should take full advantage of their library time, especially when they learn they cannot check out reference materials.

These weekend library sessions have worked very well for me. They give an opportunity for me to get to know the kids outside of school and for them to see me in a relaxed setting, and this eases some of the stress of the research paper. It also gives the students a "real life" sample of college life, as they are doing exactly what they will have to do for a college research paper (minus the teacher). It is kind of a training program for study outside the classroom. This year I may skip one Saturday and instead have a weeknight session to accommodate weekend workers. I have found that the students who spend the time with me in the library do not plagiarize, write better papers, and have greater understanding than those who do not come.

An Original Trickster Play

Materials: Paper lunch sacks, various decorative notions, glue, scissors, a "stage" (a table with a sheet over it works for us), microphone (a cheap Radio Shack version plugged into a tape player works well)

Objective: Students will demonstrate comprehension of themes in trickster literature and conventions in this type of mythology by composing and performing an original trickster play.

This activity takes about a week and is the perfect ending for the unit; as I teach seniors, I make it the final project of the year as it holds their attention during "senioritis". On day one students are placed in groups according to the region they studied in their research paper. Each group should have three to five members. Students are asked to write a twelve to fifteen minute play that contains some of the conventions from the tales we've read. Each play should contain one clear trickster, with his/her scheme to trick someone, who then either gets away with it or is tricked in the process. Students should spend two to three days writing and practicing their plays. To save the kids' time, I run off a finished script for each member of the group. After the scripts are completed, students will make puppets of their characters out of paper lunch sacks (socks, paint stirring sticks, and milk cartons also work well). The performances will take a day or two, depending on class size. A long table is covered with a sheet so several students can sit behind it and act out their play. I use a microphone set up on the floor under the table to amplify voices. We make a big production out of the performances. I provide popcorn and film the plays. When it is timed so that this is the last assignment before finals, the kids really go all out. It ends the semester on a high note.

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How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.

Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.

This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.

Table of contents

Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.

Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:

  • Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
  • Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
  • Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.

Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words, and awkward phrasing.

research paper assignment instructions high school

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There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.

You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.

You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.

Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:

  • A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
  • A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.

Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.

Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.

  • Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
  • Are there any heated debates you can address?
  • Do you have a unique take on your topic?
  • Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?

In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”

A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.

The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.

You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.

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research paper assignment instructions high school

A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.

A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.

Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:

  • Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
  • Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
  • Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.

You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.

Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.

Paragraph structure

Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.

Example paragraph

George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.

Citing sources

It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.

You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.

What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.

Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?

How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.

The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.

One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:

  • topic sentences against the thesis statement;
  • topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
  • and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.

Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.

The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.

Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.

You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.

You should not :

  • Offer new arguments or essential information
  • Take up any more space than necessary
  • Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)

There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.

  • Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
  • Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
  • Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
  • If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.

The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible.

Global concerns

  • Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
  • Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
  • Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.

Fine-grained details

Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:

  • each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
  • no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
  • all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.

Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .

Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading  or create an APA title page .

Scribbr’s professional editors can help with the revision process with our award-winning proofreading services.

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Checklist: Research paper

I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.

My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.

My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .

My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .

Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.

I have used appropriate transitions  to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.

My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.

My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.

My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.

I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.

I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .

I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).

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How to Write a High School Research Paper in 6 Easy Steps

What is a research paper? It is a piece of writing where its author conducts a study on a certain topic, interprets new facts, based on experiments, or new opinions, based on comparing existing scientific concepts, and makes important conclusions or proves a thesis.

Your writing assignments, such as essays, are very important for your future career. Excellent mastering the language is very important for you if you decide to enter a university or a college. It shows that you read a lot of books and your cultural level is high.

For an excellent paper writing you need to operate facts and concepts, know the subject well enough to see what has not been studied yet, what new sides of the scientific question have to be highlighted. So, the first important condition for writing a remarkable research paper is to have enough knowledge on the topic.

A well-written research paper should be properly structured. The process of writing can be subdivided into six steps:

  • Conducting preliminary research and choosing a topic;
  • Writing a thesis;
  • Writing an outline;
  • Writing the introduction, the body, the conclusion;
  • Creating a reference page;
  • Editing and proofreading the paper.

The length of the paper may be different. You should keep focused on the essence of your arguments. Your style of writing depends on the topic, but you should remember that it is an academic paper and it requires to be specially formatted. Sounds difficult? Not at all! In this article, we’ll teach you how to write an A+ paper the easy way. Each of the steps will be explained in detail so that you could start your work and write your paper with enthusiasm even if you are not a born prolific writer. After all, it is the result that matters. But if you understand your purpose and have a perfect plan of action, top-notch quality is guaranteed! In this article, you will find tips on how to write a research paper in an easy way.

Preparatory Stage – Understand Your Assignment and Research Your Topic

They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It may be true for writing a research paper as well. It may be difficult to start writing a research paper in high school. The first thing you will have to do is to read and understand your assignment. That may be a real problem if you don’t understand it. Anyway, you should know the length of the paper, what types of sources are allowed to be used when you will have to hand in your paper, how will you have to format the paper.

Sometimes a topic for your paper is provided and sometimes you have to choose a topic yourself. Your topic should be interesting for you and the reader. You will have to spend a lot of time researching, looking through different sources in the library, browsing through websites to find good research paper topics. That is why your enthusiasm matters. The paper should answer a certain question, it should point out new information in the given scientific area.

If you choose a topic yourself, you have to find out if there is enough material on the topic. There have to be a lot of different sources to write a research topic, pay attention to trusted sources (books, cited articles, scientific journals). You should have enough information to study the topic from different angles. If there is not enough information you might want to choose a different topic. Choosing an interesting paper topic with a lot of resources is vital for your success. You can use brainstorming to choose a better topic. The more interesting the topic is for you the more interesting the results you may attain. Maybe, you will make a discovery, and we wish you success!

Write Your Research Paper

#1. define your thesis statement.

To write a thesis statement is very important for your high school research paper. It may consist of one or two sentences and express the main idea of the paper or essay, defining your point on the topic. It briefly tells the reader what the paper is about. The thesis statement outlines the contents of the paper you create and conveys important and significant results of your study, it explains why your research paper is valuable and worth reading. A good research paper should always contain a strong and clear thesis statement. Explain your point of view and what position you will support and why. Your thesis will serve as a transition to the body of your paper.

#2. Construct Your Outline

After browsing through resources you find out how much information on the topic is available. Now you can start constructing your outline. The outline is not always required, though. But sometimes your paper structure overview is needed to point out the most important aspects of your writing assignment. An outline is your plan for the research paper and it can be a short one (up to 5 sentences) or a detailed one.

Writing an outline can seem difficult, but if you have enough information, it will be easy to sort your ideas and facts for writing your research papers. It will be helpful if you write an outline for your research paper. It might be helpful for your essay writing.

#3. Write the Body Paragraphs

The body is the central and the longest part of your research paper being of the most important informational value. It may include new arguments supported by experimental facts. You write about new concepts and support them with your practical results. Or it this part you analyze the resources, compare the opinions of different authors and make your conclusions.

Writing your research paper you should pay attention to more credible sources, for example, more cited articles. Scientific journals are a good source of such trusted resources. When you write the body, try to use newer and trusted contemporary materials that will contain more recent scientific data and results of contemporary research. More cited sources are more preferable, because that means they have more value in this field of research and they are more trusted and credible. In the body, the main concepts of your research paper are explained. You express your point of view on the subject and give a detailed and logically proved explanation to that.

As the body is the longest and the most informative part of your work, it will helpful to divide it into body paragraphs. Each paragraph should express a certain idea. The use of headings and subheadings to logically structure this part is a good idea. Each paragraph should express and develop a new idea.

#4. Create Your Introduction and Conclusion

The introduction is the first part of your high school research paper. When you write this part, consider using a compelling first sentence that will grab the reader’s attention. Even if it is research it doesn’t matter what your writing should be dull. You should explain the purpose of your research paper and what scientific methods you used to obtain the desired result. Analysis of existing scientific concepts and comparing facts and opinions don’t require conducting any experiments. Some topics require an experimental part, though. Briefly outline what methods you used. The introductory part may be concluded with a thesis statement, though it is not obligatory in all research papers.

You may start your introductory part writing about the main idea of your paper so that the reader can make ahead or tail of it. Then you should persuasively prove that your idea is scientifically important, that it is new and why the reader should go on reading your paper. A valuable and clear message should be conveyed in the introduction, to stimulate the reader to read further.

The conclusion is the final part of your research paper. How do you write it? It is one of the most important parts of your scientific paper. It contains an overview of the whole paper and also some suppositions about the future of the scientific question.

Some students writing a research paper underestimate the meaning of the conclusion but it should not be the case. A good beginning makes a good ending, as they say. A poorly written conclusion may spoil the impression of the reader even from a very well written research paper, while an impressive one may stimulate further research of the subject.

You should very well understand the purpose of the final part of your research paper. Understanding the purpose of your paper is significant because it summarizes all the research you have conducted, it underlines and points out the results of your study. You may not be a scientist yet, but you already try to think over some of the scientific questions. Your conclusion shows the input you’ve made into the contemporary state of the scientific problem and indicates possible directions for further research. A powerfully written conclusion is significant for your academic paper, if it produces a favorable effect on your teacher, you will get a high grade. Don’t forget that it is one of the most important parts of the paper and it should be nicely written.

#5. Cite Your Sources Properly

To give credit to the author when you cite a scientific source in your paper is a must. If you don’t want your academic writing to be considered plagiarized you should always cite the scientific sources you used in your research (books, articles, scientific journals and websites).

Citing the sources doesn’t only give due credit to the authors of the research sources used, it helps your readers to find these sources and later conduct their research.

When you write your research paper, you should remember that you will have to use academic formatting when you cite your scientific sources. There are various citation formats, the APA Style being one of the most widespread.

How to cite a scientific source using the APA Style?

Example: Smith, K., & Browd J., (1989, May 19) The Influence of the Dry Matter on Dairy Cattle, Journal of Diary Science 117, 122-127.

If you need to cite a source in the reference list, write the following:

  • The last name and the initial of the author;
  • The year of publication;
  • The title of the article or book;
  • Additional information (where you got the source from).

If you need to use an in-text citation in the APA Style, you should mention the last names of the authors and the year when their work was published. If you use a direct quotation, the number of the page should be used.

Example: (Smith & Browd, 2014, p. 27)

If you are going to cite main Roman or Greek classical works, in APA it is recommended to use only in-text citations for such sources, where you mention the name of the author and the year of translation.

Example: (Aristotle, 1945)

#6. Proofread and Make the Final Corrections

Your paper should be error-free, original and authentic. What does it take to edit and proofread your paper? You can do it yourself, but there are writing services that offer editing and proofreading at an affordable price. Editing is the first step. You should read your paper several times paying attention to the content. Your paper should be relevant to the topic, it is very important. The structure of an academic paper is usually standard and you have to pay attention to every part.

The introduction briefly outlines the research process, explaining to the reader why your paper is important and why he should read it. Your thesis statement contained in this part is of special importance. In the body, which is the central and the most voluminous part, you give detailed information on the research you conducted, main concepts, prove your arguments by facts or results of your experiments and express what point of view you support and why. In the final part, you draw logical conclusions. Your reference page (bibliography) where you list the sources mentioned should be correctly formatted using one of the standard styles, such as the APA Style. Upon the whole, pay attention to the logical structure of your research paper, the language and how precisely you express your thoughts.

After editing read the paper one more time and make sure everything is correct. Now you should proofread your paper. Read it attentively several times, paying attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, the structure of sentences and the style. Make sure your academic paper is error-free because errors distract the attention of the reader from the contents. Also, completing any writing assignment remember that your writing is of great importance for your future career. You cannot get a good job if your writing is incorrect or if you cannot express your thoughts correctly. So, make sure your paper is brilliantly written and error-free. Good luck and get the highest grade!

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Essay Assignments That Actually Engage High School Writers

Cookie-cutter essays may reflect students’ attitude toward the assignment, not their writing ability. Here’s a way to make that stack of grading more rewarding.

Teenage girl sitting on floor at home doing homework with laptop and books

Have you ever been three papers into reading a stack of essays and realized that they were all pretty much the same? Years ago, after reading the 100th cookie-cutter essay on characterization in Of Mice and Men , I realized that the agonizingly boring essays were not really my students’ fault—they were the predictable result of the assignment that I had given them. Ever since then, I’ve striven to prepare students to produce writing that I truly enjoy reading. It took me some time and experimentation, but here are the keys I’ve discovered to getting students engaged and creating writing that is a joy to read.

Connecting Readings to Students’ Lives

After 25 years of teaching, I’m still having epiphanies about how to engage students. One such realization is that if I want students to dig into anything I’m teaching in my classroom, I must find a way to help them connect it to something else they already know or care about.

It was my husband, Joe, a history instructor at a local community college, who helped me realize this with an assignment he gives, aptly named the Connections Paper. He gives students a handful of documents, both primary and secondary, and asks them to discuss how the documents relate to each other, how the documents help them make sense of the past, and how the documents help them make sense of the present.

This deceptively simple task prompts students to connect seemingly distant events to their own world and gives these events richer dimension and meaning. I became determined to replicate this connection with my students in my high school English classes.

Providing Real-Life Models and Choices

In Writing With Mentors , Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O’Dell detail how to use “the work of real writers and the real reading you do every day” to support student writing. One of the projects that excites my students the most is our podcast unit , and one reason it works so well is that students use writing produced for real audiences—not just their teacher—to guide their own writing about a topic of their choice.

The mentor text method consists of students breaking down the structure and techniques used by the writer in a particular piece of writing, and employing some of what they find to create their own original pieces. Although we use podcast scripts in this particular assignment, this method has possibilities limited only by the mentor texts you can find. From résumés to lab reports to poetry to video game reviews, students can learn to write anything, and the fact that they are using writing produced by people outside of classrooms is incredibly engaging for them—and for teachers as well.

Another reason mentor texts are so engaging and effective is that they provide students with choices in how they will develop their writing—they can choose which of the writer’s moves to use in their own writing. After sharing and analyzing some carefully selected podcasts with my students, I encourage them to bring in ones that tie into subjects that they are particularly interested in. They not only learn more techniques for creating their podcast but also see the diversity of topics and formats that current podcasters use.

Finding Different Approaches to the Research Paper

There are many other ways to build choice into writing, and I use some of them in my Education Synthesis paper with my American Literature students. We begin with an essential question: What is the purpose of education, and how well is the U.S. fulfilling that purpose? Students read several pieces of writing that touch on that topic and take notes on anything they notice that answers the question.

Some of the texts I’ve used in the past include essays, short stories, poetry, videos, comics, and articles:

  • “School Is Hell” cartoons by Matt Groenig
  • “Superman and Me,” an essay by Sherman Alexie
  • “Changing Educational Paradigms,” a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson
  • “The Bees,” a poem by Audre Lorde
  • “Learning Like a Jungle Tiger,” a video by Trevor Ragan
  • “Shoulders,” a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye
  • “On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance,” a poem by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
  • “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” an essay by David Sedaris
  • “A Talk to Teachers,” a speech by James Baldwin
  • “James Baldwin’s Lesson for Teachers in a Time of Turmoil,” an article by Clint Smith

After reading the texts I provide with the essential question in mind, students begin to formulate an answer, which will become the claim in their argumentative essay. They then branch out on their own, seeking more research to support their argument, and occasionally adjusting their claim as they discover more evidence.

The instructions for the final paper are simple. It must include:

  • a thesis in the introduction that answers the essential question: What is wrong with our educational system, and what changes can we make to improve it?,
  • evidence in the body paragraphs to support their claim from multiple sources, including the ones we read as a class and ones they found on their own, and
  • students’ own commentary explaining how the evidence supports their argumentative claim.

The resulting papers are refreshingly full of students’ own ideas and reasoning and free of the stilted repetition of facts, summaries, and half-page quotes that I used to dread when collecting essays. When given the opportunity to make real-life connections and choose what they will write about, my students astound me with their engagement in and ownership of the writing process, and reading their work is now a whole lot more rewarding.

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The Complete Guide To Publishing Your Research In High School

Publishing academic research is becoming a common way for the top high school students to distinguish themselves in the admission process. Yet, for many students what publication is and how to approach it is unclear and confusing. This guide’s goal is to provide a starter for any students interested in research and publication. It comes from the result of working with 500+ students as part of the Lumiere Research Scholar Program.

What does it mean to “Publish Your Research?” What does publication even mean? In short, publishing your research means that you have gone through a rigorous, peer-reviewed process that has analyzed, critiqued, and ultimately accepted your research as legitimate. Scientific publications are gatekeepers to the broader world. If a research piece is not published by a journal, it means that it has not yet passed a rigorous, external analysis of the research.

Publications use a process called the “peer review” which means that fellow researchers in the same field will analyze the paper and its contribution and give feedback to the authors. This process is often double-blind, meaning that the reviewer does not know who the author is and the author does not know who the researcher is.

Is it possible for a high school student to publish their research? The short answer is yes. The longer answer, detailed below, is that there are many different types of journals that have different selectivity rates and bars for rigor. Just like universities, some publications are extremely competitive and provide a very strong external signal for the author. Some journals are less competitive and so provide a less powerful signal. For high school students, there is an emerging group of journals focused on high school or college-level research. These journals understand the limitations of high school students and their ability to do research, and so they are often more feasible (though still difficult) for students to get into. We’ll explore some types of those journals below.

Why publish your research in high school But, why even go to the trouble of publishing? Does it really matter? The short answer again is that it does matter. Publication in a top journal, like the Concord Review , can provide a valuable signal to a college admission officer about your work.

One thing to consider is who is an admission officer (for US universities). These people are usually generalists, meaning they have a broad background, but do not have researcher-level depth in many fields. That means it’s difficult for them to distinguish good research from bad research. What is rigorous and what is just put on an application?

This means that admissions officers search for signals when evaluating research or passion projects. Was the project selected into a selective journal? Did it go through a peer-review process by respected researchers? Was it guided by a researcher who the admission officer would believe? Did the research mentor guide speak positively about the student? All of these are positive signals. The publication is thus not the only way to signal ability, but it is one of the most important for young researchers.

What type of research can get published?

Most types of research can be published. But, the more original research that you can do, the broader the options you have. In other words, if you write a literature review, then your writing and synthesis must be very strong for it to be eligible for most publications. If you do some form of data collection or new data analysis, then the bar for rigor in student publications is usually a little bit lower as the difficulty to do this type of data collection or analysis is higher.

Types of Publication Targets

At Lumiere, we think of publications like students think of universities. There are research journals (most selective), target journals, and safety journals. In short, journals range in their selectivity and rigor. The more selective the journal, the better a signal it gives.

Highly Selective High School & College Publications

The first type of journals that students should think about are highly selective high school & college-level publications. These journals include the Concord Review or the Columbia Junior Science Journal . For example, one Lumiere student’s research was recently admitted to the Cornell Undergraduate Economic Review, a rigorous college-level journal for university-level economic papers. This student was the first high school student to ever be published in the journal, a clear signal.

These journals include both a review process and a limited number of spots in the journal. The Concord Review, for example, accepts about 45 student research papers each year of an estimated 900 submissions. The Columbia Junior Science Journal, similarly, publishes between 10-20 papers each year. Most of these journals will require original research or data collection of some sort.

research paper assignment instructions high school

Rigorous, Peer Reviewed High School Publications

The next level of journals are rigorous, peer-reviewed publications. These journals, such as the Journal of Emerging Investigators or the Journal of Student Research , have a peer-review process. These journals have requirements on the type of papers that are accepted (e.g., some will accept new data analyses, some will accept literature reviews). These journals do not have a certain number of slots predefined, but they do have a bar for what type of research they will accept. For these journals, students will submit their paper and the journal will assign (or ask you to identify) a potential set of reviewers for the paper. These reviewers will be researchers in the field, who hold a PhD. The reviewers will then give back comments. The Journal of Emerging Investigators stands out here among these journals as being one of the most rigorous and providing the most in-depth, critical feedback to students.

Pay to Play Research Journals (AVOID THESE) Finally, there are some journals that are essentially “Pay-to-play” meaning that they will accept any paper as long as a fee is paid. These journals are not only not academically ethical, they can actually be a bad signal in the admission process. For example, I spoke with a former Harvard Admission Officer, Sally Champagne , about her experience with publications. During the late 2000s, there was a high spike in students from Russia submitting “publications” that all linked back to a few fraudulent journals.

You can spot a fraudulent journal if there is a high fee for submitting the paper (some journals will charge a nominal fee to recoup their costs. That is OK, especially if they have a financial aid waiver). If any paper you submit is accepted without any revisions or feedback, then this is also a sign that the publication is not rigorous.

PhD Level Publications in A Field Finally, there are publications that PhD researchers or professors target with their research. These journals are highly selective and can take years of back and forth in order for a paper to be admitted. In general, we do not recommend high school students who are working on independent projects to target these journals for their difficulty and time required. The most common way to target these journals is if you act as a research assistant for a researcher on an existing project and you are credited as a supporting author.

Other Publication Options Beyond journals, there are other ways to showcase your research. I highlight some of those below.

Practitioner publications Another way to showcase your work is to target respected practitioner publications. These are places where non-researchers go to learn about developments. For example, one student in Lumiere published a piece in Tech In Asia summarizing his research on Open Innovation and the Ventilator Market (Tech In Asia is the Tech Crunch equivalent in South East Asia). Other practitioner publications include Online Magazines like Forbes or the Financial Times, local newspapers, or online blogs like the Huffington Post can all serve as possible targets. Generally publications in these places requires direct contact with an editorial manager, who can take a call as to whether your work is appropriate or not. To get to these editorial managers, you’ll need to do some online search and send them a pitch email that explains why your work is relevant to their audience. Offering an “exclusive” can be one additional way to make it attractive to the editors.

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Research Conferences Another place to showcase your research is in research conferences. In some fields, like computer science, conferences are actually more common places to publish work than journals. One advantage of research conferences is that they often will accept abstracts of research instead of full-length research articles, making the amount of effort required to get accepted lower. As well, many conferences want more researchers to populate the conference, again making the admission process easier. Example conferences for high school students to look at include the Harvard Science Research Conference or the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting . There are also field specific conferences that you should search for based on your research paper.


Finally, a common way to showcase your research is in the form of a student competition. Science fairs, such as ISEF Regeneron , is one common way for students to showcase their work. But, there are dozens of others, including the Genius Olympiad (Environmental Issues), John Locke Essay Competition , or the STEM Fellowship Competition . Competitions can be one of the highest impact ways to show your work because it’s clear signaling. If you can win a competition with hundreds of entrants, then being able to write about it in your application shows your unique ability. In addition, competitions can often be submitted to parallel with other research publications (check your publications requirements before doing that though!).

The Final Word – Publication Can Be High Impact If you have already written a research paper, then I highly encourage you to think about submitting it to high school or college level publications. The majority of work that you have done is spent on the research paper itself. So, if you can spend an additional 10-20 hours to showcase your research, then it’s highly valuable for you.

FAQ About Publications 1. Do I need to publish my research for it to be impactful? No, but it provides a useful signal. Doing research alone is a rare and impressive way for students to showcase their academic depth. If you can publish that research, it adds a layer of external legitimacy to that research.

2. Can I publish a research that is a literature review?

Yes, though, you’ll have to think of which target journals accept that. For example, the Journal of Student Research and the STEM Fellowship Journal both accept literature reviews, but the Journal of Emerging Investigators does not. In general, the more original research that you do (i.e., data analysis, data collection, etc.) the broader the range of publications you can target. With that said, some fields (e.g. astrophysics) can be particularly difficult to do new data collection as a high school student, so for those fields a rigorous literature review is usually the best choice.

3. Are all publications the same?

No. Publications are like universities. Some are highly respected, selective, and rigorous and others are not. The key is for you to identify a journal that is as selective/respected as possible that you can get into. Watch out for pay-to-play journals, as they can become negative signals for you and your application.

Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.

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50+ High School Research Paper Topics to Ace Your Grades

Research papers are common assignments in high school systems worldwide. It is a scientific term that refers to essays where students share what they’ve learned after thoroughly researching one specific topic. Why do high schools impose them? 

Writing a well-structured and organized research paper is key to teaching students how to make critical connections, express understanding, summarize data, and communicate findings.

Students don’t only have to come up with several high school research paper topics, choose one, and produce a research paper. A good topic will help you connect with the evaluating public, or in this case, your professors and classmates. However, many students struggle with finding the right high school research topics.

This is why we’ve put together this guide on choosing topics for a high school research paper and over 50 topic ideas you can use or get inspired with.

High School Research Paper Topics

How to Choose High School Research Paper Topics

Since you are about to go through over 50 high school research topics, you might get overwhelmed. To avoid it, you need to know how to choose the right research paper topic for you. 

The most important thing to consider is the time needed to complete a paper on a particular topic. Too broad topics will wear you out, and you might fail to meet the deadline. This is why you should always stick to, shall we say, not-too-broad and well-defined topics.

Since you will spend some time researching and writing, you need to consider your motivation too. Choosing a topic that you find interesting will help you fuel your research and paper writing capabilities. If your efforts turn out to be futile and the deadline is dangerously close, you can always look for a research paper for sale to ace your grade.

Most Interesting & Easy Research Topics for High School students

Since there are many research paper ideas for high school students, we didn’t want to just provide you with a list. Your interest is an essential factor when choosing a topic. This is why we’ve put them in 8 categories. Feel free to jump to a category that you find the most engaging. If you don’t have the time, here at StudyClerk, we are standing by to deliver a completely custom research paper to you.

If you are interested in education, you should consider choosing an education research topic for high school students. Below you can find ten topics you can use as inspiration.

  • Should High Schools Impose Mandatory Vaccination On Students?
  • The Benefits Of Charter Schools For The Public Education System
  • Homeschooling Vs. Traditional Schooling: Which One Better Sets Students For Success
  • Should Public Education Continue To Promote Diversity? Why?
  • The Most Beneficial Funding Programs For Students
  • The Effects Of The Rising Price Of College Tuitions On High School Students
  • Discuss The Most Noteworthy Advantages And Disadvantages Of Standardized Testing
  • What Are The Alternatives To Standardized Testing?
  • Does Gap Year Between High School And College Set Students For Success?
  • Identify And Discuss The Major Benefits Of Group Projects For High Schoolers

World history

World history is rich, fun, and engaging. There are numerous attractive topics to choose from. If history is something that has you on your toes, you’ll find the following world history research topics for high school fascinating.

  • The Origin Of The Israel-Palestine Conflict And Possible Resolutions
  • The History Of The USA Occupation Of Iraq
  • Choose A Famous Assassinated World Leader And Discuss What Led To The Assassination
  • Discuss A Historical Invention And How It Changed The Lives Of People Worldwide
  • Has The World’s Leading Countries’ Response To Climate Change Improved Or Declined Over The Last Decade?
  • How The President Of Belarus Manages To Stay In Power For Over 25 Years
  • Which Event In World History Had The Most Impact On Your Country?

Mental Health

Many governments worldwide work on increasing mental health awareness. The following mental health topics for high school research papers will put you in a position to contribute to this very important movement.

  • Discuss The Main Ways Stress Affects The Body
  • Can Daily Exercises Benefit Mental Health? How?
  • Should More Counselors Work In High Schools? Why?
  • Discuss The Major Factors That Contribute To Poor Mental And Physical Well-Being
  • In What Ways Has The Worldwide Pandemic Affected People’s Mental Health?
  • Explore The Relationship Between Social Media And Mental Health Disorders
  • How The Public School System Cares For The Mental Health Of Students
  • What Is The Most Effective Psychotherapy For High Schoolers? 

Science is one of those fields where there is always something new you can research. If you need a science research topic for high school students, feel free to use any of the following.

  • How Can Civilization Save Coral Reefs?
  • What Are Black Holes, And What Is Their Role?
  • Explain Sugar Chemistry That Enables Us To Make Candies
  • What Are The Biggest Successes Of The Epa In The Last Decade?
  • Is There A Way To Reverse Climate Change? How?
  • What Solutions Does Science Offer To Resolve The Drinking Water Crisis In The Future?

Many teenagers find inspiration in music, so why not choose some music high school research paper topics. 

  • In What Way Music Education Benefits High School Students?
  • How Famous Musicians Impact Pop Music
  • Classification Of Music Instruments: Discuss The Sachs-Hornbostel System
  • Did Sound Effect Technology Change The Music Industry? How?
  • How Did Online Streaming Platforms Help Music Evolve?
  • How Does Music Software Emulate Sounds Of Different Instruments?

Healthcare finance research topics

Healthcare and finance go hand in hand. Shining light on some exciting correlations between these two fields can be engaging. Here are some topics that you can consider.

  • How Can Patient Management Systems Save Money In Hospitals?
  • The Pros And Cons Of The Public Healthcare System
  • Should Individuals Or The Government Pay For Healthcare?
  • What Is Obama-Care And How It Benefits Americans?
  • The Most Noteworthy Developments In The History Of Healthcare Financing


Our environment has been a hot topic for quite some time now. There is a lot of research to back up your claims and make logical assumptions. Here are some environmental high school research topics you can choose from. 

  • What Is The Impact Of Offshore Drilling On The Environment?
  • Do We Need Climate Change Legislation? Why?
  • Are Ecotourism And Tropical Fishing Viable Ways To Save And Recuperate Endangered Areas And Animals?
  • The Impact Of Disposable Products On The Environment
  • Discuss The Benefits Of Green Buildings To Our Environment
  • Find And Discuss A Large-Scale Recent Project That Helped Restore Balance In An Area


Many students struggle with having to find good entrepreneurship research paper ideas for high school. This is why we’ve developed a list of topics to inspire your research.

  • What Is Entrepreneurship?
  • Are People Born With An Entrepreneurial Spirit, Or Can You Learn It?
  • Discuss The Major Entrepreneurship Theories
  • Does Entrepreneurship Affect The Growth Of The Economy?
  • Which Character Traits Are Commonly Found In Successful Entrepreneurs?
  • The Pros And Cons Of Having A Traditional Job And Being An Entrepreneur
  • Discuss Entrepreneurship As One Of The Solutions To Unemployment
  • What Is Crowdfunding, And How It’s Related To Entrepreneurship
  • The Most Common Challenges Entrepreneurs Face
  • How Social Media Made A Lot Of Successful Entrepreneurs

Hopefully, you’ll find these high school research paper topics inspirational. The categories are there to help you choose easily. Here at StudyClerk, we know how hard it is to complete all assignments in time and ace all your grades. If you are struggling with writing, feel free to contact us about our writing services , and we’ll help you come on top of your research paper assignment no matter how complex it is.

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  1. How to write better research paper, assignment, and essay in less time

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  1. PDF Sophomore Research Packet

    Because the Research paper is a vital part of your student's semester grade, your student will be given adequate time to research and complete the assignment. Be advised that your student may need to conduct research on his/her own time; please plan accordingly.

  2. How to Write a Research Paper in High School

    What's Covered: How to Pick a Compelling Research Paper Topic How To Format Your Research Paper Tips For Writing A Research Paper Do Research Paper Grades Impact Your College Chances? A research paper can refer to a broad range of expanded essays used to explain your interpretation of a topic.

  3. Full OWL Resources for Grades 7-12 Students and Instructors

    Writing a Research Paper - This section provides detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources. Writing About Fiction - This resource covers major topics relating to writing about fiction.

  4. How to Write a Research Paper as a High School Student

    By Carly Taylor Senior at Stanford University Last updated February 24, 2023 Published August 31, 2022 6 minute read Table of Contents What is a research paper? Choosing your topic Preparing to write Writing your paper Conclusion Citing sources

  5. PDF Teacher Guide

    For homework or as an extra-credit assignment, have students choose five of these topics ... Now suppose your high school principal asks you about the movie. ... Point out that the video says that the teacher is the audience for most research papers stu-dents will write in high school. Explain that their teacher is a member of a general audience.

  6. Scaffolding Methods for Research Paper Writing

    Research Paper Scaffold: This handout guides students in researching and organizing the information they need for writing their research paper.; Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection: Students use Internet search engines and Web analysis checklists to evaluate online resources then write annotations that explain how and why the resources will be valuable to the ...

  7. Resources for Teachers: Creating Writing Assignments

    Research has shown that the more detailed a writing assignment is, the better the student papers are in response to that assignment. Instructors can often help students write more effective papers by giving students written instructions about that assignment.

  8. PDF How to Write a Research Paper Lesson Plan

    Be able to start writing a research paper. Procedure [60 minutes]: Step 1: Begin the lesson plan with an image [3 minutes] Show the third slide of the PowerPoint presentation with a picture of stacked books and an apple on the top of the book that is titled "Education." Begin to discuss the significance of the apple as very powerful fruit.

  9. Teaching Research Papers with High School Students

    1 Teaching research papers with high school students? Teaching students how to write a research paper is an important part of an ELA class. Here are guidelines to make this writing unit a success. Teaching research papers provides ample opportunities for teachers to provide a strong foundation for future work, to encourage literacy.

  10. PDF 6 Simple Steps for Writing a Research Paper

    Step 1: Understand the Assignment and Set a Schedule One of the biggest problems students have when beginning a research paper is that they don't understand the assignment. Make sure that if you have any questions you ask the professor, other students, or come into the Writing Center. Some specific details you should know are:

  11. 8 Steps to an Awesome Research Paper

    Step 1: Choose a topic Encourage your high schooler to choose a topic that's of interest, a subject that your child will not mind spending many hours investigating. If there's a list from which to choose, and your child can't find a general topic that's captivating, work on finding an interesting angle on a topic.

  12. PDF PGHS Research Paper Guidelines

    Providence Grove High School 5555 Mack Lineberry Road Climax, North Carolina 27233 All research papers written at Providence Grove High School must adhere to the guidelines established by the Modern Language Association in the 8th edition of its MLA Handbook. Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook. 8th ed., MLA, 2016. August 2017

  13. Social Issues Research Paper

    Prompt: Research, explore, and examine policy, actions, merits of debate, assumptions, and factual evidence on a social justice, human rights, or environmental justice issue. Write an argumentative research paper that explores the different ways that you as an individual can have an impact on the issue. Objective:

  14. Research Paper Unit Plan for High School

    This unit is structured in the same order that students will use to write the research paper. This way, you can provide instruction and then give students time to complete that portion of the ...

  15. The Big Con: Tricking the High School Student into Writing a Research Paper

    Introduction. Senior English students in Atlanta public schools are required to complete a senior research paper. Booker T. Washington High School has assigned a "career paper," which ends up reading like a fifth grade career report. While very appropriate for a communication skills or business technology class, the career paper is out of place ...

  16. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Research Paper

    Grammarly helps you make the grade Write with Grammarly What is a research paper? A research paper is a type of academic writing that provides an in-depth analysis, evaluation, or interpretation of a single topic, based on empirical evidence.

  17. How to Write a Research Paper

    Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet: Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor. Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.

  18. How to Write a High School Research Paper in 6 Easy Steps

    Writing a thesis; Writing an outline; Writing the introduction, the body, the conclusion; Creating a reference page; Editing and proofreading the paper. The length of the paper may be different. You should keep focused on the essence of your arguments.

  19. Essay Assignments That Actually Engage High School Writers

    Students read several pieces of writing that touch on that topic and take notes on anything they notice that answers the question. Some of the texts I've used in the past include essays, short stories, poetry, videos, comics, and articles: "School Is Hell" cartoons by Matt Groenig. "Superman and Me," an essay by Sherman Alexie.

  20. High School Research Papers Teaching Resources

    This packet contains tips, information, and student pages to guide high school students in completing a larger research essay. This packet provides a step-by-step guide, information on plagiarism and citation, and pages for taking notes and making outlines. NOTE: This is very similar to the High School American Literature Research Paper packet.

  21. The Complete Guide To Publishing Your Research In High School

    Publishing academic research is becoming a common way for the top high school students to distinguish themselves in the admission process. Yet, for many students what publication is and how to approach it is unclear and confusing. This guide's goal is to provide a starter for any students interested in research and publication. It comes from the result of working with 500+ students as part ...

  22. DOC Career Research Project

    Career Research Project Researching a Career and Creating a PowerPoint Presentation You will create ten (10) slides. Please put your presentation in this order. Title slide—Title of your career, your name, and what career cluster your career belongs. Why did you choose this career? Why might someone choose this career (other than the pay)?

  23. 50 Ideas for Easy High School Research Paper Topics

    16 Nov 2021 — Research Paper Topics Research papers are common assignments in high school systems worldwide. It is a scientific term that refers to essays where students share what they've learned after thoroughly researching one specific topic. Why do high schools impose them?