Developing Research and Writing Skills for High School

By Shannon Andreen, 7th/8th Grade ELA & Social Science Teacher/Advisor for High School

Writing a research paper in middle school can feel overwhelming, yet Pilgrim’s 7th and 8th graders are excited to embark on this journey.

The key to their enthusiasm? A structured, step-by-step process focused on topics they’re passionate about.

Research Paper Process:

  • Developing a Question: Each student starts by formulating a unique question they’re eager to explore. These questions span a wide array of interests—from politics, history, and science to psychology, society, and teen culture. This personalized approach ensures the research is student-centered, fostering greater engagement.
  • Conducting Research:
    • Secondary Sources: Students are required to find at least five secondary sources, using the internet to discover reliable articles, websites, encyclopedias, and videos. They critically evaluate the credibility of these sources in answering their research questions, summarizing the main ideas and supporting details in well-crafted paragraphs.
    • Original Research: Students then engage in original research, which might involve interviewing experts, surveying peers, or conducting experiments. This step allows them to gather unique information, directly contributing to their understanding of the topic.
  • Synthesizing Information: The culmination of their research involves answering their initial question by integrating insights from both their secondary and original research.
  • Scaffolding and Support:
    • The use of graphic organizers helps students systematically approach their research and writing.
    • Regular check-ins and two peer evaluations offer opportunities for revision and feedback.
    • Instruction in MLA format and citation ensures their work adheres to academic standards.

Translating Skills to High School:

The research paper process at Pilgrim does more than just teach students how to write; it equips them with critical thinking, analytical, reading, and writing skills that are indispensable for high school and beyond. Through systematic analysis and informed opinion formation, students learn to support their views with sound logic and evidence. These skills are crucial for tackling the complex, multifaceted issues they will encounter in high school research projects and essays.

Examples of Pilgrim Student Projects

  • One student chose to investigate the impact of social media on teen mental health, conducting surveys among their peers and interviewing a clinical psychologist. Their findings offered a nuanced view of social media’s dual role as a source of connection and stress.
  • Another project focused on the effects of urban green spaces on local ecosystems. Through experiments and expert interviews, the student demonstrated how these spaces contribute to biodiversity and environmental sustainability.

These examples highlight how Pilgrim’s students not only master the mechanics of research and writing but also contribute meaningful insights to their chosen fields of inquiry, preparing them for the challenges and opportunities of high school and beyond.

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