This is a special blog post for my lovely daughter Ellie, she is in 3rd grade and is writing a research paper.
<Ellie> ”Do I have to read this WHOLE THING???”
<Daddy> “Nope, all you really need is the summary, this is all pretty easy! However, if you read the whole thing it will make more sense and you will write a better paper.”
“What am i trying to prove? What are three things that prove what I want to prove? How can I show the reader that my proof proves what I want to prove?”
That is all you really need to answer, for yourself. Answer those questions in your mind, and write the results into your word processor on the computer, and you’ll have a pretty good paper. If you want a little more guidance, check out the extended version below :
I am writing a paper, how do I start? :
1. First you must answer the question : What am I trying to say? – this will be the subject (in writing it is called a thesis) of your paper, or your hypothesis, just like the scientific method.
You ALWAYS start your paper with explaining what you are trying to say, in this case we might say “Nevada is a nice place to live.” This should be a simple statement that you believe to be true. It should answer the requirements of the assignment as much as possible. If the teacher asks you to write a paper on ice cream being delicious, don’t write your paper about potato chips! Think deeply about the subject, and decide how you can best answer the question. For all of these examples, we will be using the assignment “What is it like to live in Nevada?”
Once you have decided on the subject of your paper, and the statement you’ll make to answer the subject in the best way, you will write it out in a sentence. For your grade level (grades 1-5) the majority of your papers will be answerable in one sentence.
You may think, “Only one sentence? Sure, I can do that, I’ll just write one sentence!” But, it won’t be that easy. Readers are not often foolish, and teachers are almost never foolish, especially when grading papers, so you need to convince your reader that your sentence is true. You’re going to use something called sourced evidence.
2. Next, we figure out : How can I prove that what I am saying is true? – this part of your paper will support your thesis using sources, probably from the Internet or a library.
You will want to think of three main arguments that support your thesis. These can all be fairly broad. In our example of Nevada being a nice place to live, we might go out and read some things on the Internet about Nevada. You can read the Wikipedia page, the Las Vegas Convention Authority, some books about Nevada, or anything you’d like. A big part of writing a paper is knowing what you are talking about. How can you convince anyone that Nevada is a nice place to live unless you know it to be true? If you haven’t done any research on your thesis, do it now. If you have already learned about your thesis, you might come up with some claims like the below :
* Nevada is a nice place to live because there are a lot of things to do.
* Nevada is a nice place to live because it does not cost a lot to live here (the cost of living is low.)
* Nevada is a nice place to live because there are many opportunities to experience natural beauty.
Typically, you will only need three claims. But, this really only results in a few sentences, not enough for a whole paper! This is where your sources will come in!
Find three facts for each of the three claims you’ve made. We’ll use our first fact to show an example of how you might do so.
We want to show that there are a lot of things to do in Nevada. You can start with the Las vegas Strip. This one doesn’t really need a source. You can talk about the things you have experienced, like the Bellagio fountains, and say how much fun they are. You may also want to talk about other things you can do in Las Vegas, but you want to show that the facts you’re citing aren’t just your opinion, but established facts! For this, you’ll need references. For our example here, we’ll use my webpage and after we say “Another great thing to do in Nevada is go to Madame Toussaud’s wax museum!”*1 and put a little number(Just like the one you see there after the quotes. There are ways to make them look cool in word processors like Open Office, I can show you how.) next to your claim. Then, at the bottom of your paper, you add a bibliography, which tells your reader where they can get the information that you got. In this case, the bibliography entry for this item would look like this :
You would create a reference using *2 for your next claim, if it isn’t just your opinion, and make another line in your bibliography at the end. When you get older, you’ll do this in a more formal way, because there are rules that you need to follow for formatting, but in your grade group, you don’t need to be too formal.
You should write three facts for each of your three claims. So, nine sentences total, in three paragraphs (one for each claim.)
3. Finally, at the end of the paper, you’ll quickly recap your thesis, and come up with a conclusion. For your papers at your grade level, you will mostly just say your thesis again, and tell the reader again that it is true, and remind them that you have included lots of sourced facts to prove your point. This will be enough to convince them and give you a good grade.
I would also like to include a reminder about language. You are writing a research paper, not having a conversation with your friends. Don’t use conversational English. You want to write your paper with a very proper and professional tone. You aren’t supposed to be friendly to your reader, like I am being for you in this cheat sheet. You want to leave out slang words, silly phrases, and things like “I bet you didn’t know that!” or other phrases that aren’t important to your point. You want to make sure that every sentence is important and factual. If you need to know how to write, use examples from your sources. Your sources used will almost always be encyclopedias, books and websites at your age, and all of them write in a non-passionate and professional way. It will be hard at first, and it is OK if you don’t get it right, but you should always strive to write like the people on Wikipedia, they do a very good job.
Always remember that your father loves you, and if you ever need help, Daddy is always there to help you with your schoolwork or anything else in life. You’re the best, I’m really proud of you, and I can’t wait to see your first paper after you’ve read this. I think if you learn how to write papers the right way, you’ll really have an advantage throughout your whole school career.