Writing a Research Essay
The Common Core State Standards as well as many state standards require students write short research projects. This can be an overwhelming and frustrating assignment for many students in the upper elementary grades. Due to this, all fourth through sixth graders at our school begin research projects in January using the same note taking method. While this is not the only method for note taking, it works beautifully with this age range. Once sixth graders have graduated from elementary school, they have created a minimum of three research projects using this method, most have created more, and are proficient in this method.
Note Taking Method
Here are the basic instructions for the process:
Students use a table like the one below for note taking. Across the top, students write questions that they want answered in their papers. As students move through different resources, they write or type the answers in the boxes down the column under the question that the information answers. Each time a new resource is used the students must list this source in the final column. This can simply be pasting a website address into the box or writing the title of the book where the information is found.
Example
#1 Question 
#2 
#3 Question 
#4 Question 
#5 Question 
#6 Question 

#1 Question – First Answer 
#2 
#3 Question – First Answer 
#4 Question – First Answer 



#1 Question – Second Answer 
#2 





#1 Question – Third Answer 






s  
#1 Question – Fourth Answer 
#2 

#4 Question – Second Answer 
#5 Question – First Answer 






#5 Question – Second Answer 


Have students begin note taking in the top box beside the resource they are using. Add one note to each box going down the column. Notice that some boxes may be left empty. After all notes from the first source are written (typed) into the boxes, have students draw a line across the bottom of the last row of notes.
The student then jumps down below this line when using the next resource. Have students continue the process until enough information is gathered to create a paper.
When using the Internet students must use quotations if copying and pasting information directly from the source. If summarizing or paraphrasing, quotation marks are not required.
Example Note Taking Chart
If you are interested in step by step lessons for creating a short research project you may wish to take a look at these units on Teachers Pay Teachers:
Animal Research Writing Project