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  • Given that my students are so young I find that their are two essential elements to keeping them productive.  The first is daily accountability.  I give them a log that asks them to map out what they will do over the week of our project research.  They must come up with daily goals at the beginning of the project and then record their daily progress.  I push them to be brief, but specific with their goals so that they effectively track the pace of their progress.  I walk around during the last five minutes of class as they are writing their logs and check to see who is getting behind.  This allows them and me to notice if they are getting behind or if they are stuck on a research point before the day before the project is due.

    Second, I help them narrow the scope of their research by limiting the choice of topics to things that I have had a chance to research before hand.  When I taught high school my students were much more able to adapt their searches during the research process- my middle school students tend to get stumped and quickly give up.  It helps if I can provide a research path so that their primary task is sifting through materials that are all related to their question.  

  • I am a pretty organized person, and as such, my ability to keep track of things is pretty inherent and I struggle to teach that to my students.  I did the National History Day program with my 10th grade Honors US History students for the first time this year, and because of the size of the project, I tried to do my best to help my students stay organized and on track.  The way I did this was by having them give a progress presentation once every couple of weeks - the first one was where they told me and the class what their topic was and what their product would be, and in their successive presentations, they talked about things like interesting sources they found, road block they were hitting in research, and specifically what steps they were taking in their research.  The NHD program also requires process papers with the final product, so I was able to look at what my students had done during their few months of research and creation.

    With the first few research assignments I do with my freshmen, I tend to hand out some kind of note taking sheet that has them fill in the source with the information under it.  As research progresses throughout the year, I remind my students to keep track of sources and information, but allow them to figure out the best way to organize and keep track of that information.  I find it difficult to teach a new method of organization to high school students, as throughout their schooling they have likely received several different methods, and many have already found the one that works best for them.

  • I'd love to see an example Anna Marie's "sideways outline", I think that's a great idea and one that I'm going to incorporate on this thesis that haunts my waking thoughts.

  • When it comes to research projects I use steps to get my students started and on task. Their first step (after the introduction of the project that is) is to create a project proposal. I format a project proposal worksheet for them. In this proposal they layout what their topic is, what type of final product they will present ( a website, a poster, a powerpoint, video, voiceover, etc) then they almost story board it or layout their format to what they envision (i've found that most students care about the look or the "prettiness" of a project.) I usually let them spend the first day playing with format and pictures and what not. The proposal also has an area where they put their resources down ( day 2. which is finding adequate resources). I have them write down the proper citation for the book and annotate what the source is used for. Each source has a # to it ( usually 1-5, since i usually require 5 sources).

    When the students start laying their project out they are able to just put #1-5 next to their information to remind them where they took the information from, that way they can stay organized. Also, throughout the process they have to send me daily emails communicating what they have gathered and how it will fit into their project. I respond to these emails giving them feedback on how that will work.

    For myself, I'm not quite so organized with a proposal sheet and research by numbers. I usually use the front page of a series or journal article with the annotation and citation information, then I will color code the article name based on where it would fit in my paper.

  • This is just practice in "keeping track."  I know all people, students and teachers alike, have their own personal way of focusing their research and keeping on track.  The secret is to find the way that works for you (and them).  The essential elements are still there, however.  We have to be able to narrow our topics, keep track of where we are, and cite our sources (get back to where you found it).  In college, I used several methods ... 3x5 cards (giving away my advanced age), notebooks filled with photocopies of all first pages or series descriptions, and finally a research log that I keep in my laptop.   I have to admit ... sometimes I just note the important stuff on the research log ... like an ARC or OPA number that will lead me back to the citation.  But I always do better and am more systematic when I enter everything.  When I don't I end up spending too much time trying to locate a file I saved or rifling through papers to find the article I copied. 

    I'm dying to know what you recommend to your students, if anything, and how you organize your own research projects!


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