Undertaking the Long Paper (page 2)

Undertaking the Long Paper

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Updated on Feb 14, 2009

Gathering and Organizing Research:
The hunting and gathering stage may be unpredictable, so suggest these steps:

  • Consider several strong sources over many minor texts (or sources with simply a paragraph or two of relevant data). Otherwise, your child may have trouble keeping track of information.
  • Sift through the behemoth of the Internet, but limit surfing to official sources, including government Web sites, university research pages, or trusted kid sites, like Ask For Kids or BrainPOP. Compare Wikipedia data against recent encyclopedias in the library. Ask your child to bookmark each site he visits so you can check its reliability, and be on the lookout for bogus sources.
  • Write key ideas and supporting details on colored index cards, using colors to separate your ideas. A middle schooler can use pink cards for section I of her outline, or blue for section II, for instance. “In elementary school, the teacher usually provides note-taking sheets or graphic organizers,” says Gronet.
  • Cut the work into fragments. “Have your child split the project into three or four parts,” says Gronet. “For a book report, the first part is reading the book. The second part is writing the rough draft. The third part is editing and writing the final draft.” A research report is similar. Will they be using the Web or encyclopedias? How many times will they need to visit the library? “Survey any resources they will use,” says Gronet. “Allow time to collect materials.”

Documenting Sources:
As the research piles up, your child must know from where it originates. Lost sources make it difficult to find a piece of information again, and may lead to unintentional plagiarism.

  • Compile the bibliography, or “works cited” page, as research is gathered. Don’t wait until the last minute!
  • Photocopy copyright pages or covers of books used. Write down the page numbers to be cited on these sheets, as well as short key phrases of the ideas found in each book.
  • Use different colored Post-its to mark pages, using green to indicate potential information for the introduction, or yellow to denote details for paragraph four of the project, for example.
  • Cut and paste URLs of consulted Web sites onto a Word document to keep track of Internet research.

"Some kids need a great deal of support, while others are more capable and independent," says Gronet. It's best to chat with your child immediately after receiving the project, whether she's in elementary, middle, or high school, to make sure she understands the task. From there, you can assist her appropriately and remind her of deadlines, but also giving her the freedom to hone her sleuthing and organizing skills.

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