Lesson plan

Reviewing the Research Process

Writing a research paper is a huge undertaking. Getting curious about your topic and breaking it down into steps makes it more inviting and doable. Use this lesson to review the research process.
GradeSubjectView aligned standards

Students will be able to explain the main steps in writing a research paper.

(5 minutes)
  • Instruct students to write down at least three topics that they’d like to know more about.
  • Now have students write down at least three questions that they have that they’d like to answer, such as Why do animals migrate?, How do computers work?, or What is the most dangerous sport?
  • Explain that getting curious is the first step in a research project and that research is all about answering questions.
(10 minutes)
  • Explain that sometimes research involves doing your own experiments and writing about it, and sometimes it means investigating what others have written about that topic and pulling that information together to answer your own questions.
  • Ask students to pair up and generate a list of possible sources if they were to research a topic or question that they previously listed. These could include nonfiction books; periodicals; trusted, credible websites; firsthand accounts like interviews; and documentaries.
(20 minutes)
  • Do a brief shared think aloud as a class. With a topic that your class has agreed upon, walk through the process of preparing to write a research paper. Create a visual of this process on the board or on chart paper for students to reference.
  • Explain that writing a research paper involves many steps must be undertaken before you even start writing.
  • Explain that they should first Formulate a questionThat they are trying to answer about their topic.
  • Tell them that they next Decide on a method they will use to record the informationWhile looking for the answer to their question. This could be notecards, a notetaking sheet, and so on. Writers must also ensure their resources are credible and include citations. While students don’t have to decide on a method at this moment, this is a good time to discuss that there should be a strategy, and that there are several ways to go about it.
  • Explain that the next step is to Collect informationFrom at least three sources to cover both big ideas and details.
  • Tell them that the next step is to Sort the informationInto categories. You could use highlighters if they are written or sort into piles if they are on notecards.
  • Explain that the structure of the paper begins to take shape, as each category will become a paragraph.
  • Tell them that the next step is to Outline the paper. This involves identifying the big answer to their their question (which will be the topic of the paper) and then three main ideas that address their question, which will be paragraphs. Each paragraph will have details to support it. A graphic organizer here would be helpful.
  • Explain that the last steps are drafting, revision and editing, and publishing.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute the worksheet Write a Research Paper. Go over the instructions and ask students to guess the steps by completing the activity.
  • Review the steps together. Is there anything that you discussed in the lesson that is not on the sheet?


  • Use a graphic organizer such as the one featured on the worksheet Your Favorite Animal to demonstrate a note-taking strategy and how paragraph topics might be organized.


  • Assign students to research note-taking strategies and share examples of each with the class.
(5 minutes)
  • Ask students: If they were to write a research paper, what are some of the first things they need to think about? What are the next steps? If they have individual whiteboards, have them draw a flow chart with these steps.
(5 minutes)
  • Discuss: Why is it important that writers are curious about a topic? How might genuine curiosity improve their writing?

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