Researching the Research Paper

After returning from Santa Fe, my fellow literacy coach, Barb, and I talked about how important inquiry is in the research process. This led us to think more about the requirement our school has for all students to complete a research paper in their sophomore year. Sometimes seen as an arduous task for both students and teachers, this should really be the essence of a powerful inquiry project! Therefore, we asked to lead some PD to see how we could best help teachers in bringing the research paper into the 21st century.

We were fortunate to look back at an NCTE journal from last year and find the article “Research as Creative Practice: Two Metaphors for Teaching and Learning” by Michael Stancliff and Maureen Daly Goggin. This is an incredible resource that we used to help guide our discussion of the PURPOSE of the research process.

Building off of the inquiry model we learned about, including activities like an article pass, we led a three hour exploration of what we are currently doing with the sophomore research paper and where we would like to see it go. One of the first steps was to create the following chart:IMG_1942

It was interesting to see that many of the “Keeps” teachers wanted were also “Starts” for other teachers. It shows us that we need to start thinking about how to help teachers collaborate more with one another so we can all be on the same page with best practices.

The article pass involved reading sections of a text we received in Santa Fe from Comprehension and Collaboration by Harvey Daniels and Stephanie Harvey through an article pass. We charted what we learned about inquiry from this reading:


As the morning progressed, we came to realize that we want to give students choice but also the ability to work in groups throughout the process. And, we looked at the process itself, which components are necessary, and how we want to proceed.

One of the biggest takeaways for me was our discussion of the Annotated Bibliography, a requirement that we felt was more like a checklist item than a real tool for learning. Our goals for student learning were:

  • the credibility of the source
  • how the source has a conversation with other sources
  • how the source will be used as supporting evidence

But we also had many questions about its usefulness:

  • should we construct as a narrative
  • compare them to one another – based on reliability, credibility of the author, how they all relate to one another
  • could it be part of the final presentation? not just presenting research
  • deconstructed annotated bib? marking where they are seeing connections among sources
  • inquiry journal – narrative explaining where everything fits
  • make it a formative assessment
  • Can they use Approval Matrix format? New York magazine

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 9.03.20 PM

As a result of this discussion among colleagues, we all left feeling excited, overwhelmed, and most importantly, heard. This was just the beginning of our journey into discovering best practices for teaching students research skills. Kind of our own formative assessment.

We have a lot of fun, exciting, and collaborative research on research to do!


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