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Getting Started With the I-Search Paper

written by: Pauline H. Gill • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Engaging students to research can be challenging, but the I-Search Paper is more interesting because students with learning disabilities or different learning styles have a chance to be more self-directed. They have freedom to choose their own topics, interview people, and tell the research story.

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    Brainstorming

    If you have not read, Part I: The I-Search Paper, consider doing so before continuing.

    Because you want your students to enjoy this assignment, begin with some exploratory activities. The purpose is to brainstorm ideas for a paper. You can simply list ideas on the board or overhead. Create three categories: Careers, Hobbies, and Interests. Students can volunteer ideas to put in each column. Another brainstorming idea is to bring in magazines for students to peruse. Have them cut out pictures that demonstrate the three categories. They can paste them on a poster board and explain why they chose these categories. Whatever tactic you use, the primary goal is to brainstorm ideas for a paper.

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    Introduce the Format

    Once students have a topic, it's time to introduce the format of the paper. This can be done with handouts, overhead presentation, or a power point presentation. The basic 4 parts of the paper are as follows:

    1. What the student already knows about the topic.

    2. A statement of why they chose the topic and questions they want answered.

    3. The story of their search.

    4. The discoveries.

    It's a good idea to have sample papers for them to see. The samples should be on various topics, so they can get a good idea about how to approach the paper.

    Set up a timeline for the paper with detailed steps to complete. Each student should have a copy of the timeline, which should be put in his or her folder or notebook.

    Do a lesson on writing in first person. This is a good time to talk about the tone of the writing as well.

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    Getting Started

    If laptops are available for each student, use them. In class, have them do the first part of the paper, writing about what they already know. Work with each student and final draft this part. This will give students a chance to see how the tone of the paper should look. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment to finish the first part.

    The second part can be another class period. Again, final draft this section. Help them word their questions effectively.

    Once the first parts of the paper are complete, it's time to do lessons on collecting information and the interviewing process. You may want the interviews to be separate parts of the paper, but included in the third section.

    Decide how you want them to cite their information. Even though most of their material will be primary sources, they still must use appropriate citation methods. They may also use the internet, magazines, brochures, and some books. Because of the variety of material, consider doing some lessons on using the MLA format.

    Start each day with a mini-lesson on a particular skill needed for their work. Consider reading a part of an I-Search Paper. This will set the tone for work and keep the ideas fresh in their mind as they begin to work.

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