84: I-Search Papers





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I-Search Paper 
  • Similar to research paper except
    • Student chooses topic
    • Written in 1st person
  • Uses:
    • Build personal curiosity and tools to pursue it
    • Students can learn how to
      • narrow and deep dive into a topic
      • use research skills (identify valid sources, annotate sources, identify biases)
  • Play by play
    • Topic Search:
      • Brainstorming
        • start creating brainstorm lists individually
        • then share in pairs and teams and revises lists
      • Narrow brainstorm list to 4 topics
      • Conduct preliminary research and have student interview team mates about potential topics:
        • Why do you care?
        • Who do you already know?
        • How do you plan to learn more?
      • Narrow topics to 2 choices – Top Pick and Plan B in case Top Pick hits a dead end
      • Variations:
        • Could brainstorm content item lists
        • Try to build bridges between top personal & content item choices
    • Identifying the Audience:
      • Other students and teacher
      • Could try to guide students to recruit audience from a group that ties to to their topic – if you do this prepare recruiting email and recruiting phone call templates
    • Prewriting Part I
      • Use a lot of pre-writing activities (WTLs) to process research such as:
        • Use double entry journal strategey- columns: what I think I know, questions I have (brainstorm list based on prior knowledge and for planning research next steps)
    • Gathering Information
      • Student create anothe double entry journal – columns = questions organized under major questions, possible sources
      • Books:  secure help from media specialist
      • Interviews: helps students design questionnaires, model interview process
      • Internet:
        • teach search query commands for search engines, how to use databases, and how to identify valid sources
        • provide internet source sheets that guide students in assessing and annotating websites
    • Prewriting Part II
      • Underline key information in references and write note as to why it’s underlined
      • Start with 4 questions on 4 Sheets of papers – color-code highlight sources to match up information that addresses top 4 questions
      • Jot down notes summarize info related to each question
    • Drafting
      • Main parts of paper:
        • Introduction
        • Description of search (optional, omit if it leads to repetitive description)
        • What was found
        • How to use information and related questions
    • Revisions
      • Facilitate revision meetings with writing teams who discuss
        • Introduction
          • How does writing grab attention?
          • How does intro hint a prior knowledge and interest?
          • How does writer help unfamiliar audience?
          • How does writer make topic appealing?
        • Question answers
          • Best evidence?
          • Missing evidence?
          • Off topic evidence?
        • Conclusion
          • Connections to intro ideas?
          • Follow-up questions and next steps?
          • Lingering lessons
    • Editing
      • X out common errors such as 2nd person
      • Replace 2nd person with real nouns
    •  Sharing the Writing
      • Convert paper to shorter feature articles for school newspaper
      • Read aloud papers at presentations
    • Troubleshooting
      • Plagiarism
        • Use WTL assignments to process research
        • Teach students parenthetical citaions


Letting students choose their own I-search paper topics can help them be more invested in their processes and products.  Guiding the research and prewriting processes with Writing-to Learn tasks can helps students process information, create drafts, and avoid plagiarism.  See WTL 1 and  2 articles.


Preparation Steps
  • Find time of year when I-seatch paper would be appropriate
    • Time of year dedicated to process standards
    • After students have already practiced several writing stages
  • Prepare resources related to the stages describe above
  • Prepare a project calendar that includes:
    • research time
    • prewriting time
    • in class writing time
    • critique and feedback lessons
    • conference times
    • milestone deadlines assigned to writing artifacts in writing stages
    • rehearsal and presentation time
    • student self reflection times
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project plan prepped above
  • Use formative feedback to fine time in progress project plan
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Recruit real panelists (or guide student to recruit real audiences) to read their work
  • Have student polish and summarize work for school blog or school magazine
  • Feature work in Learning Fairs



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