We Have Our Organizer…Now What? Writing Research Reports

This article is the second in a two-part series about research reports. Last month, we discussed a strategy to help students organize information. This month, we talk about the writing process.


In last month’s article, we described the organizing process our students need to complete before writing a research report. We observed that organizing their research is the most daunting task that students face when it comes to writing reports.

In their research gathering, our students write jot notes — no more than three words per line — on index cards. This three-word requirement prevents copying whole sentences from a source and promotes sentence building later. In this article, we will examine the sentence-building concept.

Students need direct instruction in how to turn jot notes into detailed sentences as well as guided practice opportunities before they are assigned this task on their own. From our example of jot notes on the yak’s habitat (see Diagram B), teachers would model how to use the notes to develop a strong, cohesive paragraph (see Diagram C).

During the modeling, teachers should share their thinking process aloud to show students how they determine whether to include all of their jot notes. Students should hear their teachers “playing” with language and trying to form strong, compound sentences. Providing students with opportunities to orally practice stating their sentences before they put their pencils to paper will ensure stronger and more coherent sentences.

Once the students are successful in transforming jot notes to sentences, they are ready to use their own notes to write their reports.

This relationship between direct instruction and guided practice is an essential component in bringing students to a level of independence in research writing. We realize that providing opportunities for students to practice transforming their jot notes into sentences is time-consuming, but we promise it is a strategy your students can use across the content areas.

We follow the same process for each library card pocket (see Diagram A) except for the opening paragraph. (Writing opening paragraphs will be addressed in a later issue.)

After experiencing the research organizing and writing steps, your students will have a clearer understanding of how to include the most important information in their reports, the value of note taking, and, more important, how to write strong, cohesive sentences and paragraphs.


Diagram A. Manila folder layout for animal research report.

Diagram B. Sample index card.

Diagram C. Sample paragraph.


This article was written by Tracey Allen and Clarissa Reeson. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Tracey and Clarissa at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

 Copyright April 2009 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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