How To Write Research Paper 6th Grade

Co-authored by Renae Hintze


It’s a beautiful sunny day, you had a big delicious breakfast, and you show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for your first class of the day. Just as you’re getting comfortable in your chair, your teacher hits you with it:

A 5-page, size 12 font research paper… due in 2 weeks. 

The sky goes black, your breakfast turns to a brick in your stomach. A research paper? FIVE pages long? Why???

Maybe I’m being a little over-dramatic here. But not all of us are born gifted writers. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that most of us struggle a little or a lot with writing a research paper.

But fear not!! I can help you through it. If you follow these 11 steps I promise you will write a better essay, faster.

1. Start early

We all do it. We wait until the LAST day to start an assignment, and then something goes wrong at the LAST minute, and Woops! We get a bad grade. 

ALWAYS start your essays early. This is what I recommend. Especially since writing a research paper requires more effort than a regular paper might.

I have a 3-week timeline you can follow when writing a research paper. YES, 3 weeks!! It may sound like waaay too early to start, but it gives you enough time to:

  1. Outline and write your paper
  2. Check for errors
  3. Get pointers from your teacher on what to improve 

All of this = a better grade on your assignment. You’re already going through all the effort — why not be positive that you’ll get the best results??

2. Read the Guidelines

Ever taken a shirt out of the dryer to find it has shrunk 10 sizes too small? 

It’s because the shirt probably wasn’t meant to go in the dryer, and if you had read the tag, you’d have saved yourself one whole article of clothing!

Before you even START on writing a research paper, READ THE GUIDELINES.

  • What is your teacher looking for in your essay? 
  • Are there any specific things you need to include? 

This way, you don’t have to finish your essay only to find that it needs to be re-done!

3. Brainstorm research paper topics

Sometimes we’re assigned essays where we know exactly what we want to write about before we start.

Write an essay on my favorite place to travel?? I know where I’M going to choose!

But there are probably more times where we DON’T know exactly what we want to write about, and we may even experience writer’s block.

To overcome that writer’s block, or simply avoid it happening in the first place, we can use a skill called mind-mapping (or brainstorming) to come up with a topic that is relevant and that we’re interested in writing about!

Here’s an example of a mind-map I just did for Influential People!

By writing whatever came to my mind and connecting those thoughts, I was able to come up with quite a few influential people to write about — I could come up with EVEN MORE if I kept writing!!

See here I can choose to write about Hillary Clinton and how she may have an influence on women and women’s rights in society.

Following this method, you can determine your own research paper topics to write about in a way that’s quick and painless.

4. Write out your questions

To get the BEST research, you have to ask questions. Questions on questions on questions. The idea is that you get to the root of whatever you are talking about so you can write a quality essay on it.

Let’s say you have the question: “How do I write a research paper?” 

Can you answer this without more information?

Not so easy, right? That’s because when you “write a research paper”, you do a lot of smaller things that ADD UP to “writing a research paper”.

Break your questions down. Ask until you can’t ask anymore, or until it’s no longer relevant to your topic. This is how you can achieve quality research.

5. Do the research

It IS a research paper, after all. But you don’t want to just type all your questions into Google and pick the first source you see. Not every piece of information on the internet is true, or accurate. 

Here’s a way you can easily check your sources for credibility: Look for the who, what, and when.

WHO

  • Who is the author of the source? 
  • What are they known for? 
  • Do they have a background in the subject they wrote about? 
  • Does the author reference other sources?
  • Are those sources credible too?

WHAT

  • What does the “Main” or “Home” page of a website look like?
  • Is it professional looking? 
  • Is there an organization sponsoring the information, and do they seem legitimate
  • Do they specialize in the subject? 

WHEN

  • When was the source generated — today, last week, a month, a year ago?
  • Has there been new or additional information provided since this information was published?

Double-check all your sources this way. Because this is a research paper, your writing is meaningless without other sources to back it up.

Keep track of your credible sources!

When you find useful information from a credible source, DON’T LET IT GO. You need to save the original place you found that information from so that you can cite it in your essay, and later on in the bibliography.

You don’t want to have to go back later and dig up the information a second time just to list the source you got it from!

To help with this, you may be familiar with the option to “Bookmark” your pages online — do this for online sources.

There IS another tool you can use to keep track of your sources. It’s called Diigo, and it’s what we use at Student-Tutor to build an online database of valuable educational resources!

You can create a Diigo account and one free group for your links. Check out this video on how to use Diigo to save all your sources in one convenient location.

Now, of course there are other ways besides the Internet to get information, and there’s nothing wrong with cracking open a well-written book to enrich your essay’s content!

Ways to get information when writing a research paper

  • The Internet
  • Books
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Journals
  • Interviews

6. Create a Thesis Statement

How to write a thesis statement is something that a lot of people overlook. That’s a mistake.

The thesis statement is part of your research paper outline but deserves its own step. That’s because the thesis statement is SUPER important! It is what sets the stage for the entire essay. 

How do you write a thesis statement? 

Here’s a color-coded example: 

7. Create an outline

Once you have constructed your thesis, the rest of the outline is pretty simple. It should mimic the structure of your thesis!

Here’s a color-coded research paper outline you can follow:

8. Write your research paper

Here it is — the dreaded writing. But see how far we’ve already come? 

We already know what we’re going to write about, and where we’re going to write it. That’s a lot easier than taking a pen straight to your paper and hoping for some magical, monk-like inspiration to come, am I right?

As you write, be sure to pin-point the places where you are inserting sources. I’ll talk about in-text citations in just a moment!

Here are some basic tips for writing your essay from International Student:

  • Generally, don’t use “I/My” unless it’s a personal narrative
  • Use specific examples to support your statements
  • Vary your language — don’t use the same adjective 5 times in a row

9. Cite your sources

This goes along with the second step — make sure to check your essay guidelines and find out BEFOREHAND what kind of citation style your teacher wants you to use.

Like I promised earlier, Purdue University has a great article that provides instructions on and examples on how to cite different types of sources WITHIN your text. Reference this when you’re not sure what to do.

As a general rule of thumb, in-text citations usually go AFTER the sentence drawing from the source, but BEFORE the period of that sentence, in parentheses. If more than one sentence is referencing the same source, try to place it at the last of those sentences.

However, no matter what you cite INSIDE your writing, all the sources you use for the paper need to be included in your bibliography.

This goes on a separate page, after your main essay and may be titled “Works Cited” or “Bibliography”. (Make sure to check the guidelines, and ask your teacher!)

For this, I’m going to introduce you to an awesome, totally free citation tool called EasyBib.

Important Tip: Make sure that when you use EasyBib, you are filling in a template provided by EasyBib and NOT asking EasyBib to pull information directly from the source. EasyBib can’t always find information that is there, and your citation will be incomplete without it!

By selecting “Manual Cite”, EasyBib will provide you with a template for filling in the necessary information to create your citation.

You can then ask EasyBib to generate the source in the citation format you’ve selected. Copy and paste that source into your bibliography — easy!

10. Read your essay

Why do I need to read my essay if I wrote it? 

You’d be surprised what you’ll catch the second, third, and bazillionth time around reading your own writing! Not that you have to read THIS a bazillion times… just once or twice over will do.

I recommend that you read your essay once-through, and the second time read it aloud. Reading your essay aloud reinforces your words and makes it easier to recognize when something is phrased strangely, or if you are using a word too often.

11. Have someone else read your essay

Lastly it is always important that someone else besides you read your essay before you submit it.

Find a professional who can give you constructive feedback on how to improve your essay — this may be a tutor or a teacher. It can also be someone who specializes in the subject you are writing about.

The absolute BEST person to review your essay would be the teacher that assigned it to you.

And yes, many teachers WILL read the essay they assigned before it is due and give you pointers on how to make it better. They want you to succeed and they’re the ones grading it — I think it’s safe to say they know what they’re talking about!

Conclusion

For most of us, writing a research paper is no walk in the park. Unfortunately, it’s important that you know how to do it!

Let’s review the steps to make this process as PAINLESS as possible:

  1. Start early — 3 weeks in advance!
  2. Read the guidelines
  3. Mind map/Brainstorm research paper topics
  4. Write out your questions
  5. Do the research (Remember to keep track of your sources!)
  6. Create a Thesis Statement
  7. Create an outline
  8. Write your essay
  9. Cite your sources (In-text and in your bibliography)
  10. Read your essay (twice and once aloud!)
  11. Have someone ELSE read your essay — try your teacher first.

Do you have experience writing a research paper? What process did you use, and was it effective? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Hello! My name is Todd. I help students eliminate academic stress, boost confidence, and reach their wildest dreams through college tips and digital age knowledge they are not teaching in school. I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. Currently, I am traveling across America delivering presentations, rock climbing, adventuring, and helping inspire the leaders of tomorrow. Let's become friends! Follow my journey via my YouTube Vlog for inspirational value added tips!

Sixth Grade Writing Standards

Writing standards for sixth grade define the knowledge and skills needed for writing proficiency at this grade level. By understanding 6th grade writing standards, parents can be more effective in helping their children meet grade level expectations.

What is 6th Grade Writing?
Sixth grade students are expected to produce cohesive, coherent, and error-free multi-paragraph essays on a regular basis. Sixth-graders write essays of increasing complexity containing formal introductions, ample supporting evidence, and conclusions. Students select the appropriate form and develop an identifiable voice and style suitable for the writing purpose and the audience. Sixth grade student writing should demonstrate a command of standard American English and writing skills such as organizing ideas, using effective transitions, and choosing precise wording. Sixth-graders use every phase of the writing process and continue to build their knowledge of writing conventions, as well as how to evaluate writing and conduct research.

 

Browse Standards-Based Middle School Writing Courses

 

The following writing standards represent what states* typically specify as 6th grade benchmarks in writing proficiency:

Grade 6: Writing Process
Sixth grade writing standards focus on the writing process as the primary tool to help children become independent writers. In Grade 6, students are taught to use each phase of the process as follows:

  • Prewriting: In grade 6, students generate ideas and organize information for writing by using such prewriting strategies as brainstorming, graphic organizers, notes, and logs. Students choose the form of writing that best suits the intended purpose and then make a plan for writing that prioritizes ideas, addresses purpose, audience, main idea, and logical sequence.
  • Drafting: In sixth grade, students develop drafts by categorizing ideas, organizing them into paragraphs, and blending paragraphs within larger units of text. Writing exhibits the students’ awareness of the audience and purpose. Students analyze language techniques of professional authors (e.g., point of view, establishing mood) to enhance the use of descriptive language and word choices.
  • Revising: In sixth grade, students revise selected drafts by elaborating, deleting, combining, and rearranging text. Other grade 6 revision techniques include adding transitional words, incorporating sources directly and indirectly into writing, using generalizations where appropriate, and connecting conclusion to beginning (e.g., use of the circular ending). Goals for revision include improving coherence, progression, and the logical support of ideas by focusing on the organization and consistency of ideas within and between paragraphs. Students also evaluate drafts for use of voice, point of view, and language techniques (e.g., foreshadowing, imagery, simile, metaphor, sensory language, connotation, denotation) to create a vivid expression of ideas.
  • Editing: Students edit their writing based on their knowledge of grammar and usage, spelling, punctuation, and other features of polished writing, such as clarity, varied sentence structure, and word choice (e.g., eliminating slang and selecting more precise verbs, nouns, and adjectives). Students also proofread using reference materials, word processor, and other resources.
  • Publishing: Sixth graders refine selected pieces frequently to “publish” for intended audiences. Published pieces use appropriate formatting and graphics (e.g., tables, drawings, charts, graphs) when applicable to enhance the appearance of the document.

Use of technology: Sixth grade students use available technology to support aspects of creating, revising, editing, and publishing texts. Students compose documents with appropriate formatting by using word-processing skills and principles of design (e.g., margins, tabs, spacing, columns, page orientation).

Grade 6: Writing Purposes
In sixth grade, students write to express, discover, record, develop, and reflect on ideas. They problem solve and produce texts of at least 500 to 700 words. Specifically, 6th grade standards in writing stipulate that students write in the following forms:

  • Narrative: Students write narrative accounts that establish a point of view, setting, and plot (including rising action, conflict, climax, falling action, and resolution). Writing should employ precise sensory details and concrete language to develop plot and character and use a range of narrative devices (e.g., dialogue, suspense, and figurative language) to enhance style and tone.
  • Expository: Students write to describe, explain, compare and contrast, and problem solve. Essays should engage the interest of the reader and include a thesis statement, supporting details, and introductory, body, and concluding paragraphs. Students use a variety of organizational patterns, including by categories, spatial order, order of importance, or climactic order.
  • Research Reports: Students pose relevant questions with a scope narrow enough to be thoroughly covered. Writing supports the main idea or ideas with facts, details, examples, and explanations from multiple authoritative sources (e.g., speakers, periodicals, online information searches), and includes a bibliography.
  • Persuasive: Students write to influence, such as to persuade, argue, and request. In grade 6, persuasive compositions should state a clear position, support the position with organized and relevant evidence, anticipate and address reader concerns and counter arguments.
  • Creative: Students write to entertain, using a variety of expressive forms (e.g., short play, song lyrics, historical fiction, limericks) that employ figurative language, rhythm, dialogue, characterization, plot, and/or appropriate format.
  • Responses to Literature: Sixth grade students develop an interpretation exhibiting careful reading, understanding, and insight. Writing shows organization around clear ideas, premises, or images, supported by examples and textual evidence.

In addition, sixth graders choose the appropriate form for their own purpose for writing, including journals, letters, editorials, reviews, poems, presentations, and narratives, and instructions.

Grade 6: Writing Evaluation
Sixth grade students learn to respond constructively to others’ writing and determine if their own writing achieves its purposes. In Grade 6, students also apply criteria to evaluate writing and analyze published examples as models for writing. Writing standards recommend that each student keep and review a collection of his/her own written work to determine its strengths and weaknesses and to set goals as a writer. In addition, sixth grade students evaluate the purposes and effects of film, print, and technology presentations. Students assess how language, medium, and presentation contribute to meaning.

Grade 6: Written English Language Conventions
Students in sixth grade are expected to write with more complex sentences, capitalization, and punctuation. In particular, sixth grade writing standards specify these key markers of proficiency:

Sentence Structure
—Write in complete sentences, using a variety of sentence structures to expand and embed ideas (e.g., simple, compound, and complex sentences; parallel structure, such as similar grammatical forms or juxtaposed items).
—Employ effective coordination and subordination of ideas to express complete thoughts.
—Use explicit transitional devices.

Grammar
—Correctly employ Standard English usage, including subject-verb agreement, pronoun referents, and the eight parts of speech (noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, conjunction, preposition, interjection). Ensure that verbs agree with compound subjects.
—Use verb tenses appropriately and consistently such as present, past, future, perfect, and progressive.
—Identify and properly use indefinite pronouns
—Use adjectives (comparative and superlative forms) and adverbs appropriately to make writing vivid or precise.
—Use prepositional phrases to elaborate written ideas.
—Use conjunctions to connect ideas meaningfully.
—Use regular and irregular plurals correctly.
—Write with increasing accuracy when using pronoun case such as “He and they joined him.”

Punctuation
—Punctuate correctly to clarify and enhance meaning such as using hyphens, semicolons, colons, possessives, and sentence punctuation.
—Use correct punctuation for clauses (e.g., dependent and independent clauses), appositives and appositive phrases, and in cited sources, including quotations for exact words from sources.
—Write with increasing accuracy when using apostrophes in contractions such as doesn’t and possessives such as Maria’s.

Capitalization
—Capitalize correctly to clarify and enhance meaning.
—Sixth grades pay particular attention to capitalization of major words in titles of books, plays, movies, and television programs.

Spelling
—Use knowledge of spelling rules, orthographic patterns, generalizations, prefixes, suffixes, and roots, including Greek and Latin root words.
—Spell frequently misspelled words correctly (e.g., their, they’re, there).
—Write with accurate spelling of roots words such as drink, speak, read, or happy, inflections such as those that change tense or number, suffixes such as -able or -less, and prefixes such as re- or un.
—Write with accurate spelling of contractions and syllable constructions, including closed, open, consonant before -le, and syllable boundary patterns.
—Understand the influence of other languages and cultures on the spelling of English words.
—Use resources to find correct spellings and spell accurately in final drafts.

Penmanship
—Write fluidly and legibly in cursive or manuscript as appropriate.

Grade 6: Research and Inquiry
In sixth grade, students select and use reference materials and resources as needed for writing, revising, and editing final drafts. Students learn how to gather information systematically and use writing as a tool for research and inquiry in the following ways:

  • Search out multiple texts to complete research reports and projects.
  • Organize prior knowledge about a topic in a variety of ways such as by producing a graphic organizer.
  • Formulate a research plan, take notes, and apply evaluative criteria (e.g., relevance, accuracy, organization, validity, publication date) to select and use appropriate resources.
  • Frame questions for research. Evaluate own research and raise new questions for further investigation.
  • Select and use a variety of relevant and authoritative sources and reference materials (e.g., experts, periodicals, online information, dictionary, encyclopedias, online information) to aid in writing.
  • Summarize and organize ideas gained from multiple sources in useful ways such as outlines, conceptual maps, learning logs, and timelines.
  • Use organizational features of electronic text (e.g., bulletin boards, databases, keyword searches, e-mail addresses) to locate information.
  • Follow accepted formats for writing research, including documenting sources.
  • Explain and demonstrate an understanding of the importance of ethical research practices, including the need to avoid plagiarism, and know the associated consequences.

Sixth Grade Writing Tests
In some states, sixth graders take standardized writing assessments, either with pencil and paper or, increasingly, on a computer. Students will be given questions about grammar and mechanics, as well as a timed essay writing exercise, in which they must write an essay in response to one of several 6th grade writing prompts. While tests vary, some states test at intervals throughout the year, each time asking students to respond to a different writing prompt that requires a different form of writing, (i.e., narrative, expository, persuasive). Another type of question tests if students know how to write a summary statement in response to a reading passage. Students are also given classroom-based sixth grade writing tests and writing portfolio evaluations.

State writing assessments are correlated to state writing standards. These standards-based tests measure what students know in relation to what they’ve been taught. If students do well on school writing assignments, they should do well on such a test. Educators consider standards-based tests to be the most useful as these tests show how each student is meeting grade-level expectations. These assessments are designed to pinpoint where each student needs improvement and help teachers tailor instruction to fit individual needs. State departments of education often include information on writing standards and writing assessments on their websites, including sample questions.

Writing Test Preparation
The best writing test preparation in sixth grade is simply encouraging your child to write, raising awareness of the written word, and offering guidance on writing homework. Tips for 6th grade test preparation include talking about the different purposes of writing as you encounter them, such as those of letters, recipes, grocery lists, instructions, and menus. By becoming familiar with 6th grade writing standards, parents can offer more constructive homework support. Remember, the best writing help for kids is not to correct their essays, but offer positive feedback that prompts them use the strategies of writing process to revise their own work.

Time4Writing Online Writing Courses Support 6th Grade Writing Standards
Time4Writing is an excellent complement to sixth grade writing curriculum. Developed by classroom teachers, Time4Writing targets the fundamentals of writing. Students build writing skills and deepen their understanding of the writing process by working on standard-based, grade-appropriate writing tasks under the individual guidance of a certified teacher.

Writing on a computer inspires many students, even reluctant writers. Learn more about Time4Writing online courses for sixth grade.

For more information about general learning objectives for sixth grade students including math and language arts, please visit Time4Learning.com.

*K-12 writing standards are defined by each state. Time4Writing relies on a representative sampling of state writing standards, notably from Florida, Texas, and California, as well as on the standards published by nationally recognized education organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.


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