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How to Teach Research Paper with Sample Essays

Updated on February 3, 2016
VirginiaLynne profile image

After over 20 years of teaching college English, VirginiaLynne loves to share tips, teaching plans, and information about the profession.

Research Essay Teaching

Teaching students to write a research essay is difficult. Many students are not familiar with putting a lot of information together in a longer project. Make this project easier for yourself and your students by assigning it in parts. Teach them to look at a longer essay as a series of shorter essays and they will be more inclined to feel they can do the work. Generally, I pick a particular topic which I ask the students to focus on for our research essay.

Problem of Child Poverty

Non-Profit Research Paper

Currently, I'm having students investigate a non-profit organization. The information I'm including in this hub is for that assignment, but you could adapt this idea for a different topic. What I like about this project is that it allows the students to investigate one topic from many different angles, using the same sorts of essays we've handled in the first half of our course.

Audience for Research Paper

A business audience who might influence the problem?
A business audience who might influence the problem? | Source

Choosing an Audience for Research Paper

Next, students can think about audience. Many students chose to use other college students as their audience, but some may want to choose to orient their paper towards people in their future field of business or to a group which disagrees with them.

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get directions

According to the Phillipine Government, about 27% of people in the Phillipines live in povert(

Research and Annotated Bibliography

Students often need guidance in researching. I take them to our University Library and help them use our library search engines.

In doing Non-Profit Research papers, I have my students look at the websites of the charities and find research papers about the problems the non-profits try to solve. I also help them find government and international sources of statistics on problems such as poverty and sex-trafficing.

Some students find a professor or other expert to interview about the subject. My students also try to interview someone involved in the organization and do a site visit if the organization has a branch in our town. I like the fact that this sort of paper gives students such a variety of research tools. They also investigate the financial data on the non-profit from Charity Navigator, Givewell and Better Business Bureau.

After they gather their sources, I have them write an Annotated Bibliography of their research using the M.L.A. Bibliographical format. At our University, the Annotated Bibliography is used as one of the five papers in our course and I ask students to do a thorough job of summary and response so that they will really read and understand their sources and be ready to write their paper.

Researching Poverty

Writing the Research Paper

  • Introduction (Interest the reader in the problem)
  • Problem overview (Exploratory essay on the problem the Non-Profit tries to solve)
  • Organization overview (Explaining essay about the organization and how it solves the problem)
  • Evaluation (Evaluation Essay in which the student chooses criteria and evaluates the effectiveness of that organization)
  • Conclusion (Student makes a final judgement and persuades the reader about their conclusions concerning this organization)

We do peer editing on each of the sections and discuss transitions between sections as well as strategies for making each part of the essay effective.

Research Essay Worksheets

I use the following "worksheets" periodically through the process to give me feedback on how students are progressing. You are welcome to adapt these for your own class. Following this worksheet are my actual lesson plans.

Getting Started on Research Paper: Choosing a Topic and Audience

Read through each section of the “How to Write a Research Essay” and then fill out the answers to help you start organizing your own essay.

  1. My essay will probably be _________________________pages.
  2. I will give the instructor access to the sources I use by ______________
  3. The audience for my paper will be ____________________________

Research Worksheet: Introduction and Audience


  1. I will interest the reader by ______________________
  2. The techniques I will use in the opening of the paper are _____________
  3. I will make the reader understand this issue is important by ________
  4. After reading my introduction, the reader will know ____________
  5. My claim statement or question will be __________________

Introduction ideas:

  1. Story Frame (opening and conclusion)
  2. Scenario
  3. Your visit observation
  4. Your experience in the organization
  5. Vivid description of problem or organization
  6. Statistics about problem
  7. Startling facts about problem
  8. Conversation with client or person who works in organization


  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What common ground do you have with audience? What does the audience know about this issue?
  3. What do you want your audience to know after reading your paper?
  4. How will you present the problem/issue vividly? And describe the subject so the reader knows it well.

Research Essay Worksheet: Exploring the Problem

Exploratory Essay: Look over the information on the Exploratory essay. There are a lot of different aspects that you can cover, and how you handle this exploratory essay depends on your subject and the information you have gathered.

  1. What is the issue/problem/need that you will be exploring?____________________
  2. How can you best explore different opinions of this issue? (you can discuss opinions about cause of the problem, ideas about how to solve the problem and/or a history about how people have viewed the problem and tried to solve it)
  3. What are three positions on this issue?
  4. What would be a one sentence claim statement which would summarize these different views?
  5. What evidence do you have that will help you write about these positions?
  6. How does your organization fit into the positions described in your exploratory essay?

In-class Discussion on Exploring the Problem

In small groups of people working on organizations which try to solve the same sort of problem, or as a whole class, we work through these questions to try to see the complexity of solving problems. For whole-class discussions, I usually use the example of the problems of Poverty, Homelessness or Teen Age Pregnancy.

  1. What is the need/problem?
  2. What is the history of this problem?
  3. What are the different views on this cause?
  4. What are different ways people have tried to solve this problem?
  5. What has worked and what has not?
  6. How does your organization fit into the discussion about this problem.

The questions below are designed to help you think through the history of this discussion part.

  1. Audience: who is interested in this issue? Are there identifiable groups who have different views/interests?
  2. Constraints: What circumstances, beliefs, attitudes, current events, or life experiences influence the way people think about this issue?
  3. What common ground do people have on this topic/problem?
  4. Exigence: What happened to cause this problem/need? Is this a new problem or a recurring one?

Research Paper Worksheet: Non-Profit Organization

After Students have had a chance to look carefully at their Non-Profit Organization's website or other materials, they can work on the following assignment in or out of class.

Organization Overview Worksheet

  1. What is the history of the organization? Who started it and why?
  2. How has the organization changed over time?
  3. What is the philosophy of the organization? How do they view the problem? The cause of the problem? The solution?
  4. What are the goals? What programs do they have to reach those goals?
  5. Who are the clients?
  6. Who are the volunteers?
  7. What sort of community support do they have?
  8. How are they funded? Who supports this organization?
  9. How does the organization evaluate their own effectiveness?
  10. How does your organization fit into the positions outlined in your exploratory essay?

Transition Sample Sentence: While some groups do______to solve the problem of _______. ________(organization) tries to solve the problem by ___________

Compassion Sponsor and Child Meet

Research Essay Worksheet: Evaluation

Evaluation: In-Class Exercise: Using Chains of Reason to Develop Lines of Argument for Paper (Idea taken from Perspectives in Argument by Nancy Wood)

  1. Write a 100-word synthesis of your thinking and research on your issue at this point.
  2. Exchange your synthesis with a classmate. Read each other’s syntheses, and write a thought provoking question that asks for additional information or clarification.
  3. Return papers to one another. Read the question and write a 2-3 sentence response.
  4. Continue to exchange papers, read responses and ask another question until the time is called.
  5. When time is up, read over the questions and answers. Write: what surprised you? What do you need to research more? Where do you think your answers were the strongest?

How to Evaluate Non-Profit

Help students to develop good criteria for evaluation by having them make a list of ways an organization would be considered successful or effective. I usually have them write a list on their own or with a partner for about 5-10 minutes, then have them share their lists while I write them on the board. Here is a sample list from my class:

  1. Is organization successful at meeting their own goals?
  2. Does their website match what they actually do?
  3. What is the attitude of workers towards clients/public?
  4. How do they use funds? What percentage of funds goes to programs vs. fund-raising or administrative costs.
  5. How do authorities in that area view the organization?
  6. How well does the organization educate the public on their issue?
  7. How well known are their services? Do they advertise their services effectively?
  8. You can evaluate their goals, their philosophy, their “take” on the problem as to whether you think it is the right one.
  9. Evaluate the solution they do compared to other solutions that are proposed.
  10. How good are their facilities?
  11. How helpful are their services? How do clients feel about the organization?
  12. Do they have the support of the community?
  13. How many people do they serve compared to how many need the service?
  14. Do their services overlap with another organization or government program?
  15. Does this organization have an "end game" for when they would have solved the problem and what they would do about it?
  16. Do they have limits on who will qualify for services? Are these restrictions good ones?
  17. Is there evidence of lives changed?
  18. Do they follow excellent practices for that type of organization?

Evaluation Activity

  1. Pick 4-6 of the criteria in from the brainstormed list that works for your organization.
  2. Write a sentence or two of your evaluation of your organization based on each of those criteria.
  3. What is your personal response to this organization? (learn, feel, want to do?)
  4. Would you urge other college students to get involved? Why or why not?
  5. What suggestion do you have for this organization to be better?
  6. What story affected you the most?
  7. What do you want your readers to take away from your paper?

Evaluation by Compassion Sponsored Child


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    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks for stopping by randomcreative. When I was first teaching this course, I looked everywhere for some help on how to make it work, but I didn't find much and the book didn't give any help in structuring the course. So I decided to give my ideas to helpfully give other new instructors some information.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great resource for this topic! I love how you broke everything down. It's so important for students to understand all of the steps required for a large project like this.