How to Write a Research Paper

Here are the things you’ll need to know when writing our science fair research paper so that you and your student won’t be tearing your hair out.

The research paper needs to be 500 words or more.  The easiest part is the introduction.  You don’t even have to go to the library to write it!  The introduction is 1-2 paragraphs and includes your problem, hypothesis, an explanation of why you chose this project, and what you hoped to achieve.

The next part is the research portion.  It’s very helpful for students to come up with a spider map before doing any writing.  Start with this basic format:

Add information relevant to your project.  Common subtopics for science fair papers are history of _____, types of _______, and how _____ works.

Once you know what your subtopics are, you can start your research!  Personally, I like to have note cards handy when I’m gathering information.  I like to sit down with my laptop or encyclopedia and jot down facts I think I might use on note cards.  On each card, I write the author, page number, and book title on the top.  If it’s an internet source, I use the Internet Citation Organizer at the bottom of the page (you can copy/paste into this webpage and then print it.  Make sure you print though because it won’t save) and write at the top of my index card Source 1 or 2, etc.  This is really important because it is going to help me come back later and write the bibliography.  I have seen a lot of students write their entire research and then forget what sites and books they looked at!  There are two major problems with that: you have to do a lot of backtracking to find the sources you used and it could lead to plagiarism.   Write one fact in the middle, and make sure you note on the bottom whether that fact is a paraphrase, summary, or quote.  You can fill out a ton of cards right now that are direct quotes and change it into your own words later, but you don’t want to forget the fact you jotted down is a quote and then stick that into your research paper without proper citation.  After compiling 3-4 cards per subtopic, I almost have the paper written for me!

Once I have my note cards, I can organize those facts into paragraphs.  One way to make this very clear is to use colored note cards.  At school, the students have the option of starting their research on colored note cards, which I highly recommend.  That way each subtopic is its own color, and you can tell at a cursory glance which subtopic needs a few more facts, etc.

You now have the details of each paragraph written on the note cards, and all you need is the topic sentence.  My topic sentence tells the reader what I am going to prove, going to explain, going to describe, or going to share.  The rest of my paragraph supports my topic with good reasons, interesting facts, and well-described details.

Sometimes the most difficult part of writing a cohesive paper is making the paragraphs flow.  Here are some transition words that might help seam together two thoughts.


All of my students struggle with the basic question of “what is plagiarism?”  I’ve never gone through science fair without someone asking how much they need to change for it to be in their own words.  A common rule of thumb is not to use more than 4-5 words in a row that have been directly taken from the source (without adding quotation marks that is).  Another tip is to read the information from your source, close your eyes for a few seconds, and then try to write down what you remember.  Finally, use a thesaurus when you can’t think of how to change a word.  Especially think of ways a kid would say that fact you just read in an encyclopedia.  If there’s one thing I know, 5th and 6th graders will have a different writing style than a Webster dictionary!

The very last thing to add is the bibliography.  Here are a few links to get you going.  We are going off of the ACSI official rules on how to format the bibliography.  Their guidelines cover everything and are very helpful.

ACSI Science Fair Handbook

Internet Citation Checklist

Internet Citation Organizer

I hope everyone has a stress-free time doing science fair!


January 28-February 1

Monday– We learned about independent and dependent clauses.  We also took time to talk about the correct format of the hypothesis.  We went to the computer lab to work on typing our hypothesis.  It would be a good idea to bring a flash drive to school with you while we are working on science fair.  

Check out the example of a correctly written hypothesis:

Science fair question: Do cats prefer Meow Mix or Cat Chow?

If 10 cats are given a bowl of Meow Mix and a bowl of Cat Chow at every meal for two weeks, then cats will prefer Meow Mix every time.  I think this because bag of Meow Mix says it has the taste that cats love.

The hypothesis needs to be in “if, then” format.  The “if” tells you what you’ll be doing in your experiment, and the “then” clause states your prediction as a fact.  Next, you have to give your rationale as to why you think that.  This is the part where you can include those personal pronouns.  REMINDER: Every hypothesis needs to start with the word “if.”  Do not use personal pronouns in the first sentence.

Tuesday– We had a shortened language arts due to the 2 hour late start today.  We had just enough time to make a spider web for the research portion of science fair.  Students should be just about finished with writing the materials, hypothesis, and introduction to their research.

Wednesday– We started gathering information for our research today.  Make sure you do not lose your note cards.  Those are valuable sources of information that we’ll need to write the paper.

Thursday– We did an activity on independent and dependent clauses and completed the remainder of the worksheet we started on Monday.  We went down to the computer lab to finish doing research.  This will probably be the last day we do research in the library, at least for a while.  Students will need to be working on science fair at home.  Here are some due dates for science fair:

Research and Bibliography:        February 18th (Rough Draft)

February 25th (Revised Copy)

Final Research Paper:                 March 13th

March 20th (Revised Copy)

The final research paper includes (in this order) a title page and table of contents, the abstract, materials, procedure, hypothesis, Biblical application, conclusion, research,  bibliography, acknowledgments, and data/results.

Friday– Two hour late start (no language arts)


January 28-February 1

Monday- We are starting a new unit in Bible.  We will be learning about the writers of the New Testament.  In language arts, we took time to talk about the correct format of the hypothesis.  We went to the computer lab to work on typing our hypothesis.  It would be a good idea to bring a flash drive to school with you while we are working on science fair.  

Check out the example of a correctly written hypothesis:

Science fair question: Do cats prefer Meow Mix or Cat Chow?

If 10 cats are given a bowl of Meow Mix and a bowl of Cat Chow at every meal for two weeks, then cats will prefer Meow Mix every time.  I think this because bag of Meow Mix says it has the taste that cats love.

The hypothesis needs to be in “if, then” format.  The “if” tells you what you’ll be doing in your experiment, and the “then” clause states your prediction as a fact.  Next, you have to give your rationale as to why you think that.  This is the part where you can include those personal pronouns.  REMINDER: Every hypothesis needs to start with the word “if.”  Do not use personal pronouns in the first sentence.

In science, we reviewed how cells come together to form tissue and tissue comes together to form organs.  We also played a memory game to help us remember what each organelle does.  In Heritage, we played a simulation game to demonstrate how inflation works.  We responded to the game with a reflection and read pages 139-143 in our textbooks.

Homework: Bible worksheet is due tomorrow.  There will be a science quiz on the organelles tomorrow.

Tuesday– What a different day we had today!  The two hour late start set us back, so all we did in the morning was speech class.  Please be checking your schedule because there will be a speech due next class period (in two weeks).  We had lunch and recess later than usual, so we just had enough time to switch in the afternoon with math and language arts.  In language arts, we worked on typing our materials and hypothesis (which is due tomorrow).  We also made a spider web for our science fair (see post above).

Homework: Materials and hypothesis are due tomorrow.  Remember to study for a science quiz on the organelles (that got pushed back to tomorrow because of the late start)

Wednesday: Excellent chapel on hearing God’s voice- it inspired me to set aside some time today just to listen.  We spent language arts talking about how to gather information for a research paper and went to the library to look at sources.  In the afternoon, we talked about needs and wants and setting a budget.  The kids have really been wanting to do some teaching of their own.  So I assigned groups pages in science to make a lesson from.  5th graders have pages 96-97 and 6th graders have pages 88-89.  On Friday, the students will teach their lesson to me and the other grade.

Thursday– We are continuing to work on preparing our lessons to teach to the other grade.

6th Grade teaching help for science:

A way to remember the difference between mitosis and meiosis is that meiosis makes me.

Activity Ideas

  •  Have the other group make a mitosis and a meiosis flip book
  • Use play dough to show mitosis and meiosis

Videos and Clips

5th Grade teaching help for science:

Click here for a song!  The chorus is especially relevant.  We’ll be getting into some of the other information later.

Prepare cards with scientific names of common animals written or typed either correctly or incorrectly according to the guidelines on Student Text page 97.  Give one card to each student.  Each student decides if his card is correct or incorrect.  If the card is incorrect, the student must tell how to correct the way the name is written.

Have the group try to make a sentence using the first letter of each of the seven letters of classification.  Example: Katie poured coffee on Father’s good suit (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species)

Have the students complete workbook page 62.

Friday-One of our students made a plant cell cake and got extra credit towards 3rd quarter science grade.  It turned out wonderfully, and she even shared with the rest of the class!  Monday is the final day to turn in that extra credit.

The 6th graders taught their lesson today on meiosis and mitosis.  They did an excellent job (and I’m also secretly hoping they’ll realize teaching isn’t as easy as they might think)!  5th graders will teach their lesson on Monday, so remember to prepare over the weekend for a seamless science class on Monday.  We also finished the unit on economics today, which means we will be having an exam over the 1920’s and economics next week.  Some students wisely decided to bring their textbooks home over the weekend to get a head start in studying.

We had another two hour late start today!  This is the second time this week.  Late starts and beach week have made for one wacky school week!  I am so excited to get things back to normal (well, as normal as it can get with a ski day coming up…)

Cell Model Pictures

Students did a good job creating 3D models of cells today.  Here are some of the pictures!


Plant Cell



January 22-25

Monday– No School

Tuesday– Late start —–> No language arts today

Wednesday– We are working on the culminating project for A Case for Christ: Student Edition.  We are writing an essay on 3 arguments we’ve read about in the book.  Click here for a copy of the exact requirements.

Thursday– We had a shortened language arts period today.  We continued working on typing our essays.

Use copy and paste to bring paragraphs of your work into the grammar checks.  Press control (ctrl) and C to copy.  Press control (ctrl) and then V to paste.

Click here for grammar check (you can choose to download it into Open Office or paste your text into the box and press “check text”)

Click here for your essay to be read aloud (You will probably have to copy/paste one paragraph at a time.  It can only read so much at once.)

January 22-25

Tuesday– I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend!  Hopefully everyone decided on a science fair question, which was due today.  Here are the links we used today while reviewing pronouns.  We are still on the parts of speech unit in language arts.  Try playing the games at home if you get the chance!

Balloon Pronoun Game

Subject and Object Pronoun Quiz

Relative Pronoun Quiz and Review (Take before playing the game)

Relative Pronoun Game (Only play games 3 and 4)

Reflexive Pronoun Exercise

Science fair question was due today.  We shared our ideas with each other and spent some time talking about what characterizes a living thing.  In heritage, we talked about supply and demand.  Some students have a supply and demand worksheet to finish.

Wednesday– We had a great chapel service today!  In language arts, we started the culminating project on parts of speech.


  • Choose one idea for each part of speech.
  • Each project should be completed on a separate piece of paper so that you have at least 9 pages (counting the title page) when you are finished.
  • Create a title page.  Include your name on it.
  • Title each page with the part of speech written in large, clear letters.
  • Illustrate one other page of your choice.

In science, we worked on familiarizing ourselves with microscopes.  We got acquainted with the parts of a microscope, read about the history, and made some of our own slides.  In heritage, we talked about capitalism and communism.  We played a game of rock, paper, scissors to illustrate potential outcomes of communism.

Thursday- In Bible, we ended the unit on Revelation by writing a reflection. Remember to indent and use complete sentences.

  • 1st paragraph- History (when, where, why, by whom) Use textbook
  • 2nd paragraph- Symbols (what are some, what do they represent, why are they used- apocalyptic literature)
  • 3rd paragraph- New learnings (what was new information for you, how has your perspective on the book changed, what are some observations you’ve made)

In language arts, we continued working on our parts of speech project.

We started talking about cell structures today.  There are a lot of different parts, so use this song to help remember them all!  Come to school tomorrow to construct animal and plant cells out of Jello and candy.  In Heritage, we talked about monopolies and wrote a story on what would happen if Walmart had a monopoly on groceries.

Homework: Finish Revelation reflection and monopoly story.

Note: It is too cold to go skiing tomorrow.  We are postponing ski day and will have a normal day tomorrow.

Also, 2nd quarter grades have been sent out by email.

Students: Do you want to start the 3rd quarter with extra credit in science?  We are making a cell model in class with Jello today.  If you want to make a model of the other type of cell you didn’t do in class (Ex- If you did a plant cell in class, you would do an animal cell at home), I will give you 20 extra credit points.  Your model could be constructed out of food or other materials.  It doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed, but it does need to have the essential organelles.  Check out the examples below!



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA22barchibald2bjohn2bmotley252c2bjr2b2528american2bharlem2brenaissance2bpainter252c2b1891-198125292bjazz





January 14-18

Monday– We took last week’s spelling test and talked about the spelling bee.  The 5-8th graders will participate in the spelling bee on February 11th.  They have been given their spelling words in advance, so they will have all the words we will cover at the spelling bee (which means everyone can potentially do extremely well).  Click here for a link to the lists in case you misplace yours.  This week we are doing something a little different with spelling homework.  The students will pick 10 regular words and one bonus word from their spelling bee list.  This will give us a running start into practicing!

The students were also given a sheet to read that sets up chapters 7-8 as a court case.  Come to class on Wednesday to act as jurors and decide whether to prosecution or defense has a stronger argument.

Homework: Finish reading sheet and be ready to discuss.  Spelling homework is due on Thursday

Tuesday– In place of regular language arts, we will be doing our first day of speech class!

Wednesday– We discussed the court case today.  Students formed their opinions and wrote a two paragraph reflection on their group’s discussion.

Thursday– We read chapter 9 and the conclusion.

Friday– We revisited some of the questions we talked about before we even started reading the book.  The students were able to see how much they’ve grown since then.  The discussions were much more in-depth, and the students were able to respond quickly and with confidence.  We wrote a paragraph reflection on how we’ve grown since the beginning of the unit and what we plan to do with this new information.