Sunday, December 8, 2019

Research Template You Can Do

For the past 3 weeks, I've shared about doing better Google searches, results, and citations. During this time, my own 4th grade daughter brought home a research project ... to be done at home. (How ironic?!) 

As I was writing "Citations You Can Do" last week, she began doing her own research ... and quickly became frustrated. Now, she knows how to do the basics: she created a Google Doc, opened a tab and began doing her research. But she became frustrated with HOW to go about collecting information. She had her rubric in front of her with her teachers' requirements, but from there she was lost. She hasn't done much research, nor has she been given much direct instruction on research. She started copying and pasting information from the Internet and told me she was done. When I questioned her on putting it in her own words, she got frustrated and walked away from the computer.

It dawned on me in that moment:
  • it's not that she didn't WANT to research (she was actually very excited!)
  • it's not that she COULDN'T research (she understood the process of looking up info), and
  • it definitely wasn't that she didn't have the TOOLS to research (we have a desktop & various devices along with her info from her teacher).

It was simply she didn't know HOW to take the requirements from her teacher and use it to guide her when she researched.

Now let me give you a little background on her ... she asks questions all the time. She is happy to ask ANYONE questions ... me, her dad, sisters, teachers, principal, even Siri & Google. So why not this time? Why not now? I didn't realize it at first, but I realized she didn't see the requirements as questions to answer. They were statements. She read "climate" and researched "climate". She found a paragraph about the climate for her ecosystem and copied & pasted it. Done, right? Requirement fulfilled?

With this new realization, rather than argue with her, I tried a different tactic. While she was taking a break, I jumped onto her Google Doc and wrote the requirements as individual questions. One piece of information at a time. For each of the 3 required paragraphs. (I also included a direction at the end of each paragraph for pasting the URL of her sources.) When she came back over, she asked what I was doing. I asked her to try again, and this time, answer the questions. Just type out the info she finds. We didn't worry about complete sentences. She searched, she read, and she jotted down info in her own words because she was answering the questions. It worked!

* On the left is the paper she brought home. The typed part on the right is what I did for her. *

Once she had the research part done, I took a deep breath and told her it was now time to write her information in paragraph form. I waited for a negative reaction. BUT ... she jumped in, restated the questions, and wrote her paragraphs (clearly, she's had practice doing that!). And since I had her copy and paste the URLs from her searches (for her citations at the end), if she had questions, she was able to open them up and confirm her own questions. She even took the time to include a few pictures of the plants and animals she included. (That's my girl!) And since she is confident enough in Docs, she tackled the spelling & grammar errors like a champ!

The realization that there is a difference between giving students a set of requirements to include in their research and the ability of them to DO the research smacked me in the face. How often have I assumed students know HOW to take my expectations and turn it into a report? How often has that word "assume" come back to smack me in the face? How many more times will it?

So rather than sit back and hope this gets better, I created a template to share. There is no way I can anticipate every research project for every teacher, but hopefully, you can look at this and recognize ways you can make modifications to your rubric/guidelines/ expectations/etc so your students are able to better research.

Research Template
To the left is a peek at the research template I created. (It is a Google Doc since most reports are seen as word processed documents, but I can easily see this done on Slides, too.)

I broke it down into 4 parts. Feel free to use or adjust what works for you.

At the top, there is space for students to write down the topic. This is very important, especially working with younger, or first time, researches, or if your students will be researching with the help of parents or another teacher.

Part 1 is dedicated to the actual research. I suggest teachers write the requirements on the left in the form of questions. Students are asked to write their info on the right side of the chart.

Part 2 asks students to write their paragraphs directly below the chart of info they gathered. This is helpful so they are working only with the information for that paragraph. I also hope it limits the fear of being overwhelmed. One paragraph at a time.

Part 3 guides students in turning their sources into citations. I like using "Cite This For Me." However, if you are working with older students and have very specific guidelines, please feel free to substitute your instructions.

Finally, Part 4 is all about cleaning it up. (I called it polishing up.) Since it's a Google Doc, the version history will always tell the full story. I included a couple of suggestions on how to polish it up. You'll have to decide what's the best for you and your students.

Click here for the link for the "Research Template". If you like what you see, please click on "File" and then make yourself a copy. I cannot stress enough that you are welcome to use what works and adjust anything that doesn't.

I've also added this template to my co-created website "Templates for Teachers". This site is devoted to sharing out items similar to this research template. My friend & colleague, Beth Kingsley, & I created this over a year ago and we have just about 70 templates for various activities. You are welcome to make your own copy and fit it to you and your students.

And if you are looking for help on how to guide them to better research, please check out these previous blogs:
Research is something we all want our students to do and to do well. Please do not assume they know how to do it, or that they know how to do it well. Even if they are high school students, I'd love know how much they improve if we take a little bit of time and do some direct instruction on good research skills.

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me at


  1. This is so awesome! Thanks for sharing this. I am working with my 3rd graders, this will definitely make it less complicated and more success for the students.

    1. That makes me incredibly happy! Please let me know how it goes. :)


  2. Fantastic resource! I teach Research Skills for 6th grade students and will tweak this to use with them in January. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Awesome! I'd be excited to see how you tweak it. Good luck!


  3. This is a great template.
    I am a Japanese high school teacher.
    Unfortunately, neither students nor teachers are used to the way they study and how to organize them.
    However, thanks to this template, I realized that it was natural that we didn't understand how to do it.
    I am excited about how to use it. thank you very much.

    1. I'm thrilled you find it useful. You are very welcome.

  4. So hard to know how much structure to give students for research, especially if it is failry new to them. I applaud your patient and reasonable approach!