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Example Box for Making a Timeline

I need to write a persuasive research paper about an illegal drug. Today’s date is April 1st.  The paper is due June 1st.  I have 60 days to get this done.

April 1st to April 6th – Complete Beginning Cycle.  Start research by April 6th
April 7th to May 1st – Done with research and notes by May 1st.  Start writing!
May 2nd to May 26th – Finish writing by May 26th.  Time to reflect.
May 27th to June 1st – Pass it in on June 1st.

Before You Begin, Get Organized

1.  Review the assignment and rubric carefully. 

The assignment sheet explains what you should do.  The rubric explains how you will be graded.  Teachers spend a lot of time writing these and expect that you read them.  Put these papers in a safe place.  Take special note of the following:

  • Length, cover sheet, margins, and other technical details.
  • Number and types of sources.
  • Citation style (MLA or APA).
  • Date due.

2.  Determine the purpose of the assignment. 

There are basically two types of research projects in high school:

  • Informative projects ask you to demonstrate what you know.
  • Persuasive projects ask you to defend a point of view.

Informative research projects ask you to gather information to define, explain, summarize, describe, or illustrate a topic.  Informative projects ask to link ideas together and inform the reader.  You may explain how things are connected.  You may compare, contrast, cause and/or relate. Your thesis is the product of this analysis. 

Examples of informative papers/projects:

  • Critique the poem Beowulf, using historical research.
  • Explain why a battle from World War II was important.
  • Describe the conditions of migrant workers during the Great Depression.

Persuasive research projects ask you to gather information to assess, prove, justify, respond to, support, or argue a point of view.   The topic needs to be debatable and/or controversial.   You clearly state your argument in a strong thesis statement with the goal of persuading the reader.   You use data, statistics, facts, and other evidence.  You interpret this information to support your thesis.  

 Examples of persuasive papers/projects:

  • Should colleges accept students based on the principles of affirmative action?
  • Did the United States make the right decision in dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II?
  • Is marijuana medicine?

3.  Make a plan.  

Develop a timeline and choose a note-taking method.

Timeline:  It is important to budget your time. Those who wait until the last minute are more likely to perform poorly, plagiarize, and skip steps that will lead to a lower grade.  Your next research project will be that much harder to do.  Using the date due as the end date, work backwards, and estimate time for the following:

  • 10% for topic definition, background information, keywords list, list of questions, and the essential question.
  • 40% for searching, note taking, citation, and finalizing thesis. 
  • 40% for outlining and writing the rough draft, including parenthetical citations.
  • 10% for the Research Checklist and the final draft.

Note Taking Methods:  I’ve witnessed students begin taking notes by typing in a computer, or writing on random sheets of paper, not thinking about how they're going to organize these notes later.  For a major research project, use a method.  Some students like note cards or notebook paper.  If you type better than you write, by all means, use a computer.

Whatever you do, make sure that the system is portable.  Don't type all your notes on your home computer or the computers at school.  Take your notes with you so you can work on them at school and at home.  The following are note-taking methods.  For details on these methods, go to the section on Taking Notes.

  • Note Cards
  • Note Sheets
  • Notebook (handwrite using a notebook)
  • Word Processing Software (i.e. Word, Google Docs, etc.)
  • Easybib's Note taking/Outlining System

Subject Guide

Jennifer Jourdain's picture
Jennifer Jourdain
Montachusett Regional Voc Tech School
1050 Westminster Street
Fitchburg, MA 01420
(978) 345-9200 x5125