To get kids ready to write research reports, start by helping them understand that reports are used to describe and share information. They’ll use information texts to collect facts and then use that information to write a research report.
7 steps to writing a research report
1. Choose a topic
Give students a general topic and help them choose an appropriately specific topic to research. For example, if they’re researching sports, they might brainstorm a list of sports they know or famous athletes or events like the Olympics or the World Cup. If they were researching natural disasters, they might come up with a variety of disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods.
Extend this by asking students to think about what they know — and what they would like to know about this topic. Consider brainstorming in small groups or as a class activity so that students can share ideas. Students can create research questions out of some of the things they would like to know.
2. Use informational resources
Explain to students that they will use informational texts such as nonfiction books, Internet resources, news accounts, or interviews with eyewitnesses to gather information. Discuss choosing appropriate sources. That may mean using information from trusted organizations or experts, noting how old the information is, and differentiating between primary and secondary sources.
3. Take notes
Taking notes is an important part of gathering information. Teach students to paraphrase, or use their own words when taking notes. If they use a direct quotation, they need to note it as such. Explain what plagiarism is and that even information on the Internet needs to be put into their own words. Notes should include the source in case students need to clarify information or make a citation.
Teach students to take notes on information that is relevant to their report. For example, if they are writing about the life cycle of trout, detailed information about trout fishing probably isn’t relevant.
4. Organize ideas
Outlines or graphic organizers help students put their ideas in a logical order before they start writing. If students have notes on notecards or sticky notes, they can move notes around themselves based on their organization.
5. Write the research report
Once students have notes and an outline, they are ready to draft their research report. A research report should include an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Some formal reports will include an outline and bibliography or list of references or citations. Students may use headings, tables, charts, or other visual representations to help share information as well.
6. Edit and revise the research report
Have students work in pairs to identify places where the research report is unclear or where a reader might have questions. Students should make any changes they need to improve the report based on the feedback they receive. Make sure students are clear that they shouldn’t make up information if they don’t know something.
Once the content is settled, students should proofread for run-on sentences, spelling errors, punctuation, and other similar issues.
7. Share the research report
Ask students to give a short presentation based on their research report or to read a section to the class. Consider other ways of sharing the information such as a living museum format or creating a library to share with other classes in the school.
Learning how to research and write a research report are essential skills for all students. Are your kids ready?
Are you ready to teach them? I’ve created a unit on writing research reports suitable for grades 4–7. With this downloadable resource, you get six activities to walk students through the research report writing process. And it’s all centered around natural disasters to keep kids engaged in a fascinating topic.
Get all the details and your copy here >> Natural Disasters Report Writing