Having your students write an I-Search paper is a great way to teach about the writing process, research methods and using the many different tools and resources in the library. Broken into four simple writing steps, this form of essay will teach students about researching and writing an essay: informational, persuasive or expository. This is a valuable tool for all students, especially those who are writing for research purposes.

Break the paper into four parts. This will pull the research paper apart into smaller segments. This makes it seem easier to the student and gives the teacher the opportunity to follow the process of the student and intervene if necessary.

Complete the proposal. This is the first section of the I-Search paper. It allows the student to identify his topic and explain why he has chosen it and how he will gather the information needed to write the paper. This will be written using "I" statements and should be approximately a half page to one page in length. A normal starting sentence for this section might be "I chose to write about horses because...".

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Research the topic. Finding and using at least three different sources from books, newspapers, magazines and so on, is a moderate goal. As the teacher, you may choose to show how the student will document her research.

Describe the research process. The second section of the I-Search paper is how the student conducted his research. She will explain in detail where she looked for sources, what she found, what worked, what did not work, and how she organized the information. This section, written in "I" form, is usually one to two pages in length.

Write the actual paper. Have the students compose the essay within the guidelines you create. The essays can be anywhere from two to seven pages in length. This portion of the I-search paper should be written using a formal structure, not in "I" statements.

Reflect on the process. The last section is the reflection of the student, and once again written in "I" form. This gives the student the opportunity to look back and identify the good and bad things that happened during the whole process and to infer what they may do differently in the future when writing for research. This section is usually a half page to one page in length.


  • Using a rubric for each section or the paper as a whole will help keep grading fair and objective.

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