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How to Help Your Teen Write a Research Paper

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Picture of a teen girl writing while sitting in a library.
Research is crucial to writing.

Writing a research paper can feel like a daunting task for your teen, but with proper study skills it can be done easier than they think.

Kids are going back to school for spring semester, and soon they will be starting work on research papers in high school and college. Typically, teachers will assign research projects early in the semester, and they will be due around finals time. Although kids have a long time to work on this type of projects, it is important to start on them early to ensure that they are well done.

An important role that parents can play is making sure that students stay on task, and make a timeline for their work. Also, you can show them how to take effective notes, or proofread a finished paper.

Below are some tips that may be helpful for your students as they go through the phases of planning, researching and writing their paper.

Making an outline.

Before writing the paper, it is easiest to start with an outline. That will help your student organize their thoughts.

They can either choose the topic or have it assigned to them. Then, they will need to formulate some sort of argument about this topic. If they have an idea of what they want to argue, this gives them a starting point for their research.

With the outline, they can lay out their topic sentence first, then put supporting points below. These will be the topics that they will research.


Back when we were in school, most research was done in the library, but today, most of it is done online. Your student can use resources like Google Scholar to look up articles that are considered to be reputable sources. Or, they can go to Wikipedia (which should not be used as a source itself!) and scroll to the linked articles at the bottom of the page and start with those.

In my research, I also find that it is helpful to type a sentence into google with the question I am hoping to answer for my research. For example, if I was looking for sources for this article, I would search: "what is the best way to write a research paper?"

As your student reads through research articles, it is good to take notes as they go. There are two types of notes that I find helpful.

  1. Summarizing. In this type of notes, your student would make note of the main points of an article in their own words.

  2. Quotes. These are exact text of the document that they will cite later in their paper.

It is important to make note of which is which, as quotes will need to be cited in the final paper.

When I write, I go through all my notes and number each line with which paragraph I will use them in for the final paper. For example, if there are three main points I am trying to make in my article, I would number each line of my notes either 1,2, or 3, depending on which point they support. Having all your notes organized will make your writing much faster.


When writing, typically the essay will be organized with an introduction at the beginning introducing all your main points. This will be followed by supporting paragraphs for each point. Then, a conclusion paragraph restating your argument.

This is a basic Five-Paragraph Essay format that is used for many high school and college papers.

If the paper is longer, the theory is still the same. The difference is that there will be multiple paragraphs devoted to each supporting argument, or, your student can use more than three arguments.

Your student can use this format to set up almost any writing assignment, and if the teacher wants a more specific format, they will teach the students the specifics of that writing style.

There are somewhat different formats for science papers, or English papers. Predominately, the difference will between writing in an active or passive voice. Scientific papers typically write from a passive voice and say things such as, "the research posits that..." whereas English papers would say, "I think that..." Teachers will typically give some guidance for this as well.

Finally, at the end of the paper will be the Bibliography, or References page. This is where the student will put a list of all of the resources that they used to research for the essay.


If you look closely, you will notice that I used the "Five Paragraph Essay" format for this article. I used an introduction to my topic, followed by three different information sections, and now the conclusion.

When you help your student write a paper, showing them example papers in the desired format can be helpful. Also, here is an outline tool that you can have your child use for a paper.

Essay Outline
Download PDF • 29KB

Additional Resources.

Here are some additional resources that you can give your teen to assist in writing a research paper.

Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you found this helpful. Also, let me know if there are any topics that you would like me to cover in more detail in the future.

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