Research Paper Brainstorming Graphic Organizer

Recently my oldest son came home from school with a 10-paragraph research paper assignment.  After choosing The Holocaust as his topic, he set out to gather knowledge and facts.  His teacher gave the students an organizational tool which involved index cards.  Basically, he was to brainstorm 10 broad topics related to The Holocaust and write them on 10 different index cards.  Then as he set out to gather his research, he was to have at least 5 index cards containing information and/or facts to go with each of the topic cards.  These would eventually help him to develop his 10 paragraphs for the research paper.

While I thought this was a great organizational tool and a very concrete way to help the students stay on topic, I quickly realized that this method was probably not the easiest for all kids.  While he did fine, I would see him occasionally shuffling through cards and getting them mixed up.  It got me thinking about those students we all have in our classes who have true struggles with organization and would stand to lose research because they misplace or mix up their cards.

This graphic organizer follows the same organizational pattern as the index cards, but has students writing all facts for each paragraph on one sheet of paper. So for my son’s research paper assignment, he would have had 10 pages to keep in a folder, as opposed to several index cards.  Obviously, students would have one organizer for each paragraph of their paper, no matter the length of the research paper that was assigned.  I believe there is a place for both types of organizational tools and there are most certainly students who might need one or the other – so why not have both options available?

Multi-Paragraph Graphic Organizer

Meets CCSS Writing Standards for Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2 & 5.2 – Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic, and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

Incidentally – have you heard of a website called EasyBib?  My son’s teacher let them use it to create their bibliographies for this paper.  It was AWESOME!  No more the days of double checking every single comma, colon, and capital letter to make sure your bibliography was in perfect Elements of Style format!  You enter the resources you used and this site generates a ready-to-print bibliography!  GENIUS!  Sorry…was very excited about this obviously!  Have your students try it!  The parents will thank you!

Success! Welcome to The Curriculum Corner! Get ready to receive lots of free educational resources.

Filed Under: Blog, Nonfiction, Production and Distribution of Writing, Text Types and Purposes, Writer's Workshop Management

Ask any student – essay writing is one of the most despised tasks of their educational career.  Perhaps there is so much displeasure associated with the task because it’s perceived as too linear – there isn’t enough visual and creative appeal. But if you use graphic organizer for writing then you can make writing enjoyable – or at least less terrible.

Not only enjoyable but graphic organizers (or diagrams) can make the writing process a snap.  They’ll help you think outside the box, draw conclusions you wouldn’t normally observe, and make the entire process faster and more efficient.

Why Use Graphic Organizers for Writing

The phrase “graphic organizer” is just a fancy way of saying “diagram” or “visual aid.”  Basically, they are a visual representation of the information you’ve acquired in the research process.  There are quite a few reasons why you should use them when writing essays or summaries.

  • Helps you visualize your research and how elements connect with each other
  • Enhance your essays, summaries and research papers with visual elements
  • Track correlations between your thoughts, observations, facts or general ideas.

When it comes to essay writing, the most common graphic organizers are webs, mind maps, and concept maps.

Using Webs for Brainstorming

Webbing is a great way to see how various topics are interrelated.  This graphic organizer is particularly useful during the brainstorming step of the writing process.

A web can sometimes get a bit messy.  Usually, there are lots of arrows to connect overlapping ideas.  However, even with lines crisscrossing every which way, it is still a great way to visualize your thoughts. If you’re using a diagramming software like Creately you can overcome some of this because we automatically arrange the object for you.

Once you’ve created a map to document all your ideas and establish connections, you can easily transition to other forms of diagramming to better organize the information.

For example if you’re writing a research paper about the food web of the Australian bushes you can start with a diagram similar to the one below. This way you can easily visualize the web while writing the paper. This is a simple example but graphic organizers become even more important when the subject gets complex.

Food web of the Australian Bush

You can check the whole diagram by visiting this link .

Although simple this example shows the importance of using graphic organizers for writing summaries. A comprehensive diagram pretty much does the summation for you.

Using Mind Maps as Graphic Organizers

Mind maps are a great way to depict a hierarchy.  What is hierarchical organization?  The concept is simple: a singular topic dominates with each subsequent idea decreasing in importance.

Usually, the mind map starts with the thesis (or main idea) at the center.  From there, you can branch out with your supporting evidence.

Use this process to replace your traditional note taking technique – note cards, outlines, whatever.  You’ll quickly realize a mind map is a great way to formulate the structure of your essay. The thing to note here is that the nature of the mind maps force you think about sub topics and how to organize your ideas. And once the ideas are organized writing the essay become very easy.

A mind map of a research proposal ( click to view larger image )

Above is a mind map of a research proposal. Click on it to see the full image or you can see the fully editable template via this link . As you can see in this mind map the difference areas of the research proposal is highlighted. Similarly when your writing the research paper you can use a mind map to break it down to sub topics. We have lots more mind map templates for you to get started.

Concept Maps

A concept map will help you visualize the connection between ideas.  You can easily see cause and effect – how one concept leads to another. Often times, concept mapping includes the use of short words or phrases to depict the budding relationship between these concepts.

If you look closely you can see that its very similar to a mind map. But a concept maps gives more of a free reign compares to the rigid topic structure of a mind map. I’d say it’s the perfect graphic organizer for writing research papers where you have the license to explore.

By creating a concept map, you can also see how a broad subject can be narrowed down into specific ideas.  This is a great way to counter writers block.  Often, we look at the big picture and fail to see the specifics that lead to it.  Identifying contributing factors and supporting evidence is difficult.  But with a concept map, you can easily see how the smaller parts add up to the whole.

Concepts maps are great to visualize supporting elements of a concept

View the full Concept Map diagram from this link here.

Why Bother With Graphic Organizers?

If you already detest the writing process, adding another step might seem insane.  However, there really are several advantages of using them.  If you haven’t already accepted the benefits of each individual diagram style, here are some more perks of graphic organizers in general:

  • Quality essays are based on detail.  No one is going to accept your opinions and reasoning just because you say so.  You’ll need proof.  And organizing that proof will require attention to detail.  Graphic organizers can help you see that detail and how it contributes to the overall concept.
  • Graphic organizers are flexible.  You don’t need one of those giant pink erasers.  You don’t need to restructure your outline.  All you have to do is draw a few arrows and bam – the relationship has totally changed.
  • No matter what you are writing about, a graphic organizer can help.  They can be used to structure an essay on the Great Wall, theoretical physics, or Spanish speaking countries.
  • If you write an outline, can you easily see how point A influences point X?  Probably not.  But if little thought bubble A is sitting out there all by itself, you can visualize the way it ties into point R, T and X.
  • Some of us find it difficult to put our opinions, thoughts, and ideas into writing.  However, communicating our feelings with little doodles and sketches is far less threatening.
  • As a writer, our brain often feels like a 2-year-old’s toy box – a big jumbled mess.  Taking that mess and putting it onto paper with some semblance of organization is challenging.  Rather than trying to take your thoughts from total chaos to a perfectly structured list, just try to get them out of your brain and onto paper in the form of a diagram.
  • A graphic organizer helps you establish validity and relevance.  You can easily nix the ideas that don’t support or enhance your thesis.

The next time you are faced with a writing project, take a few minutes to explore the efficiency of graphic organizers.  You can find a wealth of templates here.

Have you ever used a graphic organizer to structure an essay?  How did it go?  Do you have a diagram suggestion for the writing process that wasn’t mentioned here?  Let us know!

About the Author:  Mike Hanski is an essay writing expert and a blogger for bid4papers where he writes about everything education related and shares tips about college success and study. Feel free to contact him at google plus.

concept mapsgraphic organizersmind mapsweb diagrams

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