Grapic Organizer For Research Essay

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!

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

Graphic Organizer:
Research Note-Taking Made Easy


  • Arts & Humanities
    --Language Arts
  • Educational Technology
  • Science
    --Life Sciences
    Note: This activity can be easily adapted for use across the curriculum.


  • K-2
  • 3-5
  • 6-8

Brief Description

A graphic organizer helps students gather research notes for writing.


Students will

  • select a topic for research.
  • develop focus questions for their research.
  • use a graphic organizer to collect and organize information.
  • use their collected notes to write a research essay/paper.


research, bats, graphic organizer, notes, note taking, study skills

Materials Needed

* NOTE: This graphic organizer is editable. That means students can simply copy the graphic organizer to a disk and use a Word processing program to fill in the spaces. See additional graphic organizers on Education World's Teacher Tools and Templates Page. (Of course, it you choose to, you can simply print the template and students can write on the form with pen or pencil.)

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students use an editable graphic organizer template and a word processing program to fill out the template. (Or you can print the template for students to write on.) This note-taking template helps students collect and organize information related to a research topic.

Note: For the purpose of this lesson, we chose the topic "Bats." You can use that topic; connect the activity to any topic in your curriculum; or have students choose a topic of special interest to them.

Introduce students to a new research topic. (For this sample lesson, we are using the topic of bats.) You might start the lesson by creating a KWL chart, such as the one on Education World's Teacher Tools and Templates Page. Have students brainstorm information they Know about bats and write it in the K column. Brainstorm a list of questions students Want to know about bats and write them in the W column. Save the KWL chart for use at the end of the lesson.

The students' list of questions might include some of the following:
  • How many different kinds of bats are there?
  • In what countries can bats be found?
  • How big are the biggest bats?
  • How do bats fly?
  • How do bats see?
  • Where can bat habitats be found?
  • What do bats eat?
  • How long do bats live?
  • Which bats are endangered? Why?
  • Why is it a good idea to protect bats?
  • What can be done to protect bats?

Students can select from their brainstormed list the three questions they are most interested in learning about, or you might assign one question to each student (so at least one student is researching each of the brainstormed questions) and let students choose the other two questions. The student then use a word processing program to type the three questions into the "Research Question" field on the Note-Taking Graphic Organizer.

Next, students use library and or Internet resources (see Internet Resource List below) to search for the information to answer the three questions on their charts. They identify three "Research Sources" and write the answers they find in those sources in the appropriate columns in the Note-Taking Graphic Organizer.

The spaces on the graphic organizer are particularly small. That fact should encourage students to write notes (using key phrases and words) rather than entire sentences; that way, when they use their notes to write their reports they will have plenty of content and be more likely to write in their own words.

When students complete their graphic organizers, they write a report that includes a summary paragraph or two about each of the questions they researched.

Save time for students to share the results of their research. Then fill in the L column on your KWL chart with the information students Learned about bats.

Internet Resource List: Bats


Students will complete their charts accurately. They will use correct grammar and punctuation in their essays/reports.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

Return to the Note Taking lesson plan page.

Find more ideas for teaching study skills in an Education World article Teaching Study Skills: Ideas That Work!.

Links updated on 04/20/17

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