Tag Archives: research

#Research Paper Topics for #Educators: #Scientific #Inventors @ EnglishEmporium.WordPress.com

Image shows a scanned list of scientific inventors in alphabetical order, to be used as a list of topic choices for research projects.

Visit EnglishEmporium.WordPress.com for more free worksheets, teacher tools, and lesson plans.

Here’s a list of scientific inventors in alphabetical order. You can use this list for research paper projects in your classroom or library.  It’s nice to have a list in alphabetical order, so you can issue encyclopedias to students accordingly.

I should also point out that English Emporium already has a ton of stuff on research papers available for you to download and print, including:

Hopefully there’s something useful in that stack of stuff I’ve used over the 23 years that I worked as an English teacher. If you like my free, printable worksheets, lesson plans, and activities, please show your appreciation by pinning these on Pinterest, tweeting about them, and/or sharing them through other social media. Just be sure to mention where you found them!


Topics for #ResearchPapers: #Artists List for #Teachers @ EnglishEmporium.WordPress.com

Image of a scanned list of artists and painters in alphabetical order.

Visit EnglishEmporium.WordPress.com for more free teachers’ tools, worksheets, and lesson plans.

When I was a brand-new English teacher, I used to wonder what topics to use for research papers. The first time I tried teaching research papers, I let the students choose their own topics. Ha ha ha! Sure, I got some great research papers on skateboarding and Minecraft, but I also got some real duds.

One kid even did a so-called research paper on cow manure, just so he had an excuse to use the “sh” word in class when quoting local dairymen he had interviewed!

Kids can be soooo creative that way.

To help anyone who’s struggling with research papers, I’m going to post lists of possible research topics over the next few months. Today I’m starting with artists. Next I’ll post a list of inventors. And at the end of this series of blog posts, I’ll make a list of medieval research topics available to you.

I should also point out that English Emporium already has a ton of stuff on research papers available for you to download and print, including:

Hopefully there’s something useful in that stack of stuff I’ve used over the 23 years that I worked as an English teacher. If you like my free, printable worksheets, lesson plans, and activities, please show your appreciation by pinning these on Pinterest, tweeting about them, and/or sharing them through other social media. Just be sure to mention where you found them!

Help your #students build their research #vocabulary with this free #printable from EnglishEmporium.WordPress.com


Last week I posted Page 1 of my Biographical Research vocabulary worksheet. Today I’m posting Page 2. Remember to show your appreciation for my free stuff by liking it, tweeting about it, and generally showing it to the world! Thanks!

Visit EnglishEmporium.WordPress.com for free, printable handouts for teachers.

Visit EnglishEmporium.WordPress.com for free, printable handouts for teachers.

A Moment in Time: a PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference Class on Writing Historical Novels

Pointers, Tips, and Advice for Gathering Research when Writing Historical Novels

Image: iClipart

This is my first post on the classes I attended at this year’s PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference. This class, which offered techniques and tips for historical novelists, was presented by Candace Robb…


What do publishers want in historical novels?

Right now, publishers in the US don’t want big blockbuster, doorstops of a book. You may have loads of information from your time period, but the publisher is probably going to cut it back a lot.

Ms. Robb cut 40-50 thousand words from The Kings’ Mistress, when she tried to publish it in the US. But in the UK, they were happy to have a longer book. If a book will need to be translated, though, shorter is better for many European publishers.

Publishers like their historical novels to run between 100k and 120k words (even though some established bestsellers get away with more).


How do you make history exciting to read?

Choose a character from your novel and have them get caught up in a transitional event.

You need to know what is at stake for your protagonist and why getting caught up in this historical event is going to ruin their prospects, change their motivation, or change whose side they’re on. All of this is bound up in that protagonist and what he/she needs/wants. To be a successful historical fiction writer, you’ve got to keep coming back to this motivating factor.

The story is about your protagonist and how he/she changes.


Is there a technique or formula for writing historical novels?

Robb had written 13 mysteries when she started writing historical fiction. She understood the mystery formula, but there was a whole different formula for writing historical novels.

The problem with historical material is that once you’ve done your research, you have a huge bucket full of information from the protagonist’s life, starting with their birth and ending with their death. But that’s too much information to include in a work of fiction.


How do you make sure the reader knows all the facts without going on and on for too long?

Robb says it’s amazing what you can do with two sentences. You may find you’ve written four chapters of back-story before you get to the actual plot. So if a critique partners says, “Chapter 5 is really exciting,” consider starting with that chapter. Take the essential information from the first few chapters and create one sentence of necessary backstory from each chapter. Cut the rest.

Remember what Anne Lamott says: crappy first drafts are how we figure out where our story is going. We get the plot down first, then we trim and embellish.


What should a writer do when he/she is confronted with historical information that is somewhat sketchy or questionable?

Historical facts can be in flux, when new archaeological information comes to light. Also,  experts disagree — they can differ about how to interpret historical documents. So you’ve got to lock down your own opinions about these things and just get the book written.


Should modern writers use historical language in their manuscripts?

Use dialect as little as possible. The modern reader needs to be able to read the dialog and have it all make sense. Avoid “explaining” slang or idioms of the period.


History is often tragic, so how do you make your novels inspiring when we all know the tragic endings of famous, real-life historical figures?

History doesn’t always have happy endings. And you shouldn’t cheat your reader by trying to sweeten it up, but really let your reader experience your protagonist’s emotions, as tragedy strikes him or her. We all die. But sad events can be wonderful if you do it right.


Do you have any tips on research?

The Graduate Research Guidebook by Edward Sarkis Balian, 4th Edition, is helpful. But best of all is to go to a university library and ask a research librarian for help. They can be incredible resources. Don’t be afraid to contact librarians for the resources you need. They can scan material and e-mail it to you. It’s also possible for a librarian to do an inter-library loan.

When you do find a legitimate book on the historical info you’re looking for, look through their bibliography for titles they used in their research. But be wary of 19th century antiquarian texts; they often have very tainted, biased opinions based on questionable “historical” documents.


What about online research?

Robb says, you sort of have to know the field first, because there’s a lot online that you just can’t trust. Know your stuff before you trust a website with its information.


Is it important to visit a location you’re writing about?

Robb mentioned how visiting a cathedral in Lincolnshire helped her realize how steep the streets were when walking from town, up to the cathedral. Documents written during that period don’t include that sort of detail, because the people who wrote the documents considered the geographical terrain common knowledge for their audience at the time. So if you can travel to the place you’re writing about, it would really help you seem authentic.

What you want to avoid is sounding like a researcher. It will pop your reader out of the book. So Robb highly recommends, as much as possible, that you travel to the place you are writing about.

I’d like to thank Candace Robb for allowing me to post her tips and techniques on my website. If you’d like to peruse or purchase her historical books, she writes historical mysteries under her own name and historical novels under the pen name “Emma Campion.” Here are some links to online venues related to her books:

Her Website



World Book Encyclopedia Worksheet Printable for Any Topic


Over the last two weeks, I’ve offered free handouts for doing Wikipedia research, right? Well it wouldn’t be a true research project without offering you a free World Book Encyclopedia Worksheet that’s printable for any topic!

The one I use is ideal for getting your students to read nonfiction with the common core state standards initiative in mind.  You can choose to have them research scientific topics like inventors or the history of soap making. You could have them research world monuments, bodies of water, or mathematical concepts. Heck, you could even have them research the very idea of research

Next week I’ll offer some lists of possible biographical topics for research papers, so please watch for that. And if you decide to use the document below, be so kind as to like it on FB, tweet about it, or in some other way spread the word about this website. Thanks!

Printable PDF WorldBook Worldbook Encyclopedia Worksheet free

Document Created by Chelly Wood

World Book Encyclopedia Worksheet Printable PDF

Document Created by Chelly Wood

Teaching Students How to Cite Wikipedia: Free Worksheets

How to teach students about the trustworthiness of websites like Wikipedia

Image: iClipart

When I teach students to cite Wikipedia, I start with an important lesson in trustworthiness. In their innocence, our students often believe everything they read online. To show them how easily an ordinary person can alter the information on Wikipedia, I suggest you contact your school’s tech specialist. Let him/her know that you’re planning to alter the page about your school (if one can be found) on Wikipedia.

Then, the night before your lesson, go into the Wikipedia page about your school and change your school’s mascot from a tiger (or pirate or whatever) to something really ridiculous, like a platypus, a golf club, or a stinkbug. Before your lesson begins, check to make sure no one has edited your change.

When opening your lesson, do the following:

  1. Begin by asking a random student, “What is your favorite thing in the whole world?” Their answer might be pizza, soccer, dogs, cars, etc.
  2. Type this into the Wikipedia search. Show the kids the page on that topic.
  3. Now go around the room and ask for three more examples. Type these in and show the kids that their favorite things are also available on Wikipedia. (It’s so diverse, I’ve never had anyone offer a topic that wasn’t available; but of course, it’s hypothetically possible, so be prepared for that.)
  4. Finally, type in your school’s name. Scroll down to the place where you’ve changed the mascot.
  5. Ask your students, “Is there anything wrong with the information found here? Let’s take turns reading through it.”
  6. When they spot the error to the mascot, ask them, “How does that make you feel? Who would have made this mistake?”
  7. Confess that it was YOU, not your rival school, who made the change to the mascot. But explain that when we do a research project on Abraham Lincoln, Wikipedia should not be our most trusted source for information. In fact, it’s far from trustworthy. The more frequently visitors come to that site, the more likely it is to have misinformation.
  8. Make sure you change your school’s mascot BACK to the correct one, when the lesson is over.

At this point, you’re ready to reserve time in your school’s computer lab to let the kids try their hand at doing this sort of research.

I have two handouts for Wikipedia research. The first is a way for students to get the feel of how we cite Wikipedia, through practice. It also gives them a chance to think up multiple topics they might be interested in researching.

The second handout is the actual research graphic organizer.

So you can spend one day just getting a feel for how to find what you want on Wikipedia, and spend the next day, really doing the research on your chosen topic.

Here are the handouts:

Citing Wikipedia Practice Page

Wikipedia Research Handout

If you like this activity and the handouts that accompany it, please help promote this website. E-mail a friend, link to this page, like it on Facebook, etc. Thank you.