In one form or another, research is a required skill in every trade. When it comes to moving content responsibilities around within a school, there is no worse obstacle than an ill informed colleague. That phenomenon has prompted this page

A Social Studies (SS) department’s team-minded approach to an integrated writing curriculum as it is related to an Argumentative Research Project (ARP)could only be supported by any well-informed staff member. I had my reasons for supporting the shift of the ARP from the Language Arts (LA)department to the Social Studies department of my school when it was suggested three years ago. My reasons are still the same

But I never had to support it. I could have opposed it, albeit that would have been foolish, self-centered of me. The shift of the project made curricular sense, and even if I disagreed with it, it should have gone to Social Studies. An argument could easily be built to support that fact. It should have been with Social Studies in the first place. With the long development and deployment of the Common Core State Standards, there should be one in Science and in Technical Subjects as well

Here is how I see it.

The Argumentative Research Project/Paper specifically and perfectly (I know . . . absolutes are dangerous) satisfies every one of the CCSS Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12. It most certainly does not belong in the workload of Language Arts department. Take note of the title there “. . . Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.”

Here is why I see it this way. 

The standards set for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects clearly dictate that every student must be able to “Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

They ask for mastery in the ability to “a. Introduce claim(s) about a topic or issue, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically; b. Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources; c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence; d. Establish and maintain a formal style. e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.” These are writing standards specifically for Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects – not for Language Arts – because, this is an important note to make, children need to be able to do this type of work for their subject specific instructors.

Which brings me to a slight tangent. My specific personal position goes further than just, “The ARP is a SS assignment.” It breaks from the my school’s practice in one fundamental way. A certain amount of buy in was built in order for the shift of the project from LA to SS to be accepted. I don’t think the buy in was necessary which took the form of an olive branch extended to SS in the form of the whole staff sharing the grading. I think that was one of the biggest mistakes because it set a precedent that never should have been set

Throughout the development of the CCSS, it eventually became clear to those of us who followed the development that specific writing standards concerned with Literacy in the separate subject areas (SS, Science, Technical Subjects ) were in the CCSS. We, who followed that development, knew that the ARP, which in years past was dealt with in LA, was actually, according to the CCSS, a SS, Science or Technical Subject assignment. SS teachers working hard at DBQs knew that DBQs yielded authentic samples from mini practice tasks that required students to craft arguments with authoritative anchor texts. That is what the ARP requires on a grander scale. What better thing to request of students in the specific subject areas for culminating products

This is all in the light, here and now, because a SS department member, unnamed, is brewing the notion that the project go back to LA. There is no coherent argument that could be presented to me to justify the notion that LA should take the ARP back. Bottom line is that LA should never have been responsible for it in the first place – before the CCSS. The ARP was a great project fit for SS, Science and other subject areas from the moment it was hatched. There is no basis for the position that it belongs with LA other than, “I don’t want to do that.” And that isn’t a position, that is a . . . Well, I honestly don’t know what that is

What is important is this, the ARP fits into a set of standards called History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. This specific assignment was always a SS assignment and the entire school should have always helped LA grade it, if that is the way things are supposed to get done, when it was in truth not being dealt with by the proper department over all those pre-CCSS years.

English Language Arts has its own sets of standards broken into reading, writing and language. Here are merely the headings of those sets: (1) College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading which deal with Reading Standards for Literature, Reading Standards for Informational Texts; and (2) College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing which deal with Writing Standards and Speaking and Listening Standards; and (3) College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language which cover Language Arts Standards such as Conventions, Knowledge of Language, and Vocabulary Acquisition

We teach the children to read, to write, to speak, to listen critically, evaluative, progressively – to appropriately meet any environment they are faced with. Not that I should have to explain any of this to anyone outside my content area. And quite honestly, I am kind of perplexed as to why I feel I am in a position where I feel I have to explain how a Social Studies assignment fits the Social Studies standards. I am writing this to show my support of a colleague who is fielding things that colleague shouldn’t have to field. The standards are very crystal clear

In addition to teaching the children to read, write, think and listen, LA requires quarterly Project Based Learning (PBL) Units that fit into the Understanding By Design (UBD) framework and satisfy every angle of writing, reading, speaking, and listening which include research and argumentative writing. SS has the ARP designed by a SS Specialist as a UBD.

So we come to what I recognize as the real issue. This isn’t about whether this particular project belongs in LA or SS. It isn’t about LA or SS at all. It isn’t even about the ARP. Eh! This is about the CCSS in Literacy in SS, Science and Technical Subjects.

The most essential question is this: What assignments/projects in Science and the Technical Subjects meet the Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects? There should be an ARP in Science and an ARP in the Technical Subjects classes too. And what exactly are all the “Technical Subjects”?


Simply, and unemotionally it comes to the fact that this whole movement is based in CCSS curricular ignorance. Language Arts has it’s work cut out for it, I might add, as it always has . . . forever . . . and ever. It took a village to teach a child to read, write, speak and listen then, and now it is the LA department as village that does it. The other subject areas can accept their responsibilities, pull themselves, as I hear it said, up by their britches, buck up and grade some big time research papers that they are supposed to be assigning, tracking, and collecting, and grading.


I would ask anyone to attempt an argument against any of the cogent points I clearly state above.


And to think, I haven’t even gone near the NCSCOS.


So, it all seems clear to me. I would predict that some colleagues may not see the relevant curricular connections. But, well, “I’m sorry” would have to be my reply.

Below you will find the skeletal resources for the ARP that USED to be assigned in LA. Feel free to copy, paste and modify to  suit your needs. I claim no responsibility if you mess up your cut, paste and modification.

Much Love,

Mr. Moshé


The Argumentative Research Project is part of the Social Studies Curriculum. Here are some resources to help you on your way.


 Eighth Grade Argumentative Research Project


Argumentative communication involves defining issues and proposing reasonable solutions. Argumentative works include but are not limited to debates, problem/solutions, speeches, and letters to the editor. In middle school, students must learn the differences between an informal hallway confrontation and a logical, detailed, coherently organized argumentative work; therefore, sixth grade students learn the foundations of argument. After establishing the foundations of argument in grade six, the argumentative environment is emphasized in grade seven with refinement occurring at grade eight. By the end of middle school, students should be able to construct engaging, thoughtful solutions to problems as well as detailed, well-argued, coherent, and convincing responses.North Carolina Standard Course of Study-Middle School Language Arts, 2004

TASK: Complete an argumentative research project during the 4th Quarter.


Successful completion of this project will help students refine their understanding of written arguments and the ability to create arguments.  In addition, this project will serve as preparation for the N.C. graduation project that all students must complete to obtain a high school diploma.  Lastly this project is aligned to the NCSCOS for middle grades English Language Arts.

Required Project Components: Your project will consist of 2 separate parts:

  1. Argumentative Research Paper:  An argumentative research paper is a combination of a traditional research paper and a persuasive essay.  An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.
    1. 5-6 page argumentative research paper with a works cited page in proper MLA format.
    2. Minimum of 8 sources.  Each source must be used at least once inside of the paper.
    3. Present at least three pieces of evidence but no more than five to support your claim.
    4. Word parameters:  2,000-2,500 words.
    5. Paper structure:  Title, introduction, a clear argumentative thesis statement, body paragraphs with support, and a conclusion.
    6. Use parenthetical documentation within your paper.
    7. Do not plagiarize; include a photocopy of all cited print sources.
  2. 3-sided Project Display Board & Debate:  A graphic representation of your research and answers to your argumentative question.
    1. The Display Board requires a works cited page in MLA format to be attached to the back of the display.
    2. Neat, visually appealing, organized.

Following is a list of Argumentative Research Topic Questions that were used by students in a Language Arts program. These topics are NOT used any longer, although they could be used for personal reasons to do some research. If you can think of and phrase a research question and could figure out a category it could fit into, write a research question. Please post a comment that includes your first name, last initial, research question and possible category. Thanks!!!

Possible Argumentative Research Questions:

Free Speech

  1. Should newspaper reporters be required to reveal their sources?
  2. Should a rating system be required for song lyrics?

Armed Services

  1. Should the United States have mandatory military conscription? For whom?
  2. Should women serve in military combat?


  1. What role should the federal government take in dealing with the problem of AIDS, homelessness, or other widespread social, medical, and economic problems (pick only one problem for a focus)?
  2. Should the federal government provide health care for all citizens who cannot afford their own?
  3. Should the United States force democracy upon other nations?
  4. Does the U.S. government do enough to ensure food safety?
  5. Are the D.A.R.E. programs and other anti-drug programs effective?
  6. What can the federal government do to improve health care for current and former soldiers?

Media Issues

  1. Is rap music misogynistic?
  2. Should video games be censored?
  3. Does rap music perpetuate stereotypes about African Americans?
  4. To what extent should advertising aimed at children be regulated by law?
  5. Does television violence contribute to juvenile crime?
  6. Do talk shows exploit society’s victims?
  7. Are movie ratings effective in curbing violence?
  8. Does televising trials demean justice?
  9. Does media violence contribute to society’s violence?
  10. Is television harmful for children?
  11. Should the Federal Communications Commission tighten regulations on the content of radio talk shows?

Employment Issues

  1. Should laws regarding minimum wage (or the forty-hour work week) be revised?
  2. Should the government provide child day care centers for working parents?
  3. What impact on the family (or the workplace) have changes in gender roles had?


  1. Should genetic engineering be controlled by law?


  1. Have the large salaries of professional athletes had a negative impact on the athletes or the sports?
  2. How should colleges manage their athletic programs in relation to their academic goals?
  3. Can competitive sports be unhealthy?

Women’s Issues:

  1. Do “beauty” contests (Mr. America, Miss America, etc.) serve any purpose in society?
  2. Was the Salem Witchcraft hysteria caused by a fear of women?


  1. What techniques should the public schools use to strengthen literacy at all grade levels?
  2. Should children be required to attend school past the age of sixteen?
  3. Should disabled children be mainstreamed?


  1. Should English be declared the official language of the United States?
  2. Are illegal immigrants harming America?
  3. To what extent should bilingual education be offered in public schools?

Health Issues

  1. Should tobacco companies be held responsible for smoking-related illnesses and deaths?
  2. Is America’s drinking water safe?
  3. What types of regulations of smoking in public places should the legal system impose?

Crime & Punishment

  1. Should violent juvenile criminals be tried as adults?
  2. Can prison boot camps reform young defenders?
  3. Is juvenile crime a serious problem in the schools?

Animal Rights

  1. Is animal experimentation justified?
  2. Is the Endangered Species Act effective?
  3. Will genetically altered animals benefit humankind?


  1. Do shelters help the homeless?

Below is a proposed tentative outline you could use to craft a structured Argumentative Research Paper.



Research Question:

I.                                           Introductory Section/Paragraph

  1. Background information:  Provide a brief overview of the topic for your audience.
  2. Thesis Statement/Claim statement:  What are you going to prove in your paper?   State your three 3 pieces of evidence (reasons to support your claim).

II.                                        Section #1

  1. Topic sentence
  2. Introduce your first piece of evidence that supports your claim.
  3. Elaborate on your evidence.
  4. Example + explanation of how it supports your topic sentence.
  5. Conclusion sentence/Concluding thoughts on how (all) the example(s) support thesis.
  6. Transition statement

III.                                     Section #2

  1. Topic sentence
  2. Introduce your first piece of evidence that supports your claim.
  3. Elaborate on your evidence.
  4. Example + explanation of how it supports your topic sentence.
  5. Conclusion sentence/Concluding thoughts on how (all) the example(s) support thesis.
  6. Transition statement

IV.                                     Section #3

  1. Topic sentence
  2. Introduce your first piece of evidence that supports your claim.
  3. Elaborate on your evidence.
  4. Example + explanation of how it supports your topic sentence.
  5. Conclusion sentence/Concluding thoughts on how (all) the example(s) support thesis.
  6. Transition statement

V.                                        Section #4-Counterarguments (Arguments that are against your claim)

  1. Topic sentence
  2. Discuss possible counter-arguments to your claim.
  3. De-bunk each counter-argument.
  4. Conclusion sentence/Concluding thoughts on how (all) the example(s) support thesis.
  5. Transition statement

VI.                                     Concluding Section  

  1. Sum up what the reasons  have illustrated re: thesis
  2. Some thoughts on the implications of what you've just said or shown

Argumentative Research Project Proposal Worksheet

My Name _______________________

My Block ____________________________

For my research project, I will persuade students in our class that


Reasons to support this position include




What are some arguments against this position?



What are some questions that the paper should answer? 










 Below is a brief assessment you could use to track how you’re doing on your paper as you work.

Argumentative Research Paper


Criteria Yes No
  • Have a clearly stated, argumentative thesis statement in the introduction.
  • Have at least three clearly stated and fully developed reasons.
  • Have direct explanations of why those reasons prove that your argument makes sense.
  • Have at least 8 well-chosen, relevant academic sources.
  • Have explanation for every quotation, and have more explanation than quotation.
  • Have all sources documented in the paper, right after they are used. (Parenthetical notation).
  • Have exact words in quotation marks.
  • Have clear, logical organization and transitioning
  • Be focused – everything must go towards proving your thesis!
  • Have a separate Works Cited page that lists every source used in the paper – papers without this will not be accepted

SWMS Middle School


The Argumentative Research Project

Daysfrom the ROLL OUT Component of the ArgumentativeResearch Paper
Day 1 Research topic/question.
Day 2 Argumentative Research project proposal.
Day 20 Completed note and source cards.
Day 27 Typed outline of Argumentative Research Paper. TURN IN YOUR OUTLINE
Day 33 Typed Works Cited page – Peer Proof/Edit. Writer’s Workshop Day
Day 40 Typed first draft of argumentative paper – Peer Proof/Edit. Writing Workshop Day
Day 50 Typed final draft of argumentative paper
Day 50 Argumentative project display board

Debate Scoring Sheet

Instructions: Follow these steps.

  1. Write down the Topic Question being presented.
  2. Write in the names of the individuals debating.
  3. Circle position over each name at the top of table.
  4. Grade each individual. Please give each individual a score between 0 – 5.

5 – Excellent                        2 – Poor

4 – Good                             1 – Disastrous

3 – Average                          0 – Refused to Present

  1. Total all the scores to determine the winner.
  2. Neatly write the winner’s name where indicated
  3. CIRCLE           Affirmative or         Negative.
  4. Write positive constructive comments where indicated.
  5. Turn in the scoring sheet when it is filled.

Topic Question:





< —— Names —— >






< ——– Position ——– >






Time of Presentation(s)



1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5


1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5


Eye contact




Speech 2-3 Minutes




Cross Examination Questions


State the Topic Position


Volume Appropriateness


Dress Appropriateness


———— TOTALS ————


Winning Speaker:  ______________________________________








Argumentative Essay Rubric

Essay – 100 points

SCORE SIX (A+) – A sixpaper is superior.  It does ALL OR MOST of the following:

  • Focuses and develops ideas in a sustained and compelling manner, showing creativity and insight.
  • Clarifies and defends or persuades with precise and relevant evidence; clearly defines and frames issues.
  • Effectively organizes ideas in a clear, logical, detailed, and coherent manner using appropriate structures to enhance the central idea or theme.
  • Demonstrates involvement with the text and speaks purposefully to the audience in an appropriate, individualistic, and engaging manner.
  • Uses multiple sentence structures and word choices effectively and with a sense of control for stylistic effect.
  • Commits few, if any, errors in Standard English rules for grammar/usage and mechanics.
SCORE FIVE (A) -A fivepaper is distinctly above average.  It does ALL OR MOST of the following:

  • Focuses and develops ideas in an effective and detailed manner.
  • Defends and/or persuades with important and relevant evidence; defines and frames issues.
  • Organizes ideas clearly and coherently using structures appropriate to purposes.
  • Communicates a sense of commitment to the topic and to the audience’s involvement.
  • Uses varied sentence structure and word choice effectively.
  • Commits few errors in Standard English grammar/usage and mechanics.  
SCORE FOUR (B) – A fourpaper is adequate.  It exhibits ALL OR MOST of the following characteristics:

  • Adequately focuses and develops ideas with detail.
  • Defends and/or persuades with support and clarity, using relevant evidence.
  • Organizes ideas in a satisfactory manner with adequate coherence and logic.
  • Uses a voice that is appropriate to audience and purpose.
  • Uses a variety of sentence structures and word choice, but occasionally displays some wordiness or ineffective diction; sentences may be predictable.
  • Commits some errors in Standard English grammar/usage and mechanics that do not impede meaning; indicates basic understanding of conventions.  
SCORE THREE (C) – A threepaper is inadequate.  It is clearly flawed in SOME OR ALL of the following ways:

  • Focuses, but may not display mature or well-developed content.
  • Attempts defense or persuasive stance but position is unclear and/or evidence is brief, tangential or based solely on personal opinion.
  • Displays minimal organization; contains irrelevancies, digresses, rambles, or lacks logic.
  • Lacks sincerity of purpose in the writer’s attempt to involve the audience appropriately.
  • Uses sentence structure and word choice that are somewhat limited, simplistic, mundane, or otherwise inappropriate.
  • Contains flaws in Standard English rules of grammar/usage and mechanics that do not impede meaning; indicates some consistent misunderstanding of the conventions.  
SCORE TWO (D) – A twopaper is very weak.  It reveals serious and persistent problems in communications.  It compounds the weaknesses of the 3 paper in SOME OR ALL of the following ways:

  • Lacks focus and development; may list items with little or no supporting detail.
  • Defense or persuasive stance is unclear or absent; evidence is vague or missing.
  • Contains serious flaws in structure, organization and coherence.
  • Attempts, but fails in the writer’s attempt to involve the audience appropriately.
  • Uses sentence structure and word choices that are highly limited, simplistic, or otherwise inappropriate.
  • Displays consistent violations in Standard English rules of grammar/usage and mechanics that impede understanding.  
SCORE ONE (F) – A onepaper is extremely weak.  It has few redeeming qualities.  It at least mentions the topic, but generally fails to communicate with the reader.  It does SOME OR ALL of the following:

  • Simply repeats the topic or fails to provide adequate development.
  • Fails to establish a position and/or develop persuasive view; evidence is not apparent.
  • Shows almost no structure, organization or coherence.
  • Does not address the audience appropriately.
  • Uses limited and/or immature sentence structure and word choice.  
  • Overwhelms the reader with serious violations of Standard English rules grammar/usage and mechanics. 

Parenthetical Citations – 10 points

10-9 points

 8-6 points

5 or less points

Your paper is nicely “peppered” with parenthetical or in-text citations that contain all of the necessary information and are correctly formatted and punctuated. The first word from the citation is used if no author is available. Your parenthetical/ in-text citations contain most of the necessary information and some are correctly formatted and punctuated. There are a few correct parenthetical or in-text citations.

Works Cited – 10 points

10-9 points

 8-6 points

5 or less points

  • Follows the assigned documentation convention through correctly formatted Works Cited entries.
  • Entire Works Cited page is formatted correctly.
  • All entries are complete and correct.
  • A few minor elements of a few individual entries are incorrect (punctuation, capitalization in titles, order of multiple authors in one entry, etc.)
  • A few minor elements of the overall format of the page are incorrect (hanging indent, title of page, correctly spaced throughout.)
  • One entry is missing some information.
  • Many minor elements of individual entries and/or of the overall format are incorrect
  • Major elements in individual entries are incorrect (titles, names, publication information, dates, formatting, type of source, etc.)
  • Major elements of the overall format of the page are incorrect (layout of page, order of entries, etc.)
  • More than one entry is incomplete

Plagiarism = zero


Remember…there is no such thing as a little plagiarism!


Sources Worksheet



List Your Possible Sources:






State Your Topic:




List Five Questions You’d Like to Answer About Your Topic:




2. Taking Notes

A. What is a note card?

A note card is simply a 3″x 5″ index card on which you write information from your
sources.  Note cards contain the information that you might include in your written or
oral report. There are also electronic versions of note cards that your teacher may ask
you to use.

B. There are 4 kinds of note cards:

1. Source Cards
2. Quotation Cards
3. Paraphrase Cardsc
4. Combination (or Summary) Cards


When you begin working on your research, you will go to a variety of sources for information. Each time you begin working with a new source, you should complete a source card.

On each card you will record:

1. All the publication information required to include this source in your Works Cited list.

2. A code letter that you will use on all note cards that come from this source.

3. The call number of the book or URL (in the case of a web site) so you can locate it later.

Source                                                                                                                  A 937                                                                                                                    HINHinds, Kathryn. The Ancient Romans. New York: Benchmark Books, 1997

Make a SOURCE CARD for each source you look at:
Web sites
Interviews, etc.

You might not use anything from that source, in which case the card can later be thrown away, but it is still a good idea to make a card for each source. Get in the habit of doing this before you do anything else. Two examples of Source Cards:

For A Book:

Source                                                                                                                  A 292
Evslin, Bernard.  The Minotaur.  New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.

For A Web Site:

 Source                                                                                                                   “This Day in History.” The History Channel Online. 1998. History Channel. 3 July 2002.


Quotation cards are used to record a quote, word for word, from the source.

* Always include the writer/author of the quote
* Punctuate correctly with quotation marks
* Only use direct quotations for very important passages
* Don’t copy sentences from a source without showing you are using a direct

Quote                                                                                                           A.
Contributions of Augustus”Because of Augustus and the stable form of government he created, Rome was able to survive for centuries more.”

Kathryn Hinds


Paraphrase cards are used to record information, from the source, in your own words.

* Write in complete sentences, in your style
* Write in your vocabulary

Paraphrase                                                                                               A.
Contributions of AugustusAugustus helped the government of Rome to be stable and so the empire lasted for several centuries. There were other reasons that it lasted. Augustus conquered a lot of land, and more people had enough to live well so they were more content.



Combination cards are used to summarize information or opinions in the source.

* May contain a short quote to support summary
* May include source of quote, if used
* May be useful in drawing conclusions or making observations from

Combination                                                                                              A.
Changes under ConstantineThere were at least two major changes that occurred during the reign of Constantine:

1. Constantinople became the capital.

2. Christianity became the religion.

These changes “marked a break with the past, although the Roman Empire continued to survive for roughly another 150 years.”

A Note About Notes:

A note card should contain information about only one piece of information. Give each note a distinct title. Do not use the same title on any two cards, but use similar titles for notes on the same topic. Good titles on your cards will pay off!

All Note Cards Should Have These Items:

1. Label
Located in the upper left hand corner, this label clearly describes the

information in the note.

2. Source Code
Located in the upper right hand corner, this code comes from the source card

and is used to identify the source of the note.

3. Specific Page Number
Located next to the source code, this reminds you of the specific page from

which you took the note.

4. Note
This is the information you took from the source.

13. Organizing & Outlining Your Information

Now that you have collected information on your topic, it is time to organize that information so that it can be the most useful to you.

Sorting and Grouping

Go through your note cards and divide them into general categories. For example, if your topic is Gladiators, you may find that you have collected notes on the following related topics: weapons, training, types of gladiators, when and where gladiators were used.

Write YOUR general topic here: ______________________________________________


Now, sort your note cards into general categories.  List the categories:






Do you have cards whose information does not fit into any of these categories?

If so, do you think the information might be useful to you, or should you just discard that card?

Evaluating your Information

Of the categories you’ve listed, for which do you have the most information?


For which category do you have the least information?


Has your research enabled you to answer all of your original questions?

If not, what information do you still need?





Have any new questions come up that you need to research?
If so, list those new questions.





Look back over the work you’ve done so far.

  • Do you have all of the information that you need to complete this project?  If not, return to the library for a little more research. It is much easier to conduct more research now, before moving on to the next step.


Argumentative Research Paper Rubric(s)

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