Which Order is Best for Different Styles of Research Papers in Homeschool High School?

We had a great question from one of our 7th Sisters: Which order is best for different styles of research papers in homeschool high school?
Which Order is Best for Different Styles of Research Papers in Homeschool High School? There's not ONE right way to handle research paper writing in homeschool high school BUT here are some suggestions to get you started.

Which Order is Best for Different Styles of Research Papers in Homeschool High School?

We often receive great questions from our 7th Sisters. (Who are the 7th Sisters, anyway? Well, there are 6 of us on the 7Sisters team: Sabrina, Vicki, Kym, Marilyn, Allison, Sara… so who is the 7th? YOU ARE!!)
One question that is not uncommon: What is the best order for research papers?
The answer is: It’s complicated! As you know there’s not ONE right way to homeschool. We homeschool because we want to educate our teens in the best way for them. Nevertheless, here are some guidelines first for non-college-bound teens, then college-bound teens:

Non-college-bound teens with little or no experience in writing research papers, try this order:

First paper (9th grade): 

Download our freebie how-to: Research Paper Help for Reluctant Writers. It takes teens step-by-step through a simple report-style research paper.
Research Paper Writing Guide for Reluctant Writers. Freebie step-by-step guide for reluctant writers.
Click image for complete information.

Second paper (10th grade):

APA Research Paper Writing Guide takes homeschool high schoolers through a 10-week, step-by-step process from idea conception to note-taking to outlines to rough draft to final draft.  The guide includes a rubric that is helpful for both teen and teacher.
APA Style Research Paper Introductory Writing Guide from 7SistersHomeschool.com
Click image for a full description.

Third paper (11th grade):

MLA Research Paper Writing Guide. Teach your teen to choose and defend an idea (thesis) with this step-by-step 10-week writing guide. Like the APA guide, the MLA guide is written in a weekly format and includes a rubric. MLA papers help teens develop important critical thinking skills. For co-ops or families that like using a syllabus, here is a suggested syllabus format.

Fourth paper (12th grade):

Skip the research paper this year and do something meaningful and/or powerfully life-preparatory. Choose one (or both) of these:

  • Creative Chronicling. This is a delightful change-up on research papers that is fun and creative. It also helps teens solidify the meaningful moments of their growing-up years and create a lifetime keepsake.
High School Guide to Creative Chronicling 7SistersHomeschool.com
Click image for full description.
  • Professional Writing. Skip the research paper and get some technical writing skills your teen truly needs in life. Here are several:
    • Writing a Business Letter
    • Writing a Letter of Complaint
    • Writing an Organizational Newsletter (2 weeks recommended for this lesson)
    • Taking and Formatting Meeting Minutes
    • Writing Advertising Copy and Press Releases
    • Writing a Product Review
    • Writing a Book Review
    • Writing a Set of How-To Instructions
    • Writing a Professional Bio
    • Writing an Expository Speech (2 weeks recommended for this lesson)
    • Writing a Project Proposal and Abstract

NOW, What about college-bound homeschool high schoolers? Keep reading!

For college-bound teens with a little experience in writing research papers, try this order:

First paper (9th grade):

If your homeschool high schooler has had a little experience with research paper writing, start with APA or MLA styles. The 7Sisters guides will take him/her step-by-step through the process. Which one to choose?
MLA Research Paper Writing Guide 7SIstersHomeschool.com
Click image for full description.

Choosing MLA or APA for the first research paper is mostly a learning-style preference:

Many colleges use both APA and MLA formats in freshman-level courses, so start with one this year and then the other one next year. Personally, I find the APA much easier for a beginner, but I have the kind of brain that thinks in steps and chunks of information (APA is very formulaic and has section titles to break info into chunks).
However, my friends who love proving a point and experiencing flow of information LOVE MLA because of the thesis-based format with LOTS of transition sentences. For more thoughts on which to start with, check out this post.

Second paper (10th grade):

If your homeschool high schooler wrote an MLA research paper in 9th grade, then he/she would be wise to try an APA paper in 10th grade. If he/she wrote and APA paper in 9th grade, 10th grade is the perfect year to experience an MLA paper.

Third paper (11th grade):

Many colleges these days are also requiring students to write papers for some courses in Chicago-style format (CMS). Many of us homeschool moms remember the old days when CMS was the most common style of paper for college courses. It’s the format with numbered citations and footnotes! (I remember in the old manual typewriter days, needing to make sure I left enough space at the bottom of each page for footnotes. The good news is that these days, our word processing programs on the computers will do that for our teens. What a cushy life!) Note: In early years (freshman-junior), some colleges use a shortened variant of Chicago-style called Turabian.
Chicago-Style Research Paper Writing Guide 7SistersHomeschool.com
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Junior year is a good time to experience the CMS format. I highly recommend 7Sisters Chicago-style Research Paper Writing Guide. It will coach your teen step-by-step through the process of turning out a great research paper. Note: In early years (freshman-junior), some colleges use a shortened variant of Chicago-style called Turabian, 7Sisters Chicago-Style Guide is excellent preparation for that short variant.

Fourth paper (12th grade):

The choice of research paper style for your homeschool high schooler’s senior year will vary according to your teen’s goals:

  • Are they applying to competitive colleges? Then choose to do a second MLA, APA or CMS paper.
  • Are they applying as an English major, World Languages major, Humanities major, Art major or Theater major? Then choose an extra MLA paper.
  • Are they applying as a Psychology major, Sociology major, Science major or Pre-medicine major? Then choose an extra APA paper.
  • Are they applying as a humanities major or history major? Then choose and extra Chicago-style paper.
  • Are they applying to a less competitive college or community college? Let them choose to write a second paper in one of the above formats OR choose from one of the more fun or practical options as as a senior year treat:
  • Creative Chronicling. This is a good choice for teens who are going to community college, a low-key private or regional college, or are an arts major. (Or simply want a WONDERFUL extra assignment after all the heavy research paper writing is done!)
  • Professional Writing. For teens going into communications, business or community college, Professional Writing is a wise, life-preparation course. (See above for full description.)
High School Guide to Professional Writing 7SistersHomeschool.com
Click image for full description.

Download some of our no-busywork, adaptable curriculum (fits ability and interests from average to honors). Help build your teens’ experience and confidence with great research writing experiences!

(You might also enjoy this post on a good sequence for English courses from our friend, Betsy.)

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Which Order is Best for Different Styles of Research Papers in Homeschool High School?

Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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