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Meaningful Composition 12: The Research Paper, First Semester Review by Donna Campos

By Donna Reish and Kayla Reish
Training for Triumph
6456 E US 224
Craigville, IN 46731

 This Meaningful Composition course is designed to be the first semester work for a research paper completed for high school credit, but it could be adapted for middle school grades in advanced writing courses or for assistance during college coursework. It is a spiral-bound notebook of 175 pages with cardstock front and back cover under heavy clear plastic cover pages at the front and back. The Table of Contents divides the book into seven sections: Getting Started (2 weeks), Source Work (3 weeks), Creating Information Cards (5 weeks), The Rough Draft (3 weeks), Still Working (2 weeks), Finishing Touches (3 weeks), and a List of Appendixes. The Appendix includes a Glossary, a Grading Sheet, 2 sample Research Papers, a page on Editing & Revising, a Master Checklist Challenge, Instruction for Teaching in a Co-op or Small Group setting, and Lesson Plans. The course is set up to cover one full semester of 18 weeks. Students will need access to the Internet, a library, and other resource material necessary for a research project. Index cards for collecting notes are also required for gathering research quotes. With week-by-week instructions, the course walks a parent/teacher through the process of guiding the planning and writing of a research paper. At the end of the semester, students will have a completed research paper, a grading sheet demonstrating areas of strength and/or weakness, and a final grade. The course can be used with one student or with a small group, as in a co-op or private school situation.

As it has been years since I have written an official research paper, I found Meaningful Composition a tremendous tool. The week-by-week format provided enough guidance for me to guide my daughter as she gathered material, organized it, and then wrote the paper itself. The course uses parenthetical documentation with a Works Cited page rather than footnotes. Though footnotes and endnotes are still in use, parenthetical documentation seems to be the preferred method for most academic disciplines. (More information on this topic can be found online at and through the Modern Language Association.) The course is wonderful overall, but the appendix material makes it incredible. The Lesson Plans are very basic and include phrase instruction for the teacher (e.g., "Check each student's sources" and "Review and assign all of Week 8"). An additional fourteen-week plan covering all eighteen weeks of the book is also included. I particularly liked the Checklist Challenge, as it provided opportunity to work through the paper and make improvements. The General Research Paper Formatting Guidelines in Week 12 are specific and very clear. It makes actually typing up the paper easy. Step-by-step instructions continue through writing the closing paragraph. By Week 14 of the project students will be writing the formal outline and works cited. We loved the section that describes how to cite works accurately; many detailed examples are provided.

If you are considering teaching a small group, Appendix G (Teaching Composition in a Co-op or Small Group Setting) will be invaluable to you. It is very detailed and includes many practical tips. It is not specific to this particular course; rather, it covers the broad array of composition courses one might teach at a co-op level.

Overall, Meaningful Composition 12: The Research Paper is a great course for high school use. The author does reference the company's additional products for teaching grammar and composition, but admits you can use any strong composition book with complete writing assignments in support of better writing skills. Some cross-references were left empty, without correctly referencing the page number for the reader; apparently, theses were missed in the editing process of the course. We found this failure to be annoying and prohibitive at times when we really wanted to find the page referenced. The Final Research Paper Grading Sheet is well designed, but part of it has a gray shaded background that may cause photocopy difficulty. The chart of examples of proofreading marks is badly photocopied into the book, or at least it is certainly not a crisp copy. These little errors on the part of the publisher were frustrating but were not enough to deter us from liking this course overall. The course led us to a desired finished product, a quality research paper.

If it has been many years since you have written a research paper, or if you simply do not have time to research the proper technique of writing a research paper by today's standards, then Meaningful Composition 12: The Research Paper is a great book for use with your high school student.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2009