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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy See All Teacher Resources



Grade 11-12

Writing WHST.11-12.7

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated one) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Set the Stage

This standard is marked by the students’ ability to use research on a short-term or long-term basis in order to uncover answers to various types of questions. Students are asked to consult many resources, gathering and analyzing pieces of information, then synthesizing that information to develop a well-informed answer to the query or opinion on the issue. A key point here is that students should use their research to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the subject.

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard


Dress Rehearsal

You’re set to answer the age-old question: What is happiness? You’ve just two days to answer the question, so you’ll be using some techniques that allow you to complete the assignment quickly. You turn to your psychology book as one source to define and describe this seemingly elusive emotion. Your teacher has also asked you to interview several people in your school building, including staff, students, and administrators, to help you discover the answer. You’re curious as well, since even when things are going your way, you sometimes feel down-in-the-dumps.

Your textbook does not really define happiness. However, it does indicate that people who are happy recognize the world around them as positive. People who are happy tend to “perceive the world as safer, make decisions more easily, rate job applicants more favorably, are more cooperative, and live healthier and more energized and satisfied lives” (Meyers). It seems that happiness has a major impact on all aspects of life, and happiness in one area can spill over into another.

Conversely, your text notes that people who are often sad, see life as depressing. Like a happy mood, a sad mood can spiral, but in a downward direction rather than up. You know how when something goes wrong at the start of your day, more follows? That’s the spiral.

Your textbook adds that sources of the happiness phenomena are a mixed bag. For some, happiness is dependent upon health and wealth. For others, it might be living in the present as opposed to living in the past. Some might choose solitude while others prefer “social paradise.” In any case, it seems that happiness for one person is not necessarily happiness for another. Sort of like how you can’t understand your little sister’s happiness over Justin Bieber. Ugh.

To bolster the information you’ve gathered so far, you do some personal research. You ask two faculty members, three students, two lunch ladies, and three administrators from the main office some questions about happiness. While few of the ten can really define happiness, they seem to be able to describewhat makes them happy. Their answers vary from working out to spending money to fishing to helping others.

You choose to report on your findings through a brief essay. This is a short-term project, able to be completed in a day or two. Your topic has been rather narrow, focusing on defining and describing happiness, so a short-term paper should be no problemo.

Now, suppose your teacher has asked you to research the concept of happiness in more depth, using several types of inquiry. You’ll be able to use other books, the Internet, scientific journals, and video sources. You are given two weeks to write a summary of five different resources, and then draw conclusions by synthesizing this new information with the notes you already have from your textbook and interviews.

To dig deeper, you search the Internet and find Psychology Today, a bi-monthly magazine that addresses issues such as happiness using the study of psychology as its basis. Produced for a general audience, this will be helpful and easy to understand.

You later call on Ms. Howard in the school library. She directs you to a book entitled, The Psychology of Happiness, by Michael Argyle. This general overview about happiness, by one of the best-known social psychologists of the twentieth century, discusses similar topics to your textbook: wealth and health. It also discusses happiness in terms of social relationships, experiences, careers, and personality. If anyone can help you understand your parental units, this guy can.

Finally, a documentary called Epicurus on Happiness provides a classical view of happiness. As you study each source, you create a graphic organizer that includes the following columns: resource, definition, description, sources, psychological phenomena, and predictors. Now your understanding of the topic is much broader than before. You fill the chart out for each of your resources, including your interviews. By examining these pieces of information, you draw conclusions about the nature of happiness.

You write your paper within the allotted, sustained time frame of two weeks. You’ve had time to research, reflect, draft, and revise. You’ve synthesized, or blended, all the information from your sources into a unified whole that reflects your best understanding of the topic.

A few things you can conclude: Happiness means different things to different people. It can come and go quickly, and it can be influenced by genetics. Happiness to you? Completing this assignment, of course.

That’s a Wrap

Research is the key component of this standard, whether it is simple or more involved. Either way, your students need to be masters at collecting information from credible sources, analyzing and synthesizing the data, and using it to draw conclusions in order to better understand main concepts in a variety of content areas. You can help them accomplish this by engaging students in a wide range of research tasks and purposes. They’ll be library experts in no time.


Meyers, David G. “Chapter 13: Emotion.” Psychology, 8th edition. New York: Worth Publishers,


Fill-in-the-blank sentences.
Using the word bank given, fill in the blanks in the sentences below.

short-term question narrow time
synthesize sustained solve broaden

1. The types of research in this standard are determined by _____________.
2. The two types of research can best be described as _____________ and _________________.
3. The reason why research is being conducted is to answer the research ___________ or to _____________ a problem.
4. As research progresses, sometimes it is necessary to ______________ or ____________ the topic.
5. To ___________ multiple sources means to combine a number of things into a coherent whole.


1. The correct answer is time. You’ll do different kinds of research depending on whether you are working on a short or long-term project.

2. The correct answer is short-term, sustained. Short-term research is overview research; you’ll familiarize yourself with the major points of the issue. Sustained research is more in-depth; you’ll look into a variety of sources in order to understand all sides of the issue.

3. The correct answer is question, solve. These are the two basic purposes for research. You have a question that you need answered, or a problem that you need to solve. Get out there and find the answer!

4. The correct answer is narrow, broaden. Sometimes you’ll discover that your topic is too narrow, not yielding enough relevant information, or too broad, yielding too much information or information that is not specific enough. Knowing when to narrow or broaden your topic is a key research skill.

5. The correct answer is synthesize. You’ve gathered different information from different sources, so when you synthesize it, you put all that information together to come up with an answer to your question or to evaluate the best position for your argument.

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