Essay Writing for Jr High

Pick a Topic

Often you will be expected to write on a particular topic for a paper. However, sometimes you are allowed to choose what to research. Always choose a topic that interests you because you will need to spend a fair amount of time with that topic as you write your paper.

Here are a few examples for research topics in each grade.

6th Grade

MAJOR TOPIC: Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Topics for Research
The Art of Pompeii Occupation in Pompeii
The Architecture The Day the Volcano Erupted
The Ruins of Pompeii The type of Volcano Mt. Vesuvius is
The Food of Pompeii The Fashion of Pompeii
Roman Gladiators of 79 AD The Religion of Pompeii
The Plumbing of Pompeii The Daily Life in Pompeii

7th Grade

MAJOR TOPIC: Great American Authors

Topics for Research: [I will choose the author you will research, but you can request an author, genre, or time period to research].

Genres: Historical fiction, Early America, Mystery, Science Fiction, Women writers, Short story writers, Action and Adventure, Young Adults, Essayist

8th Grade

MAJOR TOPIC: An Art Form in a Decade of the Twentieth Century

Topics for Research: The "Art Form" can be anything dealing with the culture. The decade must focus on the 10 year period -

1900 - 1909:

Modern Artists; Architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright; Arts and Crafts Movement; Education System and John Dewey and Maria Montessori; Fads of the Day; Fashion of the Day; Inventions (Ford Motors, Wright Brothers); Baseball; Music (sheet music, victrolas, Barbershop Quartets, ragtime and Scott Joplin); Entertainment (nickelodeons, penny arcades, Ziegfeld Follies, vaudeville); The Newspaper business


Progressive Era; Art (Realism, Fauvism, Cubism); Fads (Toys-tinker toys, Lincoln logs, Ouija Board); Fashion (Gibson Girl); Cars (Chevrolet, Dodge, Nash, Cadillac); Dancing (Fox Trot, Tango, ballroom); Silent Movies; World War I; Influenza Epidemic; Women and Suffragettes


Harlem Renaissance; The Lost Generation; The Jazz Age; Entertainment (Houdini, Baseball, Miss America Pageant); Women and Flappers; Roaring Twenties; Prohibition; Politics of W. Wilson, W. Harding, C. Coolidge, H. Hoover; Silent Movies and stars (Valentino, Clara Bo, Rudy Vallee, and the Oscars); The Radio


Politics; The Depression; Art (Federal Art Project, Mount Rushmore, Jackson Pollock, Grant Woods); Fads (stamp collecting, Monopoly game, baseball, horse racing) Fashion (trends of movie stars, the zipper); literature; music; dancing; Movies; Radio (Burns and Allen, Lone Ranger, Green Hornet, "Fireside Chats", "War of the Worlds"); Comics and Comic books; Science and Technology (TV, blood banks, anesthesia, atom smashing, Albert Einstein)


World War II; The War at Home; Women's Roles in the War; Inventions and Technology; Music (Big Band and famous singers, the USO, Rhythm and Blues); Radio; the movies; Advertisements; Propaganda; Fashion and Rationing


Politics (Korea, Communism, Racial segregation, labor unions, Alaska and Hawaii); The Suburbs; The Baby Boom Era; Medical Advances (polio vaccine); Interstate Highway and travel; Fads (Disneyland, Barbie, Roy Rogers and Davy Crockett, hula hoops, drive-in movies, shopping malls, flying saucers); Cars; Fashion (blue jeans, poodle skirts, pony tails and flat tops); Music (rock'n roll, Crooners); Television (sitcoms, variety shows, soap operas) Sports (baseball, football, golf, basketball, boxing)


Art and Architecture (Calder's mobiles and sculpture, Modern Art, I. M. Pei); Education (protests on college campuses, segregation, phonics); Fashion (go-go boots, bouffant hair, Nehru jackets, bell bottoms, granny dresses); Women's Rights; Hippies; Politics (Bay of Pigs, J. F. Kennedy, Cold War, Peace Corps, Viet Nam); Space Race; Advertising; Music (Elvis, Beach Boys, Motown, Folk Music, British Invasion, Beatles, Acid Rock); Movies and TV; Sports (Football and Super Bowl, baseball, Squaw Valley Olympics)


Art and Architecture; Literature (Updike, Vonnegut, Neil Simon); Education (busing, school integration, Handicapped Children Act); Fads (mood rings, lava lamps, Rubik's Cube, smiley face); Fashion (bell bottoms, platforms, hot pants, clogs, gypsy dresses, leisure suits); Advertising; Technology (floppy discs, microprocessor, Apollo 17, Atari, videocassette recorders, jumbo jets, neutron bomb, DNA, test tube babies, email, barcodes, laser printer, Skylab); Politics (Viet Nam, Nixon, Affirmative action); Music (disco, folk rock, soft rock, hard rock, punk rock); Movies (block-busters, Star Wars, Panavision, Dolby sound, Rocky, Jaws, Godfather, Exorcist); Television (All in the Family, Saturday NIght Live, Roots, Happy Days, PBS); Sports (free agency, race cars, Olympic Games, horse racing, tennis, baseball, gymnastics, figure skating)


Business mega-mergers; The ME Generation; Video games, Space Race, Medicine (genetics, heart, cancer, drugs, AIDS); Politics (1st woman Supreme Court justice, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Ronald Reagan); Art and art museums; Literature; Education; Lifestyles (computers, nerds, collectibles, fast foods); Advertising; Fashion (power dressing, fashion designers, workout suits, Nike); Music and Media (MTV, CD, break dancing, new wave, punk, country rap, hip hop, Michael Jackson); Film and TV (Stephen Spielberg, Star Trek, Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, anti-family sitcoms, Cable TV); Sports


The Electronic Age; Universal Design (Mid-century Modern, Feng Shui, Martha Stewart); Literature (Audio books, Borders & Barnes and Noble, Oprah's Book Club); Events (Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia); Merger Decade; Fashion (grunge, preppie, Hip Hop sytle, Claiborne, Hilfinger); Fads (beanie babies, Furby, Elmo, yo-yos, tattoos and body piercing); Video Games; Education ( ADD, ADHD, on-line education, year round schools, cultural diversity); Politics (Americans with Disabilities Act, gun control, Free Trade Agreement, Welfare reform); Music (grunge, gansta, R&B, hip-hop, CD burners, Mozart Effect); Television; Movies and Films; Advertising


It is important to limit your topic to fit the length of your required paper.

Three major points for the body of the paper is a good place to begin.

Use a Graphic Organizer to help plan your topic.

chart 1 chart 2


An outline can be the road map to your paper.

  • It helps to organize ideas and information and to guide you in your search for facts when you research your topic.
  • It puts your material in a logical form.
  • It shows the relationships of your ideas.
  • It can help you save time.

    • An Outline must be organized in a specific format. It takes a general idea and breaks it into smaller parts.

      Basic Outline
      1. Major Topic 1
        1. Major Point 1
          1. Concrete detail: facts, quotes, verified evidence
            1. support for detail -analysis, explanation, clarification, examples
            2. support for detail
          2. Concrete detail
            1. support
            2. support
        2. Major Point 2
          1. Concrete detail
          2. Concrete detail
      2. Major Topic 2
        1. Major Point
          1. Concrete detail
          2. Concrete detail
        2. Major Point
        3. Major Point
          1. Concrete detail
          2. Concrete detail
            1. support
            2. support
            3. support

      If you have a 'I', you must have a 'II'. If you have an 'A', you must have a 'B'. If you have a '1', you must have a '2'. If you have an 'a', you must have a 'b'.

      Outlines can be written two ways. You can write the outline in complete sentences.

      However, when using the Outline to organize your thoughts and research, it is much better to organize the Outline with Key Phrases and Thoughts.

1st Draft

  • Gather your materials
    • OUTLINE filled out
    • research information
    • QUOTES you would like to use to support your information
    • the working bibliography
  • Using the OUTLINE write what you have learned about the topic. Begin with the topic sentence.
  • It is often easier to write the BODY of the paper before the Introduction and Conclusion of the paper.
  • You do NOT have to write the entire paper in one setting.
  • Always work from the OUTLINE, but remember, it is OK to change the OUTLINE.
  • Remember, this is the first draft. After writing the body, be sure to write the complete Introduction and Conclusion to the paper.
  • Put the paper away for awhile. This is why it is important NOT to wait until the night before the paper is due to begin writing. Go back the next day and READ what you have written. It is easier to see mistakes when you read your paper at a different time.
  • Ask someone else to read the paper for you to see if they see any mistakes you can correct.
  • Check to make sure you have incorporated the correct number of quotes required for the assignment. Be sure that you have cited the sources correctly. Check the format before you turn in the paper. The more you can correct on the rough draft, the less you will have to do on the final paper.

Topic Sentence

The topic sentence introduces the subject of the paragraph in much the same way as the thesis sentence introduces the subject of the research paper. It should summarize what the paragraph will explain in detail. It should only focus on one idea. The topic sentence should be the first sentence of the paragraph but does not always need to be the first sentence. The topic sentence helps to organize the paper.

Concrete Detail

Concrete details are real, tangible facts used to develop the paragraph. These are found in reliable, verifiable sources found in books, encyclopedias, journals, and the internet. These can be the following type of items.

  • facts and data
  • statistics
  • evidence
  • testimony (what other people have said)
  • terms (specific to the topic; may need to be defined)
  • examples
  • illustrations (stories and anecdotes)


The commentary supports the concrete detail through explanation and interpretation. This can be done by the following ways.

  • clarify the fact in greater detail
  • compare facts and statistics
  • evaluate causes
  • examine effects
  • analyze a particular aspect
  • describe in greater detail
  • offer a chronology of facts

Concluding sentence

Each paragraph requires a concluding sentence to tie all of the ideas together. It should relate back to the topic sentence.

Each topic sentence should be supported by three concrete details. Each concrete detail should have at least two commentaries to support it. Every paragraph requires a concluding sentence. This would make each paragraph 11 sentences long.

  1. Body of Information
    1. Topic Sentence - for paragraph #1
      1. Concrete Detail #1
        1. commentary
        2. commentary
      2. Concrete Detail #2
        1. commentary
        2. commentary
      3. Concrete Detail #3
        1. commentary
        2. commentary
      4. Concluding Sentence
    2. Topic Sentence - for paragraph #2
      1. Concrete Detail #1
        1. commentary
        2. commentary
      2. Concrete Detail #2
        1. commentary
        2. commentary
      3. Concrete Detail #3
        1. commentary
        2. commentary
      4. Concluding Sentence
    3. Topic Sentence - for paragraph #3
      1. Concrete Detail #1
        1. commentary
        2. commentary
      2. Concrete Detail #2
        1. commentary
        2. commentary
      3. Concrete Detail #3
        1. commentary
        2. commentary
      4. Concluding Sentence


The purpose of the introduction is to engage the reader to be interested in the subject of the paper. It is used to introduce basic information that is important. For example, when writing about Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii, it is important to state what time period of history it is.

You can do the following things.

Explain the main idea and indicate what is ahead:

  • Include background information
  • Put the topic in historical context
  • connect with the reader and their interests
  • use a quote about the subject
  • tell a story about the subject
  • draw an analogy
  • explain or define a term

The introduction should end with the THESIS STATEMENT:

  • The Thesis Statement for an essay should be specific.
  • It should cover only what your main points are in the paper.
  • It should be organized in the order of the paragraphs in the body of the paper.
  • It should be supported with specific evidence.
  • It is usually the last sentence of the introductory paragraph.


The Body section of the essay is the longest and most important. It usually consists of three paragraphs but can contain more depending upon the assignment. The body develops support for the points made in the thesis statement. It should contain concrete details, support for the details, and explanations. See the separate section on "Paragraph Structure".


The purpose of the concluding paragraph is to summarize what has been stated in the body paragraphs. The conclusion should reflect what you want your reader to gain from your information. This can be accomplished by using some of these ideas:

  • brief summary of paper's main points
  • use a quotation
  • create a strong image or story
  • compare it to other situations
  • emphasize the importance of your topic/subject
  • explain the significance of your information

Working Bibliography

Research Papers for English

When recording information from sources for the research paper, we will be using the MLA Guidelines.

From the Foreword of the book MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers states, "Learning the rules the MLA Handbook outlines will help you become a writer whose work deserves serious consideration.

Similarly, your study of these rules can make you a more discerning reader: knowing how an author is supposed to use sources is essential to judging a text's reliability" (22).

The newest version of the MLA (2009) format requires the following:

  • For every entry you must label the type of publication you have used. Most entries will be Print or Web sources. You may also have DVD or CD-ROM.
  • Writers are no longer required to provide URLs for Web entries. However, many instructors will INSIST on including the URLs. Follow your teacher's instructions.
  • If you use a source that began in print form but you found on an online database, you need to type the online database name in italics.
  • Use italics instead of underlining longer works - titles of books, movies, and magazines. Use quotation marks for shorter works - titles of poems, short stories, episodes, and articles.

Citing a Book

Adams, Simon. Visual Time of the 20th Century. New York: DK Publishing Inc., 1996. Print.

  1. Author's full name (last name first)
  2. Full title (including any subtitles)
  3. Edition (if the book is a second or later edition)
  4. Number of the volume and the total number of volumes (if the book is a multivolume work)
  5. City of Publication
  6. Shortened form of the publisher's name (if known)
  7. Year of Publication
  8. Form of medium - Print

Article in a Scholarly Journal

Bowersock, G.W. "The Rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii." American Scholar 47.4 (1978): 461. Professional Development Collection. Web. 25 June 2012.

  1. Author's name
  2. Title of the article
  3. Title of the journal
  4. Volume number
  5. Year of publication
  6. Inclusive page numbers of the article (the number of the page on which the article begins, a hyphen, and the number of the page on which the article ends)
  7. Form of medium - Print or Web
  8. The date the site was accessed

Newspaper or Magazine Article

Sands, Stella. "Evolution of the Eruption." Kids Discover Pompeii. Sept.1997: 4-5. Print.

  1. Author's name
  2. Title of article
  3. Title of the periodical
  4. Date of publication
  5. Inclusive page numbers of the article
  6. Form of medium - Print or Web

Internet Source

Duffy, Michael. "How It Began." 22 Aug. 2009. Web. 25 Jun. 2012 <>.

  1. Author's name
  2. Title of the document
  3. Title of the scholarly project, database, periodical, or professional or personal site
  4. Name of the editor of the scholarly project or database
  5. Date of electronic publication or last update
  6. Name of the institution or organization sponsoring or associated with the site
  7. Form of medium - Web
  8. Date when you accessed the source
  9. Network address, or URL

DVD, CD, Film

Pompeii: The Last Day. BBC Video. 2003. 50 min. DVD.

  1. Title of film
  2. Name of the director
  3. The distributor of the film
  4. The year of production
  5. Form of medium - DVD

Personal Interview (conducted by you)

Watson, Sue. Personal interview. 1 Dec. 2012.

  1. Name of person interviewed - last name, first name
  2. Personal interview
  3. Date of interview

Citing Other Sources

There are many more specific sources. Each one has specific rules to follow. If you are unsure HOW to proceed, please ASK the teacher for help.

When you begin to write your WORKS CITED, please follow the guidelines below.

  1. The Works Cited appears at the end of the paper.
  2. It starts on a new page and is numbered accordingly. If your paper ends on page 5, the Works Cited starts on page 6.
  3. The page number appears in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch from the top and level with the right margin.
  4. Center the title, Works Cited, one inch from the top of the page.
  5. Double space between the title and the first entry.
  6. Begin each entry level (flush) with the left margin; if an entry runs more than one line, indent the following line or lines one-half inch from the left margin.
  7. Double-space the entire list, both between and within entries.
  8. Entries are in ALPHABETICAL order according to the first word in the entry.
  9. Entries are NEVER numbered.
  10. Include all ending punctuation for every entry.
  11. Be sure to capitalize proper nouns, titles of sources, and dates.
  12. Below is an example of a Works Cited or Bibliography.

    1. Works Cited

      Adams, Simon. Visual Time of the 20th Century. New York: DK Publishing Inc., 1996. Print.

      Bowersock, G.W. "The Rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii." American Scholar 47.4 (1978): 461. Professional Development Collection. Web. 25 June 2012.

      Duffy, Michael. "How It Began." 22 Aug. 2009. Web. 25 Jun. 2012 .

      Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Fifth. Ed. New York: MLA, 1999. Print.

      Pompeii: The Last Day. BBC Video. 2003. 50 min. DVD.

      Sands, Stella. "Evolution of the Eruption." Kids Discover Pompeii. Sept.1997: 4-5. Print.

      Watson, Sue. Personal interview. 1 Sept. 2012.

Formatting || Fonts & Font sizes || Margins & Line Spacing

  • Typed and printed on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper
  • Double-space the text
  • Use a legible font that should be 12 pt. [unless otherwise instructed by your teacher]
  • Set the margins of the paper to 1 inch on all sides
  • Indent the first line of paragraphs one half-inch from the left margin.
  • Use italics for titles of longer works and only when absolutely necessary, providing emphasis]

Wordcount and Page length

This is dependent upon the teacher and assignment. Most English essays require five paragraphs and about eleven sentences.

1st Draft Submission

All first draft submissions of research papers are required electronically. Students may bring the essay in to class on an USB or may email them to me at

Students in 6th and 7th grade are required to have 5 paragraphs with quotes cited within the paper. Students in 8th grade are required to have 6 paragraphs with quotes cited. Each assignment has specific requirements. It must be typed, double-spaced, and with 12 pt. legible font.

These will have specific due dates. If students have difficulty with the technology, they need to let me know as soon as possible. I will make comments on their papers and return a hard copy to them.

Grade Topic Date Requirements
6th Pompeii Research Paper Third Trimester 5 paragraphs with three quotes cited correctly in the paper
7th Great American Author Research Paper First Trimester 5 paragraphs with four quotes cited correctly in the paper
8th Art Form in a Decade Research Paper Second/Third Trimester 6 paragraphs with five quotes cited correctly in the paper

Final Draft Submission

All Final Research Papers must be turned in on the due date. There are no exceptions for this due date. This is a process and requires several items to be turned in. All three classes have the same following requirements:

  • All items will be turned in inside an envelope (9x 12) with some type of closure. This can be a recycled, store-bought, or homemade envelope. The closure is important so no papers can fall out.
  • All ROUGH DRAFTS must be included in the envelope. These consist of the following items.
  • the rough draft OUTLINE (usually handwritten)
  • the bibliography note cards and BIBLIOGRAPHY rough draft (may be handwritten)
  • the ROUGH Draft of the RESEARCH paper
  • The clean, corrected, TYPED copy of the OUTLINE
  • The clean, corrected, amended, TYPED copy of the BIBLIOGRAPHY
  • The clean, corrected, amended, typed copy of the FINAL RESEARCH PAPER