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How To Do a Research Project with ELLs: Outlining and Organizing

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Organizing the Research

In the previous post I discussed how to get students to read and digest research articles and take notes. I like to do a quick check in with each student once they have finished researching and before they start planning. Then its time to starting teaching ELLs to do a research essay, organizing and outlining.

The goals for this were two-fold:

  1. Assure they took notes correctly, using their own words
  2. Check to make sure they understood what they read and can now formulate an opinion on the subject.

Since my students were writing an argumentative essay for this project, they should have researched both sides of the issue before planning their essay. Their notes were organized into big ideas and supporting ideas. During this planning stage of writing, they will need to come up with three big reasons to support their idea. I’ll have them complete that part of the planning first.

Read Write Think has some great organizers for this type of writing. I am adapting these lessons for my teaching research to ELLs unit. Check out the persuasive essay map on Read Write Think. I wanted to also have the rebuttal/counterargument in the essay map, so I created a new one.

Your organizer should look something like this:

argumentative essay graphic organizer

Counterclaims and Rebuttals

After most students have finished outlining their thesis statements, three main reasons and three supporting facts for each main idea I will teach about counterclaims and rebuttals since this is the last paragraph to include before the conclusion.

The Counterclaim and Rebuttal Paragraph

Thesis statement for this example essay:

States should ban all cell phone use while driving because it is a dangerous distraction for the driver.

Begin with a topic sentence which states a strong argument from the opposition.   

Some ways to begin:
  • Some might believe…
  • The opposition may say…
  • The other side thinks…
  • Many people are in agreement that…
There are two ways you can go with the counterclaim/rebuttal paragraph:
  • Admit the other side has a point, but show how their logic is flawed or incorrect.
    • Example:  The opposition may say the answer to texting while driving is to use hands-free devices.  It is true this is an alternative to traditional texting, however, the driver will still be suffering from a cognitive distraction while driving.


  • Explain the opposition’s position and then show exactly how they are wrong
    • Example: Some may believe that using cell phones hands-free while driving is the answer to the dangerous problem of texting while driving.  However, it has been proven that it is not only the actual process of texting while driving that distracts the driver. It is the cognitive distraction or the thinking required in order to complete the task that distracts drivers and causes accidents.

End with restating your thesis (the claim for which you are arguing)

counterclaims and rebuttal paragraph visual

Once all students have a completed essay map and a completed rebuttal paragraph I will let them begin drafting.

Didn’t catch part 1 about how to do a research project where I talk about finding sources and taking notes? Check it out here!

Happy teaching,


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