“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Shakespeare, from “Romeo and Juliet” (II,ii,1-2)
In honor of International Celebrate Your Name Week, I want to share my favorite research project–a Name Research Paper.
The Name Research Paper
Every person has a name—some two, three, or even four names. And all names have some kind of story behind it. What I asked the students to do was research their own name. It could be their first name, middle name or both.
Questions to consider were:
- How did their parents choose their names? Why?
- What traditions were in their families for choosing names?
- Why did their parents decide to spell their names the way they do?
- What does their name mean?
- What is their names’ histories—in their family? In the world?
- Are there other versions of their names? Where do they come from? What do they mean?
Page 2 of the assignment sheet provided a section for parents’ signatures, so that my students parents would know what we were working on and what was required.
Name Research Sources
The students were required to interview a family member as one of their resources for the project. Other resources can include baby name books and baby name websites, and if they were named after a fictional character or famous person, research into the story of that individual. At least 5 different types of sources should be used.
I used these criteria when scoring for the number of sources used:
- 1 Source—0% of points possible
- 2 Sources—35% of points possible
- 3 Sources—70% of points possible
- 4 Sources—85% of points possible
- 5 Sources or more—100% of points possible and higher
Students were expected to use note cards and part of their final scores were determined by how many notes they took. For full credit they needed at least 25 note cards.
One day of the project started with a lesson on how to create note cards.Here is an example of a source card:
Here is an example of a note card:
I used these criteria when scoring for notecards:
- None-5 Cards—0% of points possible
- 6-10 Cards—50% of points possible
- 10-11 Cards—60% of points possible
- 12-13 Cards—65% of points possible
- 14-17 Cards—70% of points possible
- 19-21 Cards—80% of points possible
- 22-24 Cards—90% of points possible
- 25 Cards and up—100% of points possible and higher
Remainder of Name Research Paper Project
When it came time to write the paper, I required my students to use the complete writing process: pre-write, rough draft, revise and edit to MLA format for citations, participate in peer evaluation, do a final revision and edit, and produce a final copy complete with bibliography.
Scoring the Name Research Paper
This is the scoring page for the name research papers:
At the time I was teaching this lesson, my state, Oregon, was using their own writing scoring guide whose traits you see listed in the middle section. You can easily adapt this section to include your own writing scoring guide.
At the bottom, you see writing reflection questions the students were required to fill out and turn in with their research papers. I found using reflection questions at the end of long projects like this helped the students cement into memory what they learned while working on the project.
Why Did I Love This Project?
Because the paper is all about something that relates to them personally, I found it was easier to generate student buy-in.
It was a good assignment for practicing research skills and, because of the personal aspect, for establishing the student’s unique writing voices.
I usually did this near the beginning of the school year, and it provided both me and the students’ a good opportunity to get acquainted, and nearly all the papers were enjoyable to read.
What kinds of assignments do you like to use to help you get acquainted with your students? What topics have you found to be useful for generating student enthusiasm?