Heather R.L. Lerner

The Paper Box

Do you want to teach students to

While other tools aim to teach students the order in which to read sections of a research article, how to read critically, or how to communicate research results to the public (e.g. the Message Box©) the Paper Box provides a visual framework for summarizing primary literature. By asking students to answer specific questions, they may be less likely to simply restate the abstract when preparing a summary. The "box" format encourages students to answer the questions in parallel and iteratively, rather than sequentially, leading to a deeper, more integrated understanding of the research.

How do I use the paper box?

  1. Practice in class before assigning a paper box
    1. Have students read a popular account of a research article
    2. Divide the class into small groups
    3. Ask the groups to answer the questions from the Paper Box Instructions one-at-a-time
    4. As a class, discuss each quadrant. Emphasize
      • Where in the article the information was found
      • Which results are the most important AND best justified
      • The difference between a specific research question and the broader research agenda
    OR
  2. Jump right in—hand out the instruction sheet and blank paper box and ask students to come to class with it completed. (See an example of a Paper Box completed by an undergraduate senior here based on this research article.)

When can I use it?

  1. Prepare for paper discussions
  2. Design and prepare for research projects
  3. Class assignments
  4. Undergraduate to graduate students

Feedback? Thoughts? Questions?

If you use the paper box, I'd love to hear what you think about it (or even that you've used it!). You can contact me at hlerner@gmail.com.