I tried something a little different with a small research essay my AP English students write. I made a point of presenting the assignment as fully INQUIRY. I gave them a process where they were to think of something in our thematic study that interested them and just find something to read more about it. They then did an article summary for me to show that the understood the overall points of the article, and only then did they work to integrate this reading with our in-class studies to formulate an essential question to answer in their essays.
I have read half of the essays so far, and they are GREAT. They really seem to have a deep grasp on their chosen subjects, and I would like to think that was because of the process of inquiry and summary before even getting started. But I will not count all of my chickens before they hatch! I am going to have them give me some feedback when I hand back the essays, so time will tell if they felt any different about this research than other research they have done.