Children's Lit
YA Lit
LibMedia Skills
LMC Admin
Copyright Issues
LMS Resources
Lesson Plans
Education Sites
Virtual Trips
News Resources

Research Process

I. Define the need for information

    1. Define broad topic area in one of the following ways
      1. Have students select an area on their own by
        1. developing an area of interest - freewriting, concept mapping
        2. distinguishing researchable topics
        3. determining if enough resources are available
        4. determining if the subject is manageable for them
        5. judging if the subject can be thoughtfully researched
        6. assessing whether the student emotional about the topic (ex. death, love, religion)
        7. categorizing aspects of the subject into knowledge, attitudes, questions
        8. determine what the student already knows about topic
      2. Provide list of topics to choose from
      3. Assign topic
    2. Get overview of broad topic
      1. list / diagram what one already knows about the topic
      2. explain concept of overview (broad picture or summary)
      3. begin list of subject headings (look for broader terms, related terms, narrower terms; use Venn diagrams)
      4. locate best overview
        1. encyclopedia
        2. magazines - current topics
        3. use index
        4. use multiple sources - read table of contents and headings
      5. jot down ideas and questions
      6. start a working bibliography
      7. identify central issues
      8. overview could be provided by teacher
    3. Narrow the topic
      1. distinguish broad from narrow topics
      2. develop narrow topics from broad
      3. relate topic choice to length of assignment
      4. understand ways of narrowing a topic
        1. to a problem or question
        2. topically (further cluster)
        3. chronologically
        4. geographically
        5. combination
      5. reflect on "Is my topic a good one?"
        1. Am I interested?
        2. Can I convey sound understanding and details in the space I have?
        3. Will there be enough information?
        4. Will the information be difficulty to use?
        5. Is it too broad? narrow? subjective? unfamiliar? difficult?
    4. State purpose or point to be argued
      1. understand concept of thesis or statement of purpose
        1. need to go beyond simple fact-finding
        2. may need guidance in this in elementary school - often specific wording suggestions
        3. thesis = overall goal, controlling idea; statement of main idea to be supported by evidence; provides topic sentence
        4. statement of purpose, "I intend to..." (less formal, easier to write, may be more appropriate for younger students)
      2. reflect on
        1. Does statement focus work?
        2. Is statement of main idea supported by evidence or just a fact? personal opinion? self-evident statement of the truth?
        3. Does it fit the level of research required?

II. Develop Information Seeking Strategies

    1. Formulate questions to guide research
      1. Write appropriate to level of research (teachers may provide for young students)
        1. basic info. needed by reader - overview, stats, definitions
        2. details needed to understand issues fully - background, causes, reasons
        3. projections made from info. - effects, solutions, recommended changes
        4. hypotheses (at higher level)
        5. prediction
        6. solution
        7. comparison / analogy
        8. judgment
        The use of the KWL strategy may be useful with younger students at this stage.
      2. Refection on process
        1. Do questions go beyond simple factual ones?
        2. Are they at the correct level of research?
        3. Do they cover all aspects of question?
        4. Any unnecessary ones?
    2. Determine type of information needed for each question
    3. Determine possible sources & prioritize sources

III. Locate and Access Information Resources

  1. Need general understanding of
    1. organization of information
      1. classification purpose
      2. indexing by author, title, subject
    2. hierarchy of subject headings
      1. broader, narrower, related terms
      2. combining terms in computerized search
    3. keyword searching
    4. full text searching
    5. library catalog
      1. specific searching techniques (ex. divided card catalog, identifiers in searching (TI,AU,S,K)
      2. accessing other catalogs
    6. indexes and abstracts
      1. periodical, newspaper, SIRS, CD-ROM & online
      2. selecting index
      3. understanding citation
    7. subject reference tools (print and electronic)
    8. nonfiction books
      1. table of contents, index, glossary, appendices
      2. location or books on a subject, subject headings used
    9. Internet search engines and directories
    10. other sources such as experiments, interviews, surveys, etc.
    11. importance of browsing
  2. Expand list of subject headings / keywords
    1. cross references
    2. tracings
    3. Sears list of subject headings
    4. thesauri
    5. names dates, places
  3. Use classification scheme of the libraries
  4. Analyze each source
    1. arrangement (alph., topical, chronological, comparative,)
    2. use of indexes, cross references
    3. depth of treatment (length)
    4. special features (illus, glossary, charts, graphs, tables, bibliographies, appendices)
  5. Evaluate reliability of each source
    1. writer qualifications
    2. publisher reputation
    3. accuracy (date, comparison to other sources)
    4. point of view (political or social)

IV.Evaluate and Select Information in a Variety of Formats

    1. Focus on main idea of research question
    2. Locate relevant information in source
      1. table of contents, index, contextual clues (headings, subtitles, boxed information, illus, color), directories
      2. skim, scan
    3. Analyze information to determine if it answers research questions
      1. Does it further my understanding?
      2. Is my information complete?
      3. Watch for redundancy and look for relationships
    4. Evaluate information
      1. librarian or teacher may provide criteria for young students
      2. judge accuracy of facts by comparing sources
        1. recognize fact & opinion
        2. use of footnotes, bibliography
        3. language:
          bulletsubjunctive verbs (could might)
          bulletverbs expressing opinion (believe, think, assume)
          bulletqualifiers (maybe, almost, supposed)
          bullethypothetical situations (if...)
          bulletpredictions (will, ought to)
          bulletadjective qualifiers (fine, unnecessary)
          bulletvalue terms (best)
        4. can use editorials or letters to the editor to teach this
        5. judging web resources
      3. distinguish bias from reason
      4. recognize fallacies in arguments & reasoning (in high level research)
        1. proof by selected instances (e.g.,. parole abolishment)
        2. unstated assumptions (e.g., raise driving age based on assumption of driving record of youth)
        3. deceptive arguments
        4. unwarranted analogy (e.g., schools=business)
        5. either / or statement when there are alternatives
        6. oversimplification (e.g., depression is caused by loneliness)
        7. appeal to authority / tradition
        8. bandwagon
      5. teach with use of tv & magazine advertising

V. Record and Organize Information

    1. Avoid plagiarism
      1. citation - exact copying of facts or stats
      2. summary - main ideas of long section stated briefly
      3. paraphrase - smaller section of text in own words
      4. quotation (1-2 sentences)
    2. Notetaking techniques
      1. match to question
      2. indicate source
      3. do not copy
      4. write own reactions to notes (question, generalizing, comparing, patterning, evaluating, inferring, concluding, predicting, agree/disagree)
    3. Correct bibliographic form
    4. Reflections:
      1. Enough info?
      2. In my own words?
      3. Complete notes?
      4. Each note keyed to question?
      5. Each note with credit?
    5. Organize information - find or draw conclusions based on evidence
      1. review research questions / thesis
      2. go over notes looking for evidence & reactions
      3. find major problems, issues, questions
      4. how are ideas related?
        1. patterns
        2. similarities & differences
        3. cause / effect
        4. part / whole
        5. change over time

VI. Interpreting the Information

    1. Synthesize new ideas, evidence and prior knowledge
    2. Identify reasonable conclusions (convergent thinking)
    3. Test with evidence
    4. Choose best conclusions
      1. match level of research (e.g., by evaluating / deliberating level - draw own conclusions)
      2. develop an outline
      3. consider order of making points to best support argument
        bulletspatial organizer
        bulletwebs, charts, diagrams
      4. Teacher or peer review to refine
      5. Reflect on
        bulletare conclusions supported by research?
        bulletdo conclusions support thesis?
        bulletare parts arranged in logical sequence?

VII. Communicating the Information

    1. Select format appropriate for purpose and audience
    2. Prewrite or preview (visualize final product)
      1. reread notes
      2. study outline
      3. contemplate
    3. Draft
      1. thesis statement
      2. freewrite using outline, not notes
      3. create visual image or layout
    4. Review and edit
      1. peer / teacher feedback
      2. self-evaluation
        1. Main idea communicated?
        2. Evidence appropriate, accurate, clear, thorough?
        3. Evidence in proper order?
        4. Are all parts effective?
        5. Are intro., conclusions & transitions effective?
    5. Present

VIII. Evaluating the Product and Process

    1. How well did I do in meeting my information need?
    2. What could or should I have done differently?
    3. How can I do better in the future?

More Online Resources for the Research Process

bulletBig Six Information Problem Solving Skills 
bulletInformation Search Process 
bulletPathways to Knowledge 

[ Top ]

Information Power
Information Literacy
Research Process
Evaluating Information
Lesson Design
Staff Development


2003-2005 BreitLinks, All rights reserved.  Question, comments, or would you like to share resources?  I'd love to hear from you at webmaster@clubtnt.org  

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is being made available in an efforts to advance understanding of educational, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.  If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.