THE RESEARCH PROCESS: Quick Guide to Research
(Print this page out to serve as a worksheet)

I.    Define the need for information
What are you being asked to do? (State the assignment in your own words)
What is the topic? (State the subject of the assignment here)
What is the thesis question or hypothesis? (State the assignment in terms of a question here)

What are some key search terms? (List here some important keywords you can use in catalogs, indexes, and search engines.)

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II.    Determine information seeking strategies

What are some of the different ways I could find information on the subject? (List some of the sources you will begin to search for information on the topic. These might include people; print and non-print media, such as books, magazines, videos; and online or digital sources. Be as specific as you can.)

Which of these sources should be consulted first, second, third, etc? (Place in order the sources you have come up with in the previous list)

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III.    Locate and access sources

Use various indexing tools, e.g., library catalogs and Internet search engines to locate the sources you think you will need. (Use note cards or other note-taking tools to list the items you find in the catalogs and indexes. Be sure to document each source with such identification as author, title, call number, pages and publication date. For Web sites include the sponsoring organization and/or author, title, URL (Web locator), publication date, and date you accessed the site.)
Access other sources of information. (As above, be sure to document each information source with as much relevant information as needed.)
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IV.    Evaluate and comprehend the information

Steps IV and V (reading and organizing information) are the heart of the research process. As you assess the source, determine its credibility and timeliness. Decide what is fact and what is opinion. Discover the author's point of view. You will find yourself going back and forth, taking notes as you read, looking for more sources when you find gaps in the information, revising the topic and thesis statements, and organizing thoughts. Be sure to document your work, and keep a running bibliography of your sources.
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V.    Interpret and organize the information

Classify and sequence the information
As you take notes, your information will fall into natural groupings, e.g. people, places, events, misconceptions, history, etc. You can make a stack of note cards for each category--and switch them as more suitable classification systems become apparent. Notes can then be put in some meaningful sequence: pro-con, chronological, before-after, etc.

Organize the information
The classification and sequencing of notes develops into the projects organization. The traditional organization method is an outline, which divided information into several main points, with supporting details (at least two for each main point.
Graphic organizers help you to visualize the information and relate its component parts. This method is particularly useful for visual and computer-based projects. Some ways to organize your topic include: information web (describing qualities), cause and effect, compare and contrast, whole and parts (branching), and timeline.

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VI.    Communicate the information

Choose a format
What is the most effective way to present your findings and conclusions? Often your teacher will give you a format but if not consider your audience, the objective of the project, the nature of the content, and the structure of the assignment. Typewritten or word-processed reports should be submitted on plain 8½" x 11" paper with double-spaced text and 1" margins. Print or type on only one side of the sheet. Word processed reports should be done in 12 pt. Times font.

Draft and revise the product
Now that you have done your research, you are ready to reflect upon the new information and make meaningful judgments based on the data. Make sure you write in your own style and use your own ideas. Go back over your work to smooth it out, and have someone else review it as well. Before submitting it, be certain your product contains no errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar. Be sure to include accurate documentation of your sources.

Avoid plagiarism. For an online review of how teachers can now use the Web to check on Internet plagiarism, click here.

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VII.    Evaluate the product and process

How well did the project fulfill the assignment and deal with the research topic?
Were the research steps taken appropriate and effective?
By assessing the learning experience, you can identify areas of progress and needs for further improvement.
Your teacher may provide a rubric to guide your assessment.

Here are some issues to consider in evaluating the process:

  • How well did the project meet the need for information and satisfy the task?
  • How could the research process be expanded or modified?
  • What new skills and knowledge were gained?
  • What steps in the research process need further development and practice?

  • Here is a product checklist of final points to consider:

  • The introduction includes a clear thesis statement or hypothesis.
  • Evidence is shown clearly.
  • At least two perspectives about the topic are included, as appropriate.
  • The product shows your reaction to what you discovered.
  • Conclusions are based on high-quality facts.
  • The product demonstrates care and enthusiasm about the topic.
  • The product is understandable.
  • Proper credit is given to the sources.
  • The product shows mastery of English.
  • The product has a professional appearance.
  • The product carries out the assignment.
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