Question–> Plan–> Gather–> Create–> Assess!
Learn about the Research Process with lessons provided by our library (linked at left menu as well as below.)
Question: Researchers are active information seekers who are guided by questions. Explore your topic(s) with reference sources to figure out the questions that your work will answer. Here’s why a reference article helps! A reference source will help you formulate your “research-able question” as well as refer you to authoritative sources for more information. (At this stage and onward, apply these steps to access scholarly databases.)
Plan: Research projects may be most useful to use in this order: Reference Sources –> secondary sources –> then primary sources such as journal articles for additional support, insight and detail.
Good researchers use the “curated” resources that libraries purchase for scholarly projects– books and databases, as well as the specific web sites recommended by instructors. There are many reasons to get used to using databases for scholarly resources –especially if you are preparing to go to college. A librarian’s guidance and research guides will point you toward the best databases or books in which to start your project. It will save you time and improve the quality of your results.
Gather: Apply skills with the library’s catalog to locate books (and their citations) for your research topic. Try H-B Library’s Research Guides linked by subject in the lower portion of this web page’s left hand menu. Apply these tips for advanced searching in middle school or advanced searching in high school to find a variety of sources with varying degrees of insight and detailed perspective– reference sources, text, digital and primary sources. Record notes in a systematic way in order to avoid plagiarism so that you can develop your bibliography and citations. NoodleTools is notetaking software that can help you gather notes linked to their sources, and the librarian is your point of contact for support with Noodletools. Your teachers might supply you a different means of taking notes (such as a slide show, graphic organizer or Google doc) to record specific page numbers and sources to develop your citations. Evaluate your sources for quality, relevance and bias as you research. Reject sources that are not credible.
Create: Using an outline that organizes the order of the questions you sought to answer, a strong note-taking system then gives you the power to sift and sort information from a variety of sources. A strong note-taking system efficiently supports you to put your claim, explanation, examples and evidence into order as you compile a “report” and provide the reader answers to your research questions in your own order and voice. Your report is the answer to your research questions. It enables accurate and complete citations to five credit to your sources, show them off proudly, and avoid plagiarism. Using in-text or parenthetical references, students cite the sources of facts and quotes as each paragraph develops to specifically refer the reader to the basis of the conclusions drawn. Projects based on research include a properly formatted bibliography (which can be exported from NoodleTools this way to your Google Docs –or Microsoft Word for superior formatting) in MLA or APA style.
Assess: Did you meet the project expectations? What skills for research are you developing in order to feel proud and confident in your progress and prepared for future challenges? By the end of a project and with the assistance of a teacher’s rubric, you can reflect on your own growth as a learner. The library has guidebooks from MLA and APA as well as references to online exemplars that model a properly formatted and cited research paper.
**A note on Wikipedia**
Visiting Wikipedia (which is “open source” and can be edited by anyone) is sort of like “going to the village square” to chat with others about the topic. Not all of Wikipedia contributors have expertise. Furthermore, sometimes salespeople, tricksters or politicians with an agenda are skewing the information or misinforming at Wikipedia pages. You can “taste” your topic at Wikipedia and consider where it might go… and even explore the links to more authoritative content.
HBW’s library recommends that if you want to use Wikipedia, you can carefully do so the first day or two of an assignment, keeping in mind all of the above warnings about credibility. However, in preparation for college work where Wikipedia is generally not considered an acceptable source, do not CITE Wikipedia in your scholarly papers.
It can save researchers a great deal of time to START with a reference source that has been professionally edited and written by paid experts– in either:
- the databases or
- on the library’s non-fiction shelves (which contain many reference books not available in our databases.)