Find resources and tips for your project in the left hand menu. Use them as you apply The Research Process:
Question–> Plan–> Gather–> Create–> Assess!
Question: Explore your topic(s) with reference sources and then formulate a “research-able question.” Employ suggested question stems to launch a project that’s not too narrow (or that results in mere knowledge regurgitation or copy-paste work without involving critical thinking.) Get help from your teacher and librarian to make sure your research question is “do-able.” Access detailed instruction here.
The following questions involve critical thinking: How…? Which…? Why…? To what extent…? Warning: a “What…?” project may simply lead to copying and re-stating information rather than actually DOING something with the information.
Notice “key words” that will assist you in developing your searches as you work with your reference sources that overview your topic.
Plan: Good researchers learn the appropriate strategies to conduct research. In library projects, it typically involves using sources in this order: Reference Sources… secondary sources… and then primary sources for additional support, insight and detail. Put into action a system for recording your sources. 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. Doing an Internet search works best for some topics (current events, entertainment, shopping options, and technology.) However, for many scholarly topics, a search on the wide open internet results in tens of thousands of “hits”– way too much information to sift through and learn from in depth. Ask a librarian for help selecting the best resources (likely databases) in which to start. It will save you time and improve the quality of your results.
Gather: as sources and notes are gathered, you need to record notes in a systematic way so that you can develop your bibliography and citations.
Create: A strong note-taking system gives you the power to compile your “report” efficiently. It enables accurate and complete citations to avoid plagiarism.
Assess: Here’s where you reflect on how well you accomplished your goals for your work. 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?
**A note on Wikipedia**
Visiting Wikipedia (which can be edited by anyone) is sort of like “going to the village square” to chat with others about the topic. Sometimes people have added helpful and accurate content. Sometimes salespeople, tricksters or politicians with an agenda are skewing the information or misinforming at Wikipedia pages. You can “taste” your topic there and consider where it might go… and even explore the links to more authoritative content.
If something on Wikipedia looks funky, or there are editor notes about the article needing to be “cleaned up”, etc., head elsewhere fast.
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. Accordingly, it can save researchers a great deal of time to START in content that has been professionally edited and written by paid experts– in the databases. We recommend beginning in the Gale Virtual Reference Library (or other reference databases recommended in the Research Guides) for short articles that overview a topic that are written by scholars on the subject.