Research Help Desk

Have a research paper or project coming up? Never fear; your friendly librarian is here! Use these step-by-step suggestions to get started:

How do I start? (Task Definition)

Students using computersStart with what you know. Do you get to pick a topic, or has your teacher assigned something to you? 

  • Write down what you already know about the topic, and then work with an adult to narrow your topic. 
  • Make sure that the topic you are researching is not too big or too small. 
  • Write down some questions you want to answer during your research.

Where do I look? (Information-Seeking Strategies and Location)

Make a list of possible information sources: books, encyclopedias, websites, people, etc.

  • Think of keywords or phrases you will use in your search.
  • Search through a variety of resources, and be sure to take notes as you go. When you write down information, put it in your own words.
  • Write down where you found your information so later you can cite your sources.

What do I do with all of these notes? (Use of Information)

If your teacher has given you a graphic organizer, put your notes on it, and move anything that doesn't fit to another location. If you don’t already have one, try using one of these graphic organizers.

  • Put similar information together so you can see what connects and can start answering the questions you asked in step one.
  • Sort your results by playing "Trash or Treasure." Divide everything into these two categories, and then decide how you can group the Treasure notes into big categories.

Now what? (Synthesis)

Put it all together. 

  • Start with an opening that explains what you are doing and why. 
  • Make each of your big categories a separate paragraph. (If you are doing something other than a written report, you'll want to make each category a separate slide or set of slides.)
  • Start a new paragraph, slide, or set of slides each time you move to a different category of information.
  • Finish with a closing that tells the audience what you learned.

How did I do? (Evaluation)

If your teacher gave you a rubric or set of expectations, double check that you covered everything before turning in your project.

  • Did you do your best work?  
  • What would you change if you did this again?
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