Researcher

The Investigation Process

Ask Open Ended Questions to focus your inquiry

Search for Reliable Sources — Evaluate your sources

Take Notes & Cite Sources

Apply Knowlege and Take Action — Plan, Think and Interpret Information

Asking Open-Ended Questions and Focusing Your Inquiry

A good research question:

  • can’t be answered with a “yes” or  “no”
  • leads to more questions
  • provokes discussion
  • requires a careful reading of text or understanding of a topic
  • requires drawing conclusions and making inferences using the gathered information

Research questions can be changed or modified during the inquiry process. You never know what you may find. You may find too much information and need to narrow your focus, or too little and need to broaden your focus

Ask yourself:

What do I think I already know about this subject?

What do I wonder about it?

Thinking through your question – fill in the blank template from Read Write Think

Searching for Reliable Sources

When looking for research material, finding trustworthy sources can be difficult. You must evaluate the credibility and accuracy of each source. You will want to determine the kind of resources you will need, where these sources are located and how you will determine their reliability.

Author – Who is the source of the information?

CREDIBILITY, AUTHORITY, RELIABILITY, and VALIDITY

  • Who is responsible for the intellectual content within the resource?
  • Does the author provide contact information?
  • What are the author’s credentials?
  • Where does the author work?
  • Where is the source published?
  • Is the publisher well known?
  • For web sites, who is sponsoring the web site?

Content – How is the information written?

Is the information too vague or too specific?

ACCURACY
  • Does the author provide supportive evidence?
  • Have other scholars cited this author?
  • Is the information accurate, credible?
  • Are the spelling and grammar correct?
OBJECTIVITY
  • What are the goals and objectives of the author?
  • What is the purpose of the source? (To inform?  To persuade? To sell? To provoke? To document? To entertain?)
  • Is the information within the source biased?
  • Who was the source created for? (ex. general population, other scholars, etc.)
  • For web sites, are there advertisements?
CURRENCY
  • How old is the information within the source?
  • When was the document produced?
  • When was the last time the source was updated?
  • For web sites, are the links alive or dead?

How to Evaluate a Website – The Difference Between Vertical Reading and Lateral Reading

When you read vertically, you are trying to evaluate a website based on features internal to that website like its URL, design, functionality, or content. This means you are staying within a website to evaluate its reliability. Instead, you should read laterally. This means you leave a site after a quick scan and open new browser tabs in order to judge the credibility of the original site.

Fake News?

Fake news and false information is widely spread on the Internet. How can you tell if what you are reading is real? Here are some sources to help:

A First Step — Read Background Information

Read an encyclopedia article on your subject. Reading a broad summary enables you to get an overview and see how your idea relates to broader, narrower, and related issues.

General Encyclopedias

To access these encyclopedias when you are not on campus, you will need to enter the school’s user id and password.  Click here for User ids and passwords.

Take Notes and Cite Sources

Taking Notes

Chris Lehman’s Note taking process:

  • Read a passage.
  • Cover it up.
  • Reflect on what you read and why it was important.
  • Write a quick summary in your notes without looking back at the original text. What did you read that you think others needed to know? Record that information.
  • Uncover the original text and reread it.
  • Is there any academic vocabulary used that you could include? Are there any specific facts?  Scan for these to include in your summary.

You can use Noodletools to take your notes:

NoodleTools notecards afford you space to think as you gather facts, opinions, and evidence. Besides giving your notecard a short, descriptive title and identifying the source it comes from, you will work with three primary fields:

  • Direct quotation (“A”): Store source material for future reference. Highlight and annotate to ensure close reading.
  • Paraphrase or summary (“B”): Explain the source material in your own words. Check your understanding.
  • My ideas (“C”): Reflect and engage. Articulate ideas, assumptions and questions. What do I wonder? How does it fit with what I know? How should I follow up?

NoodleTool Notecard

You can also use a combination of these two methods. Use the Lehman method to enter the paraphrase or summary in Noodletools.

Citation Format

Encyclopedia Citations

You may look for your citation in your source, or you may use NoodleTools to create a citation.

  1. When you find an article you might use, READ THE ARTICLE first to get an overview of the information given.
  2. If it contains information that you want to use, scroll down to the end of the article and look for the Source Citation. Alternately, find a link that says something like “Generate Citation” or “Cite this Document”. You are looking for “MLA Citation”.

If you do not see a citation, you may use NoodleTools to create one. When you are citing an online encyclopedia in NoodleTools, you need to do the following:

Start your citation as follows:

  • Under New Source, Select “Database” from the menu.
  • From the pop-up menu, the most likely type of source you will be using is Reference Source (includes encyclopedias)
  • Fill in the blank spaces as appropriate.

The citation given will be in this order:

With an Author Name

Last Name, First Name. “Article Title”. Encyclopedia Title. Copyright Date. (If online URL and Access Date)

Without an Author Name

If there are no authors for the article, begin the citation with the entry title instead.

“Article Title”. Encyclopedia Title. Copyright Date. (If online URL and Access Date)

Example:

“Indians, American.” Scholastic GO!, go.scholastic.com/content/schgo/C/article/014/722/0147220-0.html. Accessed 22 Feb. 2022.

Book Citations

Find information in books and cite your sources using MLA format. You can use NoodleTools to create a citation.

Start your citation as follows:

  • Under New Source, Select “Print or in-hand” from the menu.
  • From the pop-up menu, select book.
  • Fill in the blank spaces as appropriate.

The citation given will be in this order:
Author’s Last Name, First Name Middle Name. Book Title.  Publisher, Year of Publication.

Example:

Mendoza, Jean. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People. Boston, Beacon Press, 2019.

Website

If you are using a website for information, you will need to cite your source correctly.

You may use NoodleTools to create one. When you are citing a website in NoodleTools, you need to do the following:

Start your citation as follows:

  • Under New Source, Select “Website” from the menu.
  • From the pop-up menu, the most likely type of source you will be using is Website
  • Fill in the blank spaces as appropriate.

The citation given will be in this order:

Author. “Title of Article/Page.” Other ContributorsName of WebsitePublisherDate of PublicationURLDate of Access.

Example:
O’Brien, Cynthia, and Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh. “Native People of California.” National Geographic, kids.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/native-people-of-california. Accessed 22 Feb. 2022.

Plan, Think, and Interpret Information to Apply Knowledge and Take Informed Action

Sometimes the final product will  be a written report, an oral presentation or visual product.  Oral presentations may include speeches, debates, dramatizations. Visual projects may include digital media, timelines, 3D art, posters, newspapers, mixed media, web page, poems, photographic collages and videos.  You should also consider how you might use your learning to take informed action.