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Secondary School Research Skills

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Gillian Shaughnessy

on 5 April 2013

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Transcript of Secondary School Research Skills

Research Skills 1.Developing a Topic
In many cases, specific topics will be assigned to you by your course instructor. However, at times you will be given more choice in what you want to research and write about.
When you are developing your own topic, the most important criteria are that:

1.The Topic is of Interest to You

If you are not interested in what you are researching, it will be reflected in the quality of your work (not to mention making the research process a boring task for you!). Spend time thinking about a topic that will captivate your interest. You may want to look through your course textbook or a general book on the subject for inspiration if you are having trouble coming up with ideas.

2.The Topic is of Appropriate Breadth (neither too broad nor too narrow in focus)

Once you have selected an area of interest to study, you will need to refine the idea to make sure that it is a reasonable amount to investigate. 2.Finding Sources Researching for a class assignment can often seem like an overwhelming task. Thousands of sources may be available on a given topic, providing you with too much information, much of which is inaccurate or misleading.

Several steps should be taken to ensure maximum success in your research endeavours. For guidance, view this presentation and complete the activities within it. Basic Steps in the Research Process: Many experts have different opinions as to the exact order steps should be followed. The ammount of time spent on each phases may also depend on factors such as familiarity with your topic. However, it is commonly accepted that all successful research tasks must follow these basic steps:
1.Develop a Topic
2.Find Sources
3.Develop a Thesis
4.Research and Record Information to Support (or Refute) Thesis
5.Create an Outline of the Assignment (This may be done during or after the research process)
6.Create a Rough Draft of Work
7.Editing (may include self, peer or instructor editing)
8.Finish Good Copy and Hand In This Prezi will focus only on the Steps in the Research Process. For Writing Help or for more Information on How to Avoid Plagiarism while researching and Writing, see my PowerPoint Presentations that are linked from the School Library’s Homepage or come visit me in the library. Happy Researching!

Please feel free to come and visit me in the library or send me an email through RenWeb if you any questions or want more information on a topic from this presentation. test Activity 1

Imagine that you have been assigned to write a 5 page (2000 words) research paper. Determine whether the following topics are too narrow, too broad, or appropriate to the assignment:

1.World War II
2.Factors that Contributed to the Onset of World War Two
3.The Weather at Pearl Harbour
4.Effects of the Oil Industry on the Environment
5.The Environment
Answers to the Activity are on the Following Screen
6.Effects of the Oil Industry on the Brown Pelican A topic that is too narrow will be frustrating to research and you may find it difficult to find enough subtopics/main arguments or supporting evidence. Examples of topics that are too narrow include: The breakfast diet of King Henry VIII, The surface of the moon, or stick insect habitats.

A Topic that is too broad will also be frustrating to research, but for the opposite reason. So much information will exist that it will become an overwhelming task to choose the best elements to focus on. Examples of topics that are too broad include: England, The Solar System, or Insects. Activity 1 Answers Imagine that you have been assigned to write a 5 page (2000 words) research paper. Determine whether the following topics are too narrow, too broad, or appropriate to the assignment:

1.World War II – TOO BROAD
2.Factors that Contributed to the Onset of World War Two- GOOD
3.The Weather at Pearl Harbour – TOO NARROW
4.Effects of the Oil Industry on the Environment - GOOD
5.The Environment – TOO BROAD
6.Effects of the Oil Industry on the Brown Pelican – TOO NARROW The next phase in your research should be to find sources of information. Before you fully commit yourself to a topic, make sure that you can find enough high quality sources. This number will usually be specified in assignment guidelines, but if you are unsure of how many sources to use, ask your teacher for clarification.

Ideally, you should obtain a variety of resource types, which may include:
* Books (including e-books or books online)
* Scholarly articles
* Magazine articles
* Videos
* Websites
If you are not able to locate enough high quality sources, you will need to return to step one and select another topic. For this reason, some people like to look for resources before selecting a topic. Either can lead to successful research, as long as the end result is a suitable topic with sufficient sources. Selecting Resources is one of the areas where students experience the most problems in the research process. Without high quality sources, you cannot have a high quality research paper. The following slides will give you information on locating useful physical and virtual resources. Where to Find High Quality Resources Information that is found in books shelved in your school or public library is the most reliable type of source for most research topics. Librarians constantly review the books in their collections and discard information that is irrelevant or out of date, so you can be confident in the sources that you obtain from these places. You can obtain books, articles, general reference materials and magazines from the library easily and at no cost.
To most effectively locate information, you can ask the librarian to search the library records. Unfortunately, the public and school libraries you access do not enable users to search the records, but on the next slide you will find tips for finding sources in the library if you would rather look independently. The School or Public Libraries The Dewey Decimal System To locate information in these libraries, it is best to have some familiarity with the Dewey Decimal System. This system assigns numbers to specific topics and subtopics, and books are organized on shelves according to these numbers. This makes finding multiple books on the same topic easier, as they will usually be right next to each other on the shelves. However, keep in mind that many books cover more than one topic, but can still only be placed in one space in the library. You may have to look in a few locations to discover all the possible sources for certain subjects.

If you are worried that there will not be enough resources to support your topic or you are having a difficult time thinking of a topic, browsing the relevant section of the library can be a great strategy. Many subdivisions exist, but generally speaking books arranged by the Dewey Decimal System will be sorted into the following sections:
000-099 GENERAL REFERENCE (Dictionary, Encyclopedia)
100-199 PHILOSOPHY AND PSYCHOLOGY (Ideas of Humankind)
200-299 RELIGION
300-399 SOCIAL SCIENCE (Fairy Tales, Social Problems, Government, Statistics, etc.)
400-499 LANGUAGE
500-599 SCIENCE (Rocks, Animals, Mathematics, Chemistry, etc.)
600-699 APPLIED SCIENCES AND TECHNOLOGY (Buildings, Cooking and Home Economics, Engineering, etc.)
700-799 THE ARTS (Fine Arts, Music, Sports and Recreation)
800-899 Literature (Novels, Plays, Poems, etc.)
900-999 GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY (Travel, Biography, Atlas, etc.) Dewey Decimal System Basic Categories Research Tip:
Finding Information in Books To save time on researching, review the glossary, index and table of contents sections of resources that you plan to use. Use this strategy to make sure that books have a good amount of information- Books that dedicate a chapter or less to your specific topic can often be better than full books or multiple chapters when writing short papers. Selecting sources that are too broad can be overwhelming in the same way as choosing too broad of a topic, as both can result in too much research and difficulty forming arguments. The internet makes researching simultaneously easier and more difficult. With thousands of sources available, it can be difficult to judge which ones are suitable to use in research assignments.
The best way to guarantee the accuracy of information obtained online is to use a database rather than a search engine to find sources.
Databases include information that has been selected by professionals, much in the same way as a library’s book collection is maintained. Databases link to a variety of sources, all of which can be trusted. In contrast, search engines such as Google have no screening process for accuracy in their results, so they can bring you to some very untrustworthy sources. Finding Sources Online Various subscription Databases exist online that require you to pay for membership, but many can also be accessed for free.

IPL2, the division of the Internet Public library for teens, has an excellent site dedicated to research skills available at: http://www.ipl.org/div/aplus/referenceweb.htm.
The site provides the following list of high-quality, free online databases of reliable information:

Online Books and Journals

IPL Reading Room—Internet Public Library (http://www.ipl.org/div/reading/)
The On-line Books Page—The University of Pennsylvania (http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/)
EServer - The University of Washington (http://eserver.org/)

Reference Books

Bartleby.com: Great Books Online (http://www.bartleby.com/100/)
Internet Public Library Reference Center (http://www.ipl.org/IPLBrowse/GetSubject?vid=13&tid=6996&parent=0)
My Virtual Facts on File, part of My Virtual Reference Desk (http://www.refdesk.com/facts.html)
Research Tools (http://www.itools.com/research/)
The Biographical Dictionary (http://www.s9.com/biography/)
Xrefer (http://www.xrefer.com/)

Reproduced with permission from the ipl2 Consortium, copyright [2009-2012] by the ipl2 Consortium (http://www.ipl.org). All rights reserved Online Databases When obtaining sources through search engines such as Google, you need to be much more cautious than when using databases. Various criteria can be applied when trying to determine the quality of a source obtained through a search engine.

As a guideline, try to select sources that offer as much of the following information as possible:

* Author's Name
* Author's Title or Position
* Author's Organizational Affiliation (may be the same organization as the website)
* Date of Page Creation or Version
* Aspects of the CARS Checklist Using Google or Other Search Engines to Find Sites Though there are no set rules for evaluating the reliability of online sources, the following model is supported by experts in the field:
The CARS ChecklistThe CARS Checklist (Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, Support) is designed to help researchers to evaluate online sources of information. Few sources will meet every criterion in the list, and even those that do may not be of the highest quality. However, if a source meets most of the criteria on this list (as well as including bibliographic details on the author shown previously) you can be fairly certain that it is of high quality. For More information on many topics covered in this presentation, consult some of these sources available online or in our school library:

Harris, Robert. "Evaluating Internet Research Sources." Evaluating Internet Research Sources. Virtual Salt, 22 Nov. 2010. Web. Mar. 2013. <http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm>.

Lerner, Marcia. "Research Papers." Writing Smart: Your Guide to Great Writing. New York: Random House, 2001. 85-128. Print.

"The Library." The Essential Writer's Companion: A Concise Guide to Writing Effectively for School, Home or Office. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 224-246. Print.

McKenzie, James. “The New Plagiarism: Seven Antidotes to Prevent Highway Robbery in an Electronic Age”. In From Now On: The Educational Technology Journal, Vol. 7 No. 8. May 1998. 16 July, 2012 http://fno.org/may98/cov98may.html

Open Clipart Library. 2013.<http://openclipart.org/>

"Papers and Reports." The Essential Writer's Companion: A Concise Guide to Writing Effectively for School, Home or Office. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 193-219. Print.

Plotnick, Jerry, University College Writing Centre. "Organizing an Essay." Organizing an Essay. University of Toronto Writing Centre, n.d. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2013. <http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/planning-and-organizing/organizing>.

Schwartz, Kathryn L. "A+ Research & Writing for High School and College Students." Ipl2. Drexell University, 2012. Web. Mar. 2013. <http://www.ipl.org/div/aplus/internet.htm>.

Wilson, Paige, and Teresa Ferster. Glazier. "Writing Skills." The Least You Should Know about English: Writing Skills : Form A. Boston, MA: Thomson Heinle, 2003. 219-48. Print.

"WTS Pamphlets on Common Writing Situations." Writing Tutorial Services. Trustees of Indiana University, 31 Aug. 2011. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2013. <http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets.shtml>. Bibliography Source: Harris, 2010 (http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm) Summary of The CARS Checklist for Research Source Evaluation * Don’t rely exclusively on internet resources (unless specifically asked by your teacher to do so).
* Use databases rather than search engines to obtain sources online where possible.
* When using search engines to obtain sources, be critical of sources. Look for information about the author and publication as well as aspects of the CARS checklist.
*Keep good records of where your sources are located in your research notes.
*Have a specific topic in mind while researching, and keep cognitive of when you get off track in your focus. Research Tips:
Finding Information Online Summary of The CARS Checklist for Research Source Evaluation 3.Develop a Thesis After you have located the main sources you intend to use, the next step is to briefly look over the information that you have and develop a thesis statement. You do not need to review all of the information you will be using prior to developing a thesis statement, but should have some familiarity of your topic on which to base your opinion.

Selecting your thesis statement is a very important step in writing a high quality research paper. If possible, try to make your thesis original, thought-provoking and engaging. For some topics you may find this to be difficult, but an appropriate thesis statement must follow certain basic criteria. According to The Least You Should Know about English: Writing Skills (available in the school library):

1.A thesis statement must be a sentence with a subject and a verb (not merely a topic).

2.A thesis statement must be an idea that you can explain or defend (not simply a statement of fact). Activity 2 Thesis, Topic or Fact?

Which of the following are appropriate theses? Which of them are actually topics or statements of fact?

1.The most influential Prime Minister in Canadian history was William Lyon Mackenzie King.
2.The Eiffel Tower.
3.Sharks have no bones in their bodies.
5.William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister.
6.Hovercraft will likely replace cars as the common mode of transportation by the end of the century. Activity 2 Answers Thesis, Topic or Fact?

Which of the following are appropriate theses? Which of them are actually topics or statements of fact?

1. The most influential Prime Minister in Canadian history was William Lyon Mackenzie King. THESIS
2. The Eiffel Tower. TOPIC
3. Sharks have no bones in their bodies. FACT
4. Flying TOPIC
5. William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister. FACT
6. Hovercraft will likely replace cars as the common mode of transportation by the end of the century. THESIS 4. Research and Record Information to Support (or Refute) Thesis There are many ways to record information while you are researching. Various methods are described in an article in the next section on creating outlines, as often these steps are completed simultaneously.
Some Overall Guidelines When Taking Research Notes:

* Make sure to record source information as a part of your research notes (book details required for the bibliography/citations and page numbers where information was found if relevant)
* Try to limit what you write down to just the most relevant and convincing points and evidence (too many research notes can make focusing the information for the outline difficult)
* Make sure to indicate what your own ideas are, what the author’s ideas are, and what are direct quotations in your research notes (to avoid inadvertent plagiarism). One well recognized source suggests writing each in a separate colour to reduce possible confusion when writing the paper (McKenzie, 1998).
* Develop guiding questions about your topic to help focus your research, but keep an open mind for new directions that the research may take you. 5. Create an Outline of the Assignment (this may be done during or after the research process) Outlines are generally better when they are completed after you have begun researching. If you develop an outline before you know what information you have, it may cause you to overlook better arguments or evidence that is available to you. Research and outlines can be created at the same time, but finalizing the outline should always be the last step of the research process. The guiding questions that you used in your research are often good basis for central arguments, but these may need to be combined or rephrased, and needn’t be used if you discover better information during the research process.

Outlines should include the main arguments as well as any supporting details or evidence that you plan to include in your paper. They can take on various formats, and in many cases your teacher will specify a format for you to use. If it is not specified, you may want to use a method that you have found successful in the past or develop a more personal way that makes sense to you (as long as all of the important information is included). Ideas for different types of outlines and information on how to create them can be found by reading the article on the next slides. Template Examples Thesis Argument 1

Proof Argument 2

Proof Argument 3

Proof Argument 4

Proof Argument 5

Proof After you have completed your outline, you should have everything that you need to complete your assignment in one compact source.

Set aside your research notes, and use your outline to complete the following steps:

6. Create a Rough Draft of Work
7. Editing (may include self, peer or instructor editing) Information on Editing can be found in your student agendas.
8. Finish Good Copy

If you realize during any of the above phases that you need more information, you can go back to your notes and use information that you omitted from your outline and first draft. If you used all of the information recorded in your notes, revisit your original sources or try to find a few additional sources and revise your work to include this new information.
Keep your research notes until the end of the semester as support for your work if it is questioned by a teacher or school administration.

Note: information on citing sources, creating bibliographies, and writing can be found through the library’s homepage. After-Research: Using the Information The writing centre of the University of Toronto suggests exploring several types of outlines to discover what works for you. The following 3 frames show an excerpt taken from an article on their website. For more information on the topic or to view the whole article, visit the website at: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/planning-and-organizing/organizing.

Review the three methods and determine which you think would be the best strategy for you, then try it during your next research task!
Some techniques for integrating note-taking and planning Reading Reflection Activity Though convenient, the common method of jotting down your notes consecutively on paper is far from ideal. The problem is that your points remain fixed on paper. Here are three alternatives that provide greater flexibility:

method 1: index cards

When you are researching, write down every idea, fact, quotation, or paraphrase on a separate index card. Small (5" by 3") cards are easiest to work with. When you've collected all your cards, reshuffle them into the best possible order, and you have an outline, though you will undoubtedly want to reduce this outline to the essential points should you transcribe it to paper.
A useful alternative involves using both white and coloured cards. When you come up with a point that you think may be one of the main points in your outline, write it at the top of a coloured card. Put each supporting note on a separate white card, using as much of the card as necessary. When you feel ready, arrange the coloured cards into a workable plan. Some of the points may not fit in. If so, either modify the plan or leave these points out. You may need to fill gaps by creating new cards. You can shuffle your supporting material into the plan by placing each of the white cards behind the point it helps support. Some techniques for integrating note-taking and planning method 2: the computer method 3: the circle method This method is designed to get your ideas onto a single page, where you can see them all at once. When you have an idea, write it down on paper and draw a circle around it. When you have an idea which supports another idea, do the same, but connect the two circles with a line. Supporting source material can be represented concisely by a page reference inside a circle. The advantage of the circle method is that you can see at a glance how things tie together; the disadvantage is that there is a limit to how much material you can cram onto a page.

Here is part of a circle diagram: H has a highly developed Moral Nature H is Idealistic H seeks grounds for acting H is aware of his Faults Excerpt from Plotnick, Jerry, University College Writing Centre. "Organizing an Essay." Organizing an Essay. University of Toronto Writing Centre, n.d. Web. Mar.-Apr. 2013. <http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/planning-and-organizing/organizing>.
(Reproduced in Accordance with Fair Use Policy) A different way of moving your notes around is to use the computer. You can collect your points consecutively, just as you would on paper. You can then sort your ideas when you are ready to start planning. Take advantage of "outline view" in Word, which makes it easy for you to arrange your points hierarchically. This method is fine so long as you don't mind being tied to your computer from the first stage of the writing process to the last. Some people prefer to keep their planning low-tech. Step by Step Research Guide
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