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ES Research Guide: Home

Step 1: Initiate - What do I really want to find out?

Research is about inquiry. Inquiry involves exploring ideas and information to make new discoveries, and it starts with asking questions. The first step of the research process is to ask yourself:

  • What is my purpose?
  • How can I deconstruct the research topic?
  • What are the key words and ideas of my task?
  • What is my inquiry question focus?

When you answer these questions and brainstorm and define the research topic then you are ready to draft quality research questions.

Form your essential or guiding question.

  • It is the main question that will guide your research.
  • It restates what you specifically want to learn about, but as a question.
  • Don't worry if you are not totally sure; your essential question may change before you are done.

Brainstorm subtopics you could investigate to help answer your essential question.

  • This may require more background reading. 

Develop focus questions based on the subtopics you identified.

  • Each focus question covers one aspect or part of the essential question.  
  • They will guide you as you work so that you will read and take notes only on what is needed for your project.
  • As you research, you may need to add, remove, or change some of your focus questions. 
  • See the examples in the table below.

(Credit to Oregon School Library Information System)

What information are you looking for? Think about the keywords and questions you might have.

  • Choose an issue. Write as many questions as you can think of relating to that topic.
  • Make a mindmap of the issue. This could be either on paper or using an online tool like

Research questions should drive your research. Well-crafted research questions serve as the foundation of your project.

  • Questions should be open-ended
  • Questions should align with learning goals
  • Questions should guide your investigation towards a meaningful outcome.

When creating questions, use open questions to develop hight-order thinking skills.



Step 2: Locate - How do I find the information?

When locating information, you should ask yourself:

  • What do I already know?
  • What do I still need to find out?
  • What sources should I use?
  • How do I find the information?

Once you have answered these questions, you limit your investigation to a manageable size. Then you:

  • Identify and locate possible primary and secondary resources using the MISO method.
  • Decide what databases you will use and brainstorm key search words and alternative phrases
  • Gather information and identify gaps in the existing information.

Take a look at this BrainPop movie to learn more about Primary and Secondary resources. Click here for database passwords or click here to access Clever. Teaching about primary and secondary resources is important because it helps us gather information from different perspectives.

Primary resources are like being a detective; we investigate firsthand sources such as diaries, letters, or photographs to learn directly from the people who experienced the events.

Secondary resources are like gathering information from others; we look at books, articles, or documentaries that analyze and interpret the primary sources to gain a deeper understanding.

By using both types of resources, we can paint a more complete picture of what we are studying and have a better understanding of history, science, or any topic we are exploring. It's like putting together a puzzle with all the pieces to see the whole picture clearly.


Our library has many nonfiction books and ebooks that will help with researching. All the nonfiction books you find in our library collection (both print and online) are credible. Be sure to look at the publishing date of books. Remember, you want the most current, updated information. Most of our online resources can be accessed through a single sign on with Clever. SIGN-IN using your Microsoft WAB username and password. If you cannot access the database you want through Clever, click here for the database passwords.

 Nonfiction books are organized according to topics. We use the Dewey Decimal System to organize the books.

The  best place to start research online is with a database. Databases provide information that is relevant, current, and credible. You don't have to evaluate information on a database. It has already been done.

Most of our databases and online resources can be accessed through a single sign on with Clever. SIGN-IN using your Microsoft WAB username and password. If you cannot access the database you want through Clever, click here for the database passwords.

Research Databases

Image and Sound Databases

Open Access Databases

If you must do an internet search because you can't find what you want on a school database, use a child-friendly search engine. Child friendly search engines are designed to create a safe online environment. They have content filtering, privacy protection, educational resources, and are easy to use. Some examples of child friendly search engines are


Internet Searches

Everyone knows how to Google right? 
​When performing online searches, however, it pays to be savvy and understand how search engines operate. Learn more about how search engines work to perform internet searches. Click here for database passwords or click here to access Clever.


Using Keywords
Before you start searching for information, you need to choose good keywords for your search. Keywords are common words (but not words such as: of, and, the) that describe the main idea of your topic or question. Three or 4 keywords are usually most helpful. It will save you heaps of time and frustration later in your research process. The right combination of keywords can be the difference between finding good information and finding nothing. 

How to Choose Keywords
The easiest way to choose keywords is to write out your topic sentence or research question and select only the words that describe your topic/question. 

  1. For example: What are the causes and consequences of harsh environments?
  2. The words that describe your topic are causes, consequences, and harsh environments.
  3. Next, come up with as many words that words that mean the same thing (synonyms), are similar words, or are related words. For example: causes (sources, origins), consequences (effects, results) and harsh environments (severe habitats, extreme conditions).

Boolean Operators
Boolean operators are special words (like AND, OR, NOT) that help us search for information more effectively online. They are like secret codes that tell computers exactly what we are looking for. For example, when you search for "cats AND dogs," you are telling the computer to find information that includes both cats and dogs.

These operators are important because they help us narrow down our search results and find exactly what we need. Without them, searching for information on the internet would be like looking for a needle in a haystack! So, by using boolean operators, we can save time and quickly find the information we are seeking.

Practice your Boolean search skills with Boolify.

Step 3: Select - What information is relevant and reliable?

Selecting the right resources is important in the research process because it helps you find accurate and reliable information. When you use good resources, you can trust that the information you find is correct and up-to-date. This makes your research more valuable and helps you learn new things. Remember, using the right resources is like building a strong foundation for your research project. When selecting resources, you should ask yourself:

  • What information can I leave out?
  • How do I know if the information I found is credible, reliable, and relevant?
  • How will I record the information I need?
  • How do I read for understanding?

Take a look at the Credible Sources Libguide for more information. Learn more about searching and using credible and reliable online resources from BrainPop. Click here for database passwords or click here to access Clever.

Active Reading

Surprise 3 C's What is the difference
Pre knowledge quoted words Word Gap

Step 4: Organize - How do I sort this information?

Once you have located and selected information about your research topic, it's time to organize the information. This process includes:

  • Making sure you have enough information for your purpose
  • Summarizing and paraphrasing the information you're reading
  • Deciding how to use the information
  • Deciding how to reference the information sources

Knowing how to effectively take notes is necessary for interpreting, organizing, and summarizing information.  It is essential though, to understand the information you are trying to summarize.

Researchers use note-taking when reading and researching information from books and online sources. Effective note-taking is essential to understand and retain information. Having good notes plays an important role in research. 

Reviewing and revising are probably the most important part of taking notes! After taking notes, it is important to re-read and review the information on a regular basis. When reading the notes, it is a good idea to highlight or underline important ideas and add any details that might have been missed. If you add information to your notes, make sure it is accurate).  

Whatever method of note-taking you prefer to use, remember to record the bibliographic details of the information source to keep with your notes.

Paraphrasing means putting information you read and learn in your own words, with your own ideas, and writer's voice. Paraphrase when: 

  • You plan to use information from your notes and wish to avoid plagiarizing.
  • You want to avoid overusing quotations.
  • You want to use your own voice to present information.

What does it mean to Cite Sources
Good researchers use multiple primary and secondary resources when researching a topic. These sources might include books, news articles, databases, and websites to support your own work. Citing sources is a way of showing what resources you have used, giving credit to original authors. 
Whenever you research, you must cite your source or tell where you have gotten your information. It does not matter if the person whose work you used is alive or dead. If it is not your own idea, you must cite your source. Give credit where credit is due.


Why Citing Sources
Citing is important because you credit other author's ideas; your research is based on substantial facts; and anyone can find all references and images you used. To avoid plagiarism, you have to give credit to the original source of an idea, piece of information, or resource. Citing sources also lets teachers know where you found the original source of information and the original ideas used. Showing what resources you used to help with your research demonstrates your familiarity and knowledge with a particular topic.


What information should be Cited

  • Any quoted text - use quotation marks when directly using someone else's words
  • Any idea or information paraphrased or summarized from a source which is not common knowledge

How to Cite
As you do your research, keep a list of all the sources that you use. Keeping a record of these details will help you to find the source again if you need to refer to it, and will also form the basis of your bibliography list. 

Information needed for your Bibliography or Reference List
Author. (Date of Publication). Title of Book, Place of Publication: Publisher.    
Example: Burns, M. (2013). Kite Making. Sydney, NSW: Random House.
Author (if available). (Date of publication) , Title of article, Retrieved from URL    
 Example: Costello, C. (2015). Referencing,  Virtual Library. Retrieved from


Click here to access the Cite A Source Libguide.

Academic Honesty is of primary importance when you are doing research.

What is Plagiarism
 is the act of presenting another person's work or ideas as your own. Plagiarism is theft of intellectual property, and it's cheating. You avoid plagiarism by ALWAYS giving credit to the sources of ​your information you use for research. Whenever you use words or ideas that you have not thought up yourself, but that you read somewhere else (in books, websites, articles, etc) then you must ALWAYS show where you found your information in your bibliography or works cited page. 

What's Considered Plagiarism

  • hand in someone else's work as your own
  • copy words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • fail to put a quotation in "quotation marks" and then cite
  • give incorrect information about a source
  • substituting words while copying the sentence structure of a source (even if you still give credit)
  • copy so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work (even if you still give credit)

Ways to Avoid Plagiarism

  • Be organized - Don't leave your work to the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to conduct research, present information, and take action. Students are most tempted to cut corners and plagiarize when they are hurrying to complete an assignment.
  • Take good notes - Do not copy word for word from any source. When taking notes use short phrases and bullet points. If you are copying a sentence word for word, ensure you use quotation marks. Make a note of all the information sources you use as you go along and keep your notes and information sources organized.
  • Paraphrase, summarize, or reword information - Do not cut and paste notes. Do not copy word for word or substitute random words. 
  • Citing Resources - ALWAYS tell where you got the information from. You should have a bibliography or a works cited page.
  • Teacher Librarian - If you need help ask Ms. Rohrbeck

When you're done,
be sure to take the BrainPop quiz

Unintentional Plagiarism
Students can plagiarize unintentionally. This happens when you're not aware of what plagiarism is.

  • Careless paraphrasing
  • Poor note taking skills that causes you to forget where you found information
  • Not citing your source
  • Accidentally leaving out an information sources on bibliography
  • Incorrectly references the material
  • Quoting excessively
  • Failure to use your own voice in writing


Intentional Plagiarism
Intended or deliberate plagiarism means that you have decided to cheat. 

  • Copying a friend's work and submit it as your own
  • Cutting and pasting from an article on the internet
  • Quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing words or ideas or copy pictures, tables, and graphs while not providing a reference to show where the original work comes from
  • Media "borrowing" without documentation

Step 5: Present

Presenting is the fifth stage of the research cycle. In this stage you should ask:

  • What will I do with the information I have learned?
  • With whom will I share this information? 
  • How will i communicate or share the information?
  • How will I take action and make a difference?

Students can choose different forms of presentation that is appropriate to the audience and the purpose of the task. You should carefully summarize and paraphrase the information to be presented. Also don't forget to include a bibliography of the informations sources you used. It shoudl be alphabetically by the author's last name.

What does it mean to take action?

People who take action have a passion to make change. You are ready to take action when you know your issue well enough to identify solutions that will help the problem. 

Ask yourself the following questions when ​developing the action plan:

  • What do you know about the community need? 
  • Why is this plan needed?
  • How will this plan help?
  • Who will help and what will they do?
  • What do you expect to happen as a result of our work?
  • What evidence will you collect and how will you use it?
  •  What do you need to get the job done? 


Ideas for Taking Action: Young Heroes

Greta Thunberg: Who is the teenage climate change activist?

Step 6: Assess

Self-Assessment is what is required at this final stage of the research process. This is the most important part of the learning process. You have learned a substantial amount by going through the research process itself; however, it is when you reflect on the process that deeper learning occurs. By doing this, you examine ways that you can grow as learners.

At this stage of the process you should ask:

  • Did I fulfill my purpose?
  • How didI do with each step of the information process?
  • How did I do presenting the information?
  • What would I do differently next time?
  • What did I learn from this process?
  • For collaborative group work, did each member fulfill their role?

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