• Research Tips for Students
    Search strategies
     What do you really want to know?  Do you need to narrow down your topic?
    • Let's say you want to do research about dinosaurs.  That is a broad topic!  Is there a certain dinosaur you want to learn about?  Maybe you are curious about the kinds of dinosaurs that ate only plants?  
    Choose the right place to search
    • If you need just a quick overview of a topic for your personal interest, Google or Wikipedia are acceptable. 

    • If you are doing research for school, you want to make sure you are using a reliable, educational resource such as the ones you will find in DISCUS

    • Let your topic lead you to the right resource.  DISCUS contains many databases with different types of information on lots of different topics.  

      For example, if you want information about a famous person or an important person from history, you may want to use Biography in Context.  
      If you want information about what it is like to live in another country, CultureGrams would be a good resource.  
      If you want to read an encyclopedia article about an animal or a major event from history, Britannica Elementary would be great.  
      If you want to choose from encyclopedia articles, magazine articles, pictures, or videos to learn about a topic (such as dinosaurs!) a resource like Kids InfoBits would be helpful.
    • Think about how you could describe your topic in as few words as possible.  Instead of typing in a complete sentence for your search, type in just the most important words.  

      Good:  Dinosaurs and Plant Eaters 
       good search example is dinosaurs and plant eaters

    • Not Good:  What were the dinosaurs that ate only plants?  bad search example is a complete sentence asking what were the dinosaurs that ate only plants?

    Note-taking strategies
    Click on the links to find examples of these charts on readwritethink.org that you can print and use when you are taking notes 
    stack of post-it notes and pencil  
    KWL or KWLS chart 
    • Use these to brainstorm the things you already Know about a topic, and what you Want to know.  After reading about your topic, write down what you Learned, and possibly what you Still want to know.
    Venn Diagrams 
    • Use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast two things.  The part of the diagram where the two circles overlap is where you write down what the two things have in common, and the separate parts of the circle are where you write down facts that describe only one of the things you are discussing.
    • Use a concept map to write down a main idea or topic and the smaller concepts or supporting details that relate to the main idea.  
    • Use a T-chart in a variety of ways.  Use it to list pros and cons of a choice to aid in making a decision, or to compare and contrast information about two things.
    Citing Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism
    What is plagiarism?
    • Plagiarism is a form of stealing!  It is illegal!  It is when you take someone else's work and pretend it is your own without giving them credit.
    Police eating donuts on the hood of the police car  
    How do I avoid plagiarism?
    • This is tricky, because it will depend on the situation!  The best ways to avoid it are to try to put things in your own words whenever possible, always be sure to use quotes around anything you are copying directly (but don't use more than a few sentences of someone else's writing), and always give credit to the source where you got the information you are using.  

    Why does it mean to cite a source?
    •  To cite a source is to give credit to the source you used to get your information.  You are telling your audience where you got your information by giving them the name of the book, encyclopedia article, magazine article, website, video, or other source.  You also need to state the name of the person or people who created the work, and when it was created, along with some other information depending on the type of source.

    Why do I need to cite my sources?
    • The main reason to cite your sources is to avoid plagiarism.  Being honest about where you got your information is a way for your teacher to know you weren't trying to cheat and use someone else's work as your own.
    • Citing your sources helps your audience if they want to find more information about your topic.  They can refer to your original source if they want to know more.
    • Backing up your statements with information from an expert makes your work more credible.
    How do I cite my sources?
    • There are several different styles you may be asked to use when you are citing your sources.  The most common are MLA, APA, and Chicago style.  
    • The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a GREAT place to go to learn how to cite almost any kind of source using MLA, APA, or Chicago style.
    • No matter what style you use, the main pieces of information you will need about your source are:  Who created it?  What is the title?  What was the name of the publisher, and in what city and state is the publisher located?  In what year was it published?