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Research Process (Inquiry Process and Design Cycle)  

Last Updated: May 2, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Research starts with a TOPIC. 

Sometimes the topic is assigned, sometimes it is not. 

Either way, the research process is started by asking questions about the topic or identifying a problem.

***What do you already know about the topic?

***Conduct some preliminary work -

  • define unfamiliar words/concepts
  • browse an encyclopedia article to gain a better understanding of the topic
  • clarify understanding of the assignment criteria

Ask Questions/Identify the Problem

Start with the basics...

Who?   What?   Where?   When?   Why?   Why not?   How?

Move on to these...

  1. To what extent/How did ___ lead to or allow ___?
  2. How was ___ a turning point to ___?
  3. How/To what extent did ____ affect ___?
  4. How was __ similar to ___?
  5. Why did ____ do ___?
  6. How effective was ___ plan or approach to ___?
  7. How did __ solve/resolve/end __?
  8. To what extent does ___ reflect ___?
  9. Why did __ (changes) occur?

Keep going and develop your own questions!

Asks questions that require...

  • evidence and reasoning
  • have more than one correct answer
  • have a range of debatable, evidence-based answers

    Identify the "Information Need"

    What information....or you actually need to help answer the question or solve the problem?


      Adjust/Refine Questions

      As you learn more about the topic, adjust/refine the questions.

      Is the question too broad?  Do you need to narrow the focus?

      • Add a time period (century, decade, specific time span)
      • Add a population type (age, gender, nationality, species)
      • Add geographic location (country, state, region)
      • Add a specific point of view (economic, social, cultural, environmental)

      Do you need to change the question based on what you have learned so far?



        • Start with understanding the topic
        • Ask questions or identify a problem
        • Identify what information is needed to answer the question or solve the problem
        • Explore a range/variety of resources
        • Locate and evaluate sources
        • Record bibliographic information
        • Record and organize findings
        • Adjust/Refine questions (as needed)
        • Develop/Formulate answers and solutions

        What is your ACTION PLAN?

        Explore a Range/Variety of Resources

        • newspaper, magazine, journal articles, and books
        • charts, graphs, and maps
        • videos and images
        • artifacts
        • radio interviews, podcasts, music
        • live performance (music, theatrical, poetry...)
        • paintings, sculptures, and other museum displays
        • political cartoons, animation, and comics
        • collect original data (surveys, observations, case studies, interviews, experiments...)

          Locate Sources

          First, identify key words...

          • the topic
          • the question
          • use what you already know
          • conduct a quick background search

          Next, plan the search strategy...

          Evaluate Sources

          Once you locate a possible source, EVALUATE it!

          • Does the source meet your 'information need'?
          • Is the source reliable?
          • Where did the information originate?
          • Who created the information?
          • What is the possible bias?
          • What are the limitations of the source?

            Practice Evaluating Websites

            Which of these websites provides the most reliable information?

            How does one know?

            What criteria should be applied?

            Should the same criteria be applied to all sources, not only websites?

            Website Evaluation Tools

            How does one decide whether or not a source is reliable, trustworthy, credible?  Here are some tools to help you:


            Record Bibliographic Information

            Don't forget to record the following for each source you use:

            • Author/creator
            • Title of article, chapter, film, webpage
            • Page number
            • Name of magazine, newspaper, journal, book, website
            • Publication date
            • Name of subscription database (if used)
            • Format (web, print)
            • Date of access (if found online)

            Record & Organize Information

            Take notes, begin to sketch a design, use a tool such as Inspiration, or use a graphic organizer.



            After conducting a preliminary exploration of the topic, begin to formulate an answer to the question or a solution to the problem.

            • 'draw' conclusions
            • make interences

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