• Seven Steps for Effective Research

     

    Mrs. Despines/Mrs. Rentschler                                                                                  2019-20

    Seven Steps for Effective Research

    STEP 1: Identify & Develop Your Topic. 

    • It might be helpful to state your topic as a question and then identify the main concepts or keywords in the question.
    • Write down your keywords on an index card or Post-It and have it with you as you look in print indexes and experiment with search terms online.
    • Keep track of search terms that yield the best results, whether it is in the number of hits or quality of articles, and then try that same search in other databases.

    STEP 2: Find Background Information.  

    • Use dictionaries, encyclopedias and textbooks to find necessary background information and to develop a list of keywords to help in searches. Look for your keywords in the indexes and table of contents of sources (glossaries too).
    • It’s often helpful to look at the bibliographies at the end of the encyclopedia articles for more options.
    • As stated above, write down your keywords on an index card or Post-It and have it with you as you look in print indexes and experiment with search terms online. Keep track of what search terms yield the best results, whether it is in the number of hits or quality of articles, and then try that same search in other databases.

    STEP 3: Use DESTINY, the online resource catalog, to find USC High School Library books and eBooks.  If possible, use the Township Library catalog and/or the ACCESS PA Interlibrary loan to request books from other libraries.

    • You can use the Resource List feature to compile a list of books that look interesting for your topic. Ask a librarian for help using DESTINY and locating books on the shelves.
    • If print resources are unavailable from the USCHS Library, ask a librarian for help in using the Township Library’s catalog and/or the ACCESS PA Interlibrary Loan system to request books from other Pennsylvania libraries. Please be aware that this process can take up to 10 days for books to get to you, so plan ahead.

    STEP 4: Use on-line databases available through the USC High School Library to find periodicals and other documents on your topic. 

    • Refer to the class/teacher specific PATHFINDERS posted on the library web site and on the USCHS Library class in CANVAS for the best online databases to use for your research assignment and access information (login and passwords included). Database information is also available in the USCHS Library’s Online Resources Brochure. Print brochures are located in the library, or you can visit the library Canvas page for the PDF. All library databases are available from STUDENT LINKS from the USCHS webpage.
    • Remember to compile a list of keywords BEFORE you sit at the computer to search.
    • Pay attention to subject headings listed in records for more options. Most are hyperlinked and can take you to additional articles.
    • Each database is unique. Take advantage of the database features that allow you to narrow or broaden your searches. 
    • Most databases have a CITE feature that will give you the proper MLA citation to document the article. You can copy and paste the citation into your works cited! Beware: You will probably have to tweak the given citations to fit the proper MLA citation—use the Green Sheet or ask for help. We are using MLA 8th edition!
    • Make sure to narrow your search to FULL-TEXT so you get the entire article and not just a summary/abstract.
    • Some databases, like History Reference Center, allow you to limit your results by searching a specific time period.
    • Some databases give you an ABSTRACT or summary of the article at the top or beginning of the article. Read the abstract and if it relates to your topic, continue reading the article.  If it is irrelevant, go to the next article in your results list.

    STEP 5A: Find Credible and Relevant Internet Resources

    • Evaluate those web sites and news sites! Make sure that the sites are credible and relevant for our Evaluate each site using the points below:
    • Are the links relevant and appropriate?
    • Locate the author/producer of the site. Is her/his name listed on the page? Contact information provided?
    • What is the author’s authority in the subject matter presented in the website? Look in the About This Site link on the page, if applicable.
    • Is there a way to contact the author on the page (e-mail, address, phone number)?
    • Is the site linked to a government, educational, or industrial establishment? If so, this is a good sign. 
    • Does the site list sources used in the information presented? If so, great!
    • Is the purpose of the site obvious?
    • To the best of your knowledge, does the site use correct spelling and grammar?
    • Does the site have a copyright and/or last revision date? (Sometimes this is located at the bottom of the page.)
    • Do the links on the page work? Beware of excessive, irrelevant advertisements on the page.

    STEP 5B: When you find credible sources, evaluate what you find.  

    • It’s important to spend a little time evaluating the quality of the sources that you found on your topic.
      • Is article/book helpful?
      • Does it answer your research question? If so, how can you use the information? 
      • Where will the information fit into your paper/presentation?
    • As stated above, did you read the ABSTRACT or summary of the article at the top or beginning of the article? If not, read the abstract. If it relates to your topic, continue reading the article.  If it is irrelevant, go to the next article in your results list.
    • If you have found too many or too few sources, you may need to narrow or broaden your topic. See the steps above or ask a librarian for assistance.

    STEP 6: If applicable, find audio and video resources for additional information, especially if you need media sources to use in presentations.    

    • See a librarian for help with this step.

    STEP 7: Cite What You Find Using MLA or APA Format. 

    • Refer to the MLA style guide sheet (The MLA Green Sheet) or APA style guide sheet (The APA Yellow Sheet) given to you. These sheets are also available on the Library Page of our school’s website and in the USCHS Library class page in CANVAS. We always have extra print copies in the library.
    • Be sure to cite any information that you directly quote, paraphrase, or summarize. A good rule of thumb is: if the idea isn’t yours, cite the source!
    • You also need to cite the sources of online sounds, video, presentations, Tweets, posts, and images (print images too), etc.
    • Most databases have a CITE feature that will give you the proper MLA citation to document the article. You can copy and paste the citation into your works cited! Beware: You will probably have to tweak the given citations to fit the proper MLA citation—use the Green Sheet or ask for help. We are using MLA 8th edition!