Helpful hints for you

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  • Verify the requirements. Read carefully to determine what the requirements of the research are. It would be terrible to waste time heading the wrong directions. You should know exactly what must be turned in before starting a project.
  • Survey your interests. If you are allowed to choose your topic, find something that will be fun to learn about. Make sure it meets the requirements first though!
  • Determine your resources. You will have limited time, money and energy for your research. Make sure what you want to do can be done within your limits.

Find direction

  • Before you begin... Make sure you have all the materials you need to complete your tasks. At the minimum you should be prepared to write down your research steps and locations of sources. Check with your teacher or librarian to make sure you are set to go.
  • Ask the right questions. Good research starts with good questions. Ask questions you're curious about, and write them down. Walk through the "Who What When Where Why and How" questions about your topic. Get creative, and let one question branch out into many questions. Be specific.
  • Outline for success. Once you have your research questions, organize them. Put them into groups that are related. Choose four or five main questions, and group the others around them. This will help your writing be organized. Then put your questions into an outline. There are many resources to help you make an outline online, or your teachers or librarian may be of assistance.
  • Plan your attack. To research well, you need to do one more thing before jumping on a computer or into the book stacks. Plan what you need to look for. Get a list of key words related to your topic. Ask others for ideas. Also, plan what you need to do first, and what you'll do if that doesn't work. This will leave you more time to write the paper, or celebrate once it's done.

Gather sources

  • The Internet: Part 1. When you first use the Internet, scan for general information, or basic sites. This can be done with a search engine such as Google , Bing , Ask , or others. A good place for background information is Wikipedia . The first sites you find will not be detailed, and reference sites, like encyclopedias (like Wikipedia), shouldn't be sources for reports. This will give you a good idea of where you want to go. Write down the sites you go to, and what you find there. This will help later.
  • Books and print. Another good place to get background information, or more details, is printed words. Books are specific, portable, and very useful. Magazines are also available, and may provide some of the most up-to-date information. Search the library catalog and don't be afraid to ask the librarian for help.
  • Other sources. Some of the best places for good, reliable information are at the Pioneer website. There are hundreds of sources inside, and these are sources you can trust. Also, consider people in the community who would make good resources. Chances are, your local university or college can find such people for you.
  • The Internet: Part 2. Once you have found your basic information, now you're ready to do in-depth research online. Start with the Pioneer site,and move on to other sources created by specialists. By now you should have enough background knowledge to really understand the research..

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  • Who what when where why and how. Not only should you ask questions about your topic, you need to look closely at your sources. Discover as much as you can about them. Who are they? Are they specialists on your topic? Why are they writing? When was the article written? How did they get their facts? Write all of this down. This will help you decide which of your sources can be believed.
  • When should you leave it out? If you cannot figure out who wrote an article, whether individual or corporation, you shouldn't use that source. If the source seems biased, only presenting one side of an issue, it shouldn't be presented as fact. Reference materials such as Wikipedia are great places for you to find information, but are not quotable. But the sources quoted at the bottoms of Wikipedia pages are often great resources. Look through them.
  • A word of caution on the Internet. It is very difficult to determine what is truth on the web. Not all pages that claim to be government or education pages are good resources, and you will find far more opinion than fact. Don't believe everything you read. Search in multiple spots, and remember to ask why a person may be writing. Be careful, also, that you don't give out personal information while searching. When in doubt, don't.

Give credit

  • Copy down the info. When you research, write down everything you can about the author and the page. Just the web address alone isn't enough. You need dates, names, and important information. Your teacher can help you know exactly what you will need.
  • Plagiarism - don't do it. Plagiarism is stealing another person's words, materials, or ideas. Even if you change their words, you are stealing if you don't give credit to the original writer. You can use the words and ideas of other people, but you must give that other person credit. This can be done with either quoting them directly, or adding a reference to their work in the sentence or paragraph where you use their ideas. Plagiarism can result in the same penalties as stealing or cheating, as it is both.
  • Accidental Plagiarism. When you're doing a lot of research, it is sometimes hard to remember where ideas came from. To avoid accidentally stealing, document where you got your ideas. Keep lots of notes.
  • Cite your sources. Different subjects have different ways to give authors credit. You should check with your teacher regarding the style of citation. Make sure every source you cite ends up on your "Works Cited" page, and resist the temptation to use another's work unfairly.

Get organized

  • Check your outline. Most people will find that their research may not fit perfectly with their outlines. That's ok; change the outline! This is your paper, and you can change it. Figure out how everything fits together, and now you're ready for the final stages.
  • Organize your sources. You should be able to see where everything goes together in your paper. Organize your sources to fit your outline.
  • Prepare to write. With all your materials gathered, choose a place and time that you can focus on writing. Then, go ahead and do it!


write.jpgSometimes, the hardest part of writing is getting started. By now, you have all the materials you need and they're in order. If you can't think of a catchy opening sentence or paragraph, come back to that. Instead, go to the bulk of the paper, and just write. You can always change it later. Give yourself time to write free from distractions, such as games, cell phones, television, or people who will take you away. A quiet place is usually best. Write as much as you can, and you'll be surprised how easy it can be. By quoting your sources, you fill in the gaps in your own knowledge and make your report much more interesting. When done, re-read your words and have someone else read them too.

If you need it, get help! Please contact the librarian if you need a bit of advice on how to proceed. Good luck and have fun!

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