A Basic Guide to Research

1. Getting Started – Know all the requirements of the assignment. Have a clear understanding of what is expected of you researchimage– length of paper, number and kinds of sources required, due dates, etc.

2. Before Starting Your Research – Brainstorm everything you already know about the topic. Identify subtopics or questions about your main topic. Write down keywords, synonyms and phrases that could be associated with the topic or questions. These will be helpful when using library catalogs, online databases, and Internet search engines.

3. Finding Information – Determine the best possible resources for obtaining the information required. Remember to consider both print and non-print. The Media Center has a small collection of reference materials as well as access to thousands of books through the Michigan eLibrary. The Media Center provides access to 20 different databases to help you find scholarly materials online.

4. Evaluating Information – Judge the trustworthiness and relevance of the information found. Is it scholarly, accurate, current and unbiased? If you are using information from the Internet have you reviewed the evaluating websites worksheet?

You might be overwhelmed by the amount of information available on a particular topic. When deciding whether to use information, you should ask yourself the following questions: Is the information pertinent to my research assignment? Have I extracted only valuable information? Does it meet the requirements of the project?

5. Using Information – Responsible use of information is a critical research skill. You must be aware of copyright and plagiarism issues.

Plagiarism results when an individual does not give credit to the original source of information. Students must remember that original work includes ideas as well as written words. Using someone else’s written words or ideas is generally considered acceptable in research provided the original source is properly cited. You need to create a citation for any material or idea that you use that is not your own. The only exception to citing materials is if the information is common knowledge, such as the date of President Kennedy’s assassination.

NDPMA requires that you follow MLA guidelines when citing sources. Check out our creating a works cited page for further informaiton. 

If you have difficulty with the research process or evaluating sources, please see Ms. Moras or Ms. Rochon.


Guide adapted from Mercy High School.