A research project is more complicated than getting the answers from the book or writing out of your own head. It requires you to keep track of a lot of different things! You need to do some original thinking, look for examples to support your ideas and put it all together in a neat package to present. Remember, the research process is recursive, which means that at any point you may go back and redo an earlier step.

Research skills

  • develop essential and supporting questions
  • effectively search the library catalog, databases and the Internet for information
  • apply strategies for evaluating websites for accurate information
  • cite sources and develop a bibliography

Types of Questions

It's important to develop an essential research question in which you are truly interested. This is the FOCUS of your research.

Your essential question or thesis statement will be the main idea of your entire project. Your essential question is a question that asks, in some detail, what you want to learn about during the research process.

An essential question asks about something that you can prove with evidence. It is not a simple statement of fact. An essential question or thesis statement should be the product of your own critical thinking and some background reading.

  • Your supporting questions guide you as you work so that you will read and take notes only on what's needed for your project.
  • Brainstorm questions that go with your essential research question. Develop and write down a set of questions that you want to answer about the research topic you have selected. Your supporting questions will keep you from getting lost or off-track when you are looking for information. You will answer these questions as you research.

Create questions that are neither Too Broad nor Too Narrow!

Too broad = the topic is too big and encompasses too much

Too narrow = the topic is too specific and can be answered quickly

Resources: Websites

Website Evaluation Tools:

Website Evaluation Checklist

Page title:

URL of page:


When was the page written or updated? If no date is given on the page, visit the home page to look for the date.


Is the information current enough for your topic? Yes No


Are there references given for the information on the site? Yes No

Look for a bibliography or any list of materials used in the creation of the page.

If yes, how many?

Is there bias present in the content? Yes No

Are facts presented objectively? Yes No


Who wrote the page? If there is no specific author, what is the name of the organization responsible for the site? You may need to visit the home page to find the answer.


Is there evidence that the author or organization is an expert on this subject?

List your evidence:


Why was the page put out on the web? Information/Facts Persuasion Sales Tool

Are there ads on the site? Yes No

Is the content primarily opinion? Yes No

What is the domain extension? .com .edu .mil .org .net .gov other:

Based on the writing style and vocabulary, who is the intended audience?

Children General Public College Students Scholars or professionals Other:

Resources: Books

Finding a Book on the Shelf

WRITE DOWN THE IDENTIFYING INFORMATION. When you find a book in the library catalog, write down key words from the title and the Call #, which is located just beneath the title on the spine. The Call # tells where the book is located. Then take this information to the shelves for guidance. Example: Instead of writing THE 6TH GRADE NICKNAME GAME, just write NICKNAME and FIC KOR HUMOR. Go to the correct genre area (in this case - Humor), then search the author's name alphabetically (in this case - KOR).

WHAT IF THE CATALOG SAYS IT'S IN, BUT IT ISN'T ON THE SHELF? Sometimes books get out of order. Search the entire shelf where it should be, then above and below it. Check behind the line of books, as they sometimes get pushed there accidentally. Then ask to look on the ready-to-be-shelved books that have just been checked in. If you still can't find it, inform the librarian so it can be marked as lost.

HOLD THAT BOOK! Sometimes the book you want will show as "0 of 1 available". This means none are currently there for check-out. In that case, talk to the librarian so the book can be reserved for you when it does become available. Keep in mind that there are sometimes other students waiting for it ahead of you, so please be patient.