Research Tips

Objective: Investigating

Researching - Make sure to get help with your research skills throughout the process. This is the skill where most students struggle. We have found that the more time a student spends in this phase, the more successful, meaningful.

I always suggest starting by exploring issues thoroughly. Read as much as you can about the issue, talk to everyone you know about the issue, you never know who might know someone or something about it. Someone asked Cesar Chavez about how he started organizing people and he said he just talks to one person at a time, then another, then another. Start by "trying on" or "swimming" through the topic. Dive in and read as much as you can. View videos about the topic. Read, read, read, before you decide on the exact issue you want to focus on. You may change your mind a few different times. That's ok, that's why I always suggest at least a week or topic swimming or topic shopping.

Once you decide on your issue, topic, or community need then think about what you need and want to find out about it. What are the numbers behind the issue? How do you know these statistics are reliable, valid, and current? Who said it? Who are the experts? What's been done before? What still needs to be done? What is a unique way to address the problem?

Primary Resources

Original research attempts to answer important questions that haven't been asked or answered before. Original research is important and can include:

  • surveys
  • first person interviews
  • field notes
  • observations, etc.

Interview people who have experienced the issue first-hand.

Design a way to collect data to answer questions such as:

  • How many seagulls on average come to campus every day to trash our lunch-court?
  • How many students wear their helmets to school?
  • How many students have experienced homelessness in their life?
  • What is the most memorable unit for students in three years at PB Middle?
  • Which yards within a mile of PB Middle meet criteria for winning an Ocean Friendly Garden award?
  • How much water can we potentially capture from a given surface at PB Middle School?
  • How much food do we throw away every day at PB Middle?
  • What are the issues most important to PB Middle students?

Secondary Resources

If you are searching for information that's already been published or created, secondary resources, make sure to find reliable, authoritative, credible, current resources.

Interviewing experts in the field is a great way to find out more about the issue and make connections with organization and groups in the community.

Read information available and organized in advertising free, academic district databases at (user: sandi1 password; library).

  • ELibrary is great for topic overview such as civil rights; child labor; global warming
  • SIRS Issues Research is used for issues that have two sides such as alternative medicine, college education, animal experimentation, gun control, elections, bioethics, renewable energy
  • Teen Health and Wellness Resource Center: for teen health issues, GLBTQIA resources


  • Open up a Google Doc as your Process Journal
  • Keep track of EVERYTHING that you research in YOUR PROCESS JOURNAL, even if you think you don't need it.
  • Have someone look at your statistics to see if they make sense. Use common sense when reporting numbers.
  • Careful using the words "everyone", "all", "everybody", "it's a fact that...", "women in San Diego...". Don't say something is fact, when it may or may not be true for everyone, everybody, or even a small group. BE CAREFUL WITH NUMBERS.. Exact numbers are rarely correct. Use:
    • it is believed that...,
    • my research indicates that more than 20 people have had their lunch stolen by seagulls in the past six months
    • At least 10 people reported...
    • Many people experienced...
    • Some people believed..
  • Save notes, photos, graphs, maps, drawings, summaries IN YOUR PROCESS JOURNAL
  • If you interview someone remember to take a picture with them and take notes of what you asked and learned. Ask them permission to share the photo and the interview.
  • Email relevant articles to yourself so you have them to refer to or cite later. Always keep a record of all of the articles you read and notes and citations to use later.
  • If a statistic doesn't sound correct, don't share it, post it, or put it in your presentation. RULE of THREE says that a statistic is more reliable if it can be verified by or in three different credible, and authoritative, trustworthy resources.
  • Save everything in your bibliography and then if you don't use it, take it out later.
  • Each time you talk with your team, advisor, project coordinator, or interview anyone, keep a summary of what was said and by whom.
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2024 SchoolMessenger Corporation. All rights reserved.