Good Research Practices at Christ School: a Guide for Students and Teachers

Steps to a Good Research Project

  1. Choose your topic and then define the problem or question you are addressing.
  2. Find good source materials to help you.
  3. Read and take notes, and be sure to save information for "Works Cited."
  4. Write your paper/project.
  5. Proofread and edit carefully. Prepare list of Works Cited.
  6. Evaluate your product.

Step 1: Choose your topic.Once you have a topic chosen, read enough about it it frame the specific question or problem you will be addressing. You are not just "writing about [topic x]." You are making an argument (a thesis statement) or posing a question to be investigated.

Step 2: Find good sources. Using your library and the Internet, find appropriate materials.
Here is a link to excellent sources available to you from the Internet:
Questions to ask about a source:
  • Is it authoritative? Can you trust it? Books , magazines, and newspapers are usually trustworthy. Websites need to be examined closely.
  • Is it relevant to your research?
  • Is it on a useful level for you to understand?
  • Is the information timely (not too old, if that matters)?
  • Clues to authority: Domains that are .org, .edu, .gov, . net are USUALLY reliable. (But beware -- see the example of the MLK site.) .com sites can be good if they are from a reputable source, like a reference database or the History Channel, for example.

The domain type is a clue to reliability. Generally, .org or .edu sites are impartial, though .edu sites may give you a schoolchild's work, so watch out! Government and military sites have their own domains and should be considered if the information is relevant.. Commercial sites (.com) can be good if the organization is known and respected (like The History Channel).

Step 3: Read and take notes. Reading and note-taking: how to use your source material.
This stage is very important. To help you in this, please consult the page on Avoiding Plagiarism.

Step 4: Write your paper/project. Also see Avoiding Plagiarism.

Step 5: Proofread and edit it. Be sure to leave enough time for this stage. First, read your writing to be sure it makes sense. Check for spelling, punctuation, and typos. Then get someone else to read it. Consult Citing Your Sources for help with creating citations according to MLA guidelines. Create your title page, if needed.

Step 6: Evaluate your project Did you answer the question or prove your thesis? Was it long enough? Did you show appropriate evidence? Is your writing clear? What could you have done better?