Research Process Checklist

  • 1. Find an interest area for your project.  Interest areas can be found by reading newspapers and watching news broadcasts.  You can also find interest areas by browsing through the index of a database or a website to see lists of suggested topics. You will need to narrow your focus to an issue. Human Rights is too big--narrow to race and then to racial profiling by police and the justice system. Make sure that there are multiple arguments/lines of reasoning sufficient sources available on both sides of the issue. 

    2. Get an overview (background information) of the topic. Background information includes the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where and Why/How.  A database like Global Issues in Context will provide articles in a variety of formats: specialized encyclopedias, newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals. 

    3. Write an essential research question and supporting research questions.

    Essential and Supporting Questions Worksheet




    1. When did the government begin to monitor cell phone activities?
    2. Why did the government begin to monitor cell phone activities?
    3. What type of technology is used to monitor cell phones?
    4. Has monitoring cell phones proved effective in maintaining national security?
    5. What laws address cell phone privacy?

    4. A search term organizer will help you identify search terms to use as you search for information

    5. Record any sources that look promising in a working bibliography. This bibliography will make it easier for you to access these sources again.

    Sample annotated bibliography 

       Open a new Word document.  Follow this process for each source that looks promising: 

    • Copy the MLA source citation.
    • If the source is from a website or database, copy and paste the URL for the article under the citation.
    • Write an annotation (short paragraph).  This should be a minimum of two sentences.   
    •  Sentence 1: Describe the format (website, database article, video, interview, etc.)  and summarize the purpose of the  source.
      Sentence 2:  Explain what this source could contribute to your project.  

     6.  Skim and Scan sources. Use your research questions to evaluate the usefulness of a resource. Let your eyes move quickly. Don't do a slow, careful reading.  Look for articles that will answer your research questions.


    •  Read through the index at the back of a book and the table of contents at the front of a book.
    • When you find a heading or chapter that looks useful, turn to the page(s) and skim to see if that page or section has the information you need.
    •  In print and non-print sources, read the special text features such as bold text, headings and  
       subheadings.  These indicate large and important sections of information.
    •  Read the captions under illustrations.
    •  Terms or phrases that appear more than once in a source indicate that an idea is important.


    • Read the first and last paragraph of an article.  Read the first sentence of each supporting paragraph.


    • After opening a digital source, find the Edit menu in your browser (upper left hand corner next to File). Scroll down to Find On This Page.  Enter a term or phrase in the search window.  The term or phrase will be highlighted each time it occurs in the source.

    7. Evaluate sources using the one of these worksheets. 

    Print and fill in a worksheet for each source.  Attach the printed worksheet to the article.

    8.  Sort through your sources by reviewing your annotated bibliography.  Remove entries to articles that aren't relevant.

    9. Print, photocopy, or save the sources that will contribute valuable information to your project.

    10. Organize photocopies and prints from information sources.

    Create a system like this.

    11. Read, highlight and annotate sources.

    • Now you are ready to do a slow, careful reading of your articles.
    • As you read, look for information that answers your research questions.
    • Highlight or underline words and phrases that answer your research questions.  Highlight sparingly.  Too much is almost as bad as none at all
    • Write an annotation next to the highlighted information.  That annotation should include a key word (i.e. cell phones, National Security, technology and privacy) from your research question and a short phrase explaining how it answers the question.

    Here is an example of an article that is highlighted and annotated. It includes a source number.

    12. Record the main arguments for each side of the issue.

    Use this worksheet

    As you read, highlight and annotate sources,  you may find that your understanding of this issue changes or that you have gaps in your research.  If that is the case, you'll need to change your research question or your search terms and repeat at least part of the research process.

    13. Take notes using this organizer.

    14. Sort and put a sequence number on your notes.

    15. Write an outline from your notes.
    16. Write a rough draft from your notes and outline.
    17. Type a final draft of your paper. 
    Type it (including the annotated works cited list) in MLA format 
    using these resources.