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CIS Secondary Library: Research, Y10-Y13

The Big6™ Skills are six stages of the research process. You should consider these steps as you plan your research. Sometimes you will need all of them, at other times you may only need two or three. Use these steps as your guide. 

1. Task Definition

   1.1 Define the information problem

   1.2 Identify information needed

2. Information Seeking Strategies

   2.1 Determine all possible sources

   2.2 Select the best sources

3. Location and Access

   3.1 Locate sources (intellectually and physically)

   3.2 Find information within sources

4. Use of Information

   4.1 Engage (e.g., read, hear, view, touch)

   4.2 Extract relevant information

5. Synthesis

   5.1 Organize from multiple sources

   5.2 Present the information

6. Evaluation

   6.1 Judge the product (effectiveness)

   6.2 Judge the process (efficiency)

Task Definition

Get beyond the obvious, develop your Research Question (RQ). Ask "fat" questions, and avoid the "skinny" questions. For example, your questions should:

  • not be answerable by a simple yes or no
  • make you ponder
  • ask what if, why, how
  • consider related questions that can deepen your exploration
  • require further research

Design your research backwards.

  • What is the result you are seeking?
  • What will you consider acceptable evidence? 


Information Seeking Strategies

What are the potential sources of information?

What are the strengths of those different sources?

For your research, have you considered:

  • scholarly journals?
  • subscription databases?
  • primary sources?
  • print sources?
  • other print media?
  • interviews?

Of the resources you have considered, which offer the strongest potential to serve your needs?

Location and Access

Where are the resources you seek?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I access this information?
    • If I can find it, how do I access it?
  • Do I understand what I am reading?
  • Is this too elementary for my needs?

Use of Information

Now that you have what you think you need, you need to engage with it. This is where you:

  • put your hands on the information
  • take notes
  • interpret data
  • gather quotes
  • paraphrase ideas
  • cite sources accurately
  • ask yourself more questions about the information  


This is where you put your research together and begin writing your essay.

  • Organize your reources.
  • Make sure your notes and thoughts demonstrate a consistency
  • Have you revisited your Task Definition? Does it still hold true?
  • Present your essay in an MLA standardized format; follow those expectations to the letter.


Ask yourself these questions (among many others) prior to submission:

  • Is this product effective?
    • Have I met the highest standards of the assignment?
    • Are my resources credible and accurate?
    • Do I have all of the information I need?
    • Does my evaluator have all of the information she needs?


Primary Sources

What is a Primary Source?

According to the Princeton University Library, a primary source is a "document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study." They go on to provide clarity to the primary source question:

  • ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS(excerpts or translations acceptable): Diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records 
  • CREATIVE WORKS: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art 
  • RELICS OR ARTIFACTS: Pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings

Examples of primary sources include:

  • Diary of Anne Frank - Experiences of a Jewish family during WWII 
  • The Constitution of Canada - Canadian History 
  • A journal article reporting NEW research or findings 
  • Weavings and pottery - Native American history 
  • Plato's Republic - Women in Ancient Greece

Find out how a primary source differs from a secondary source by visiting their web page.



Should you cite Wikipedia as an academic resource?

Not likely.

Williams College Libraries provides an excellent explanation about how to approach Wiikipedia.

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