Research Process - Becoming an Independent Learner

  • Research is independent learning

    Step 1:  What am I looking for?? The research process begins with curiosity and being able to act on that curiosity by expressing in words a specific need for information.  Independent learners are able to state in clear and precise words the ideas they seek. 

    Why is this so important?  Think about how students (and adults) look for information in this 21st century.  We open a search engine and type in what it is we are seeking.  We type in WORDS.  Students must be able to state in WORDS what they are looking for so they can type those words into a search engine. 

    Step 2:  Which and where are the BEST sources??  Not all sources are equal. Learning which are the best sources, what makes a best source, how to evaluate sources and information -- these are essential skills for independent learners.

    Step 3:  What ideas in these sources are relevant to my search and in what way(s)??  Reading and thinking about the ideas in the sources in context to an assignment or specific purpose is the next step in this process.  Independent learners must read widely and deeply to determine which ideas are useful for their purpose(s).  They must be able to notice and explain how the new information connects to what they already know, how it adds to their personal knowledge about a topic, and how it expands their understanding of big ideas.

    Recording those ideas that are relevant for later use in reports, presentations and papers requires note-taking.  By paraphrasing, students demonstrate their deep understanding of the ideas they encounter in sources and how those ideas make sense in context of what they already know. Learning to take effective notes from books, lectures, videos, and online sources is essential to academic success. 

    Step 4:  How do the ideas from other sources fit with my ideas??  Putting it all together - the authors' ideas and my ideas - in a clear and logical way is paramount.  Independent learners are able to organize the newly found information with their own background knowledge in meaningful ways.

    Step 5:  How is respect for intellectual property demonstrated??  Independent learners credit their sources, the experts they consult through citation.  By indicating the authors and sources used in a Works Cited and in parenthetical citation, students demonstrate respect for other people's work. 

    Step 6:   How should I share what I have learned from my research??  Many tools are available for sharing research.  The product is not the process.  Learning how to use presentation tools like Glogster, Power Point, Google Presentation, Prezi, etc. is certainly worthwhile.  It is, however, not research process.