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CRLS Research Guide

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Big6 Skills™ Step One

Task Definition

Ask these questions:

What do I have to do or find out?

When you do research you are looking for information for some reason, either for your own interest or you have a class assignment. In either case you need to be sure of what you will be doing.
Task definition means to be sure about the job you have to do.

Let's assume you have an assignment from a teacher. Most teachers give an assignment paper that describes the assignment. Be sure to ask for one. Make sure that you know the following things about your assignment:

1. What kind of final product are you expected to present to the teacher?

• Is it a written report?
• An oral presentation?
• A poster?
• Or something else?

2. Does it have to be a certain length, size, or duration of time?

• Do you have any freedom of choice in how to present what you will learn?
(See: Alternative Formats for Presenting Research Projects)

3. What is the topic of the assignment?
• Does your teacher give you the specific topic (subject) of your assignment?
• Do you have any freedom to select a topic for yourself?
• Do you have to create a thesis statement (take a position, make an argument) ?
• Did the teacher give you a very general topic that you have to focus to a smaller topic?

4. What is the due date for your final product?
• Are there any parts of the assignment due before the final due date (like a rough draft, notes, outline, etc.)?

Helpful Hint: Get an assignment calendar and write any due dates in it. This will help you plan your time to get the assignment done by the due date. Most teachers will take off points from your grade for late work.


What information do I need to start the task (assignment)?

Once you are clear about what your assignment is, you will want to start looking for information. Before you jump to the computer or an encyclopedia or the card catalog, take a moment to prepare for searching.

1. What are the key words or key phrases I can use to get the information I need?
  • How many different ways are there to say your topic ?
  • Are there any related ideas that you could look up also?

2. What questions do I want to answer?

• Brainstorm a list of questions before you begin to look for information.
• Those questions will give you more key words and key phrases to use in your search.

3. What kinds of information will I be searching for?

• Do you need descriptions, maps, pictures, statistics, biographical information, etc.?

4. How am I required to cite the resources I will use? (give them credit)

• Do you have to make a formal bibliography or "works cited" list? If not, what information are you required to give about the resources you use?



Copyright © 2004 Holly Samuels All Rights Reserved