Pearl K. Wise Library
Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
Planning Your Research
Once you have chosen and begun to focus a topic for your research project, you will save a lot of time and avoid confusion by planning out the rest of your research in order to know exactly what kinds of information you will need to find. Working through the following steps will help you do this planning.
We will use the following Statement of Purpose as an example for the rest of this process:
Example: I want to find out about the clean-up of the water pollution in the Charles River.
Think of 5-10 questions that you will probably need to answer about this topic in your paper. It will help to use the words who, what, when, where, why, how, what if, and will to start your questions. Use a full phrase for each question. First, look at the examples below, then write down your own in the blank spaces on the next page.
_______________1. When did the Charles River clean-up start?
_______________2. When will the Charles River clean-up be finished?
_______________3. What caused the pollution in the first place?
_______________4. How does the pollution affect the river’s plants and animals?
_______________5. Who is in charge of the clean-up?
_______________6. How is the clean-up being done?
_______________7. Will people be able to safely swim in the river once it is clean?
_______________8. What kinds of diseases do people get from swimming in the river?
_______________9. Where is the clean-up being done?
_______________10. How much does the clean-up cost? Who pays for it?
Now write down as many questions about your topic as you
can think of. If there are more than 10, use another piece of paper. The more questions,
For now, leave blank the short line before the number.
Now you will begin to organize your questions into groups by labeling them with a grouping word. Grouping words will be different for each subject, but here are some general words you can try. You will probably also need to think of some of your own.
Causes Costs Location People
Effects Methods Training Future
History Equipment Conditions Responsibility
Using any of these, or other grouping words you think of, put a grouping word that makes sense on the shortline to the left of each of your questions. First look at the example that follows, then go back to your questions and do it.
History 1. When did the Charles River Clean-upstart?
Future 2. When will it be finished?
Causes 3. What caused the pollution in the first place?
Effects 4. How does the pollution affect the river’s plants and animals?
Responsibility 5. Who is in charge of the clean-up?
Methods 6. How is the clean-up being done?
Future 7. Will people be able to safely swim in the river once it is clean?
Effects 8. What kinds of diseasesdo people get from swimming in the river?
Location 9. Where is the clean-up being done?
Costs 10. How much does the clean-upcost? Who pays for it?
Now go and label your own questions with grouping words. If you are not sure, make a new one up. You can always change it later. Once you are done, go to Step 4.
Now you are ready to take all of the work you have done
so far and turn it into a format that will eventually become an outline. You will
take the grouping words that you have chosen and turn each of them into a phrase
that includes your topic.
Example: History becomes History of the Charles River clean-up
This phrase is now called a“subtopic heading” and will identify one section of your research project. You will do this with all of the grouping words you have chosen to use and write them on the centered lines below. Under each subtopic heading you will rewrite the questions that go along with those grouping words. You can also write down any other questions that come to mind under that subtopic heading. Number your questions under each subtopic heading.
Again, look at the example first, then use the blank lines following it to do your own work.
History of the Charles River clean-up
1. When did the Charles River clean-up start?
2. Who started the Charles River clean-up? (new question)
3. Why was the clean-up started? (new question)
Future of the Charles River after the clean-up
1. When will the clean-up be finished?
2. Will people be able to safely swim in the river once it is clean?
Causes of Pollution in the Charles River
1. What caused the pollution in the first place?
2. How long has the pollution been going on? (new question)
Effects of pollution in the Charles River
1. How does the pollution affect the Charles River’s plants and animals?
2. Have any species of plants and animals died out? (new question)
3. Do different pollutants affect plants and animals differently? (new question)
Responsibility for the Charles River clean-up
1. Who isresponsible for the clean-up?
2. Is the government responsible? (new question)
3. Do our taxes help pay for it? (new question)
4. Do businesses have to contribute to the costs if they caused the pollution? (new question)
Methods of cleaning the pollution in the Charles River
1. How is the clean-up being done?
2. Are machines being used? What kinds? (new question)
3. Are there biological methods used? (new question)
Location of the Charles River clean-up
1. Where is the clean-up being done?
2. Are there cleaning facilities all down the river?(new question)
3. Is the river more polluted at one place then another?(new question)
Costs of the Charles River clean-up
1. How much does the clean-up cost? Who pays for it?
Now that you have seen the example, write out your own subtopic headings and questions on the lines below and on the next few pages. Don’t worry about putting the subtopic headings in any order yet. That may change a few times as you do your research and get more information. You may also decide later to combine subtopic headings, split some into two, or even to add more if you discover new information.
Once you have completed writing out your own subtopic headings and questions, you can begin to look for sources of information to answer your questions. It is important that you keep track of source information and that you key your notes to your subtopic heading. For directions on how to do each of these, see the Research Tip Sheets called Making Source Cards and Taking Notes on Notecards.