Posts Tagged Research process

Mindmapping using

Sample mindmap

Mrs. Armstrong has graciously given me full rein with her English III and Pre-AP English III students as they begin work on what they tell me is their first persuasive research paper they have written since eighth grade. We are basically following my “better research” plan, with a few additional activities. However, we have yet to attend more than two school days in a row since winter break, due to that lovely white stuff that falls from the sky. This means that I am condensing instruction more than ever, so that students have plenty of time to get in there and apply the information literacy skills that I hope they are learning.

One tool that we explored was use of to brainstorm and organize pre-research thoughts. The full lesson plan is below and also highlighted in Part I of my earlier post on better research (see link above). I am happy to report that students were engaged and seemed to see more value in this pre-research/ organizational tool than some of the more traditional brainstorming methods. One key element to success was giving them 10 minutes with each of their three possible topics for an “exploratory glimpse” of their topic. This gave them a chance to add and categorize more information as they built their mindmap than if they had gone at it cold.

I did not have students create accounts, which meant that their only option was to print their mindmap at the end of the block. I did give them the option to create an account if they wanted to save their mindmap to come back to edit. I believe that only 3-4 students out of 115 did so. (I saw those students back on on the following general research days.) One downfall to the tool is that a free account only allows for one mindmap to be saved before being prompted to “upgrade” (which I’m sure involves payment). Modifying and editing their mindmaps just before outlining could be very beneficial, but I believe the exercise of getting their ideas on screen and being able to organize/categorize/etc. was helpful as a pre-research activity.

Here are a few pictures of students at work using, all at various stages of complexity:

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Using Quality Information- Research Part III

One delightful afternoon in the library, I overheard a conversation between two students that made my little librarian heart swell with happiness. One student shared a surprising fact that she read on the internet with the student next to her. The other student responded with, “Really? Are you sure? Did you check to see whether the source is reliable?”

Time stopped. The earth’s rotation ceased. Tides reversed. Toilets flushed counterclockwise.

When I regained my senses, I realized that these two girls had been in a class a few days prior that received a presentation on critically evaluating information.  Sometimes I feel like those presentations fall on deaf ears (or ears too impatient to get the assignment done to take the time to analyze the info they find), but that glorious exchange proved to me that when we emphasize quality, they listen.

The last post in my “Better Research” series, I offer a look at a presentation (below) that I would love to do with your students. Send me an email soon to collaborate on any information/research topic!


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Better Research Part II- Sources

A week ago, regional college professors and librarians met with high school librarians for a “College Readiness Dialog” at which they discussed what areas of literacy that incoming college freshmen are lacking. I was not able to attend, but area librarian Becca Munson reported on her blog that these were emphasized as areas of weakness:

– Awareness of multiple citation formats (MLA vs. APA, etc)

– Being required to use ‘scholarly journal’ articles rather than general web sources

– Incorporating research into a paper logically and seamlessly, rather than just pasting web text together

Very timely information, I think.

High school students are very good at convincing us (ok-maybe just me) that we ask too much of them. And they are not wrong. In their eyes, we can ask more of them than they are accustomed to. But that is what learning is. We need to demand more- students will never grow unless we ask them to stretch. They do need to be using more scholarly sources. They do need to be able to analyze their research and synthesize it in to their own projects/papers. They do need to cite correctly- every time.

Our students’ future college professors are begging us to require these things!

In that spirit, I am posting possible lesson plans and activities on the second part of ‘Better Research’ on The Search & Sources.  As always, I would love to work with you and your students the next time they do any research, whether small or large scale; send me an email and we can plan something great! (Possible ideas below)


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Better Research- Part I: Defining needs

This post marks the first of a three part segment on improving student research. It is easy and awfully tempting to hand students a laptop and tell them to use their favorite search engine to find information on whatever topic. They are masters at navigating the internet, right? Wrong. Research shows that though young people appear to cruise Google with ease,

Scott McLeod's Flickr Photostream

Just last week, as a student in an Advanced Placement course sat staring at his Google screen, he expressed some frustration at not being able to find good information on “his topic.”

“Okay,” I asked him. “What is your topic?”
“I’m not really sure yet” he responded.

Not only was he unsure of the topic of his research paper, it was evident that he didn’t have an articulated purpose for the mysterious information that he was looking for. This is common, and why the first part of 3 research lessons caters to “Defining Information Needs.” Though this step of the research process is tempting to skip because it is so easy to just jump in and begin searching, students end up with much better products when a little time is taken to first articulate needs.

The Big 6 model defines two steps related to this process:
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 best sources

Below is a possible lesson plan to help students to define their information needs. Schedule some time in the library at the beginning of your next research project and let me know when I can work with your students!



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