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MS/HS Library: DP Research Process

The Research Process

Research Overview


This Research Guide was created by Kathy Fester. This illustration and basic information is taken and adapted from the  Austin Perry Statf University Guide. Thank you!

Concordian International School, Bangkok

The content is shared under a Creative Commons Attribuition-Noncommerical license.


This Step does not have a # because it takes place at every step of the process.

You begin with a Project in your NoodleTools account, record your Research Question and Thesis Statement, create Note Cards, and Record your sources as you find them. 

  • Share your bibliography with your teacher
  • If this is a collaborative project, share with other students

When you do work through drafting, revising, and editing, don’t forget that you must cite your sources, both in-text citations and a Works Cited (MLA) or References (CSE) page. EasyBib can help you immensely. If you follow the suggestion to keep a running bibliography as you collected sources, this part is super easy. It is very easy to later delete a source if you decide not to use it and adapt the citation information for CSE.  For MLA, once you have your resources in your bibliography, you will know how your in-text citations should "look."


  • It is required!
  • You ethically indicate where you found your information
  • So that others may find the same information you did--either because it is interesting or it helps their research
  • Your reader wants to check your sources -- remember: when you get to University your professor will usually look at your bibliography before reading your paper!
  • To document your resources to defend yourself against claims of plagiarism should they happen.

This is another good time to schedule a meeting with your librarian

1 First, use your own ideas. It should be your paper and your ideas that should be the focus.
2 Use the ideas of others sparingly--only to support or reinforce your own argument.
3 When taking notes, include complete citation information for each item you use.
4 Use quotation marks when directly stating another person's words.
5 A good strategy is to take 30 minutes and write a short draft of your paper without using any notes. It will help you think through what you want to say and not be too dependent on your sources.


Is it plagiarism?   Quick Examples!

6.8 Self-Quiz  See how you do!

From the U. of Idaho, CORE, Module 6

Choose your topicStep #1: Choose Your Topic 

(Time management tip: give yourself at least one day --> a few days to work on this step.) 

This step can be most difficult. Your teacher may give you the freedom to choose whatever you would like to write about as long as it interests you and you are able to investigate, detail, and argue a particular position. Or you have to answer an assessment question. Or you have to choose within a certain field. 

Performing a Google search is likely to overwhelm you with the immense number of results returned to you. Since current events or controversial issues provide many ideas for investigation and argument, there are a few resources that your librarians and teachers can guide you to for thought-provoking topics.

  • Pay attention to news stories on radio, television, and items that hit your news feed online

  • Check out Opposing Viewpoints in Context and Global Issues in Context for ideas

  • You need a topic with enough information to research, but it is not too broad

  • Ask another teacher about some ideas you might have

  • This is an excellent point to chat with a librarian to help you settle into a good direction for a manageable topic

  • Use the Pre-Search Worksheet on this page> to organize your research

  • Ask your parent, older brother or sister, or other family member or family contact for ideas

Narrow Your Topic Examples

Perform background researchStep #2: Performing Background Research 

(Time management tip: give yourself a few days to a week to work on this step.) 

After you have decided on a topic, you may not be very familiar with it. In that case, you will want to dig into some background research to educate yourself and find a way to narrow your focus to be manageable. Here are a few questions to ask as you dig; keep in mind that your teachers and the librarians you consult may suggest more. 

Ask Factual Questions to understand the basics

  • When? Where? Who? What? 

Ask Critical Questions these are the Why? and What if?

  • Hypothesis > How would things be different if "this" had not happened?
  • Prediction > How might the future look like?
  • Solutions > What actions can solve a problem?
  • Comparison or Analogy > Find similarities and differences between your topic and a similar topic
  • Judgment > Based on your findings, what is your opinion on the topic?

What kinds of information will I be searching for?

  • History? Descriptions? Maps? Pictures or photos? Statistics? Biographies? Original research? Research summaries? Film? Analysis? Criticism? Opposing viewpoints?
  • Do you need to make a MLA  "Works Cited"?  Do I need to have in-text citations?

Which new terms (keywords and "key phrases", combined with the search terms you have already used, lead you to more information?

See Developing Keywords on this page>

  • Use your EasyBib to record sources NOW--they are easy to delete if you change your mind!
  • Evaluate ​your sources! See Anti-Plagiarism Checklist and the Web Page Evaluation Checklist  on this page>

Devise research questionStep #3: Devising Your Research Question(s) 

(Time management tip: give yourself at least one day --> few days to work on this step.) 

After you have done some background research, you are more prepared to develop informed research questions that will not overwhelm you when you try to answer them. Keep in mind, though, that your questions may not, actually should not, have direct answers. Critical reading of what you find will present you with possibilities, and you may make logical jumps in reasoning to answer the question, using support from sources that you find. Sometimes, as you read more, your research question may change.

  • A good research question cannot be answered with yes or no 
  • You should meet with your teacher or supervisor as you try to decide on a Research Question
  • Below, see a brief explanation and some good and bad samples!
  • See also, Developing a Research Question, from IBO, Extended Essay

Re-evaluate questionStep #4: Identifying Resources 

(Time management tip: several hours --> weeks to work on this step.) 

Now that you have been able to identify  established, manageable issues (for the length of your paper) within your topic, you now have a much better idea how to approach it. You want to think about subjects or disciplines and how your issue fits best into one or several of them. Whenever you think about your topic, pay close attention to the issues authors address in your background information. These major subject areas will lead you to databases that have articles on a particular subject. Think about the following:

  • How  can I refine the issues and their questions into one or two-word concepts, key words or "key phrases," for better searching?
  • Are there significant recurring terms or phrases as I read? Write these down and record your sources.
  • What basic subjects do the authors use? Health? Law? Science? Government? Literature? If more than one, you will need to limit it to one subject--you're not writing a book!

Now is the time to:

  • Understand the advantages and disadvantages of different Types of Sources  > See Know Your Sources  and Primary vs Secondary Sources on this page
  • Do an Expert Google Search and set up Google Alerts See "GoogleScholar" and "How to Google Like a Pro" on this page
  • Know how to Boolean Search to narrow or broaden your search on this page
  • Record all resources you might use your EasyBib--they are easy to delete if you choose not to use them
  •  Focused Research:

Condordian CATALOG for books and films

Is there a LIBGUIDE on your topic? It will have suggested books, videos, databases, and websites



  • Find Information Within Sources:
    • Use the Table of Contents at the beginning of books and some databases and websites to find your topic
    • Use the Index at the back of books (print and online) to find what pages your keywords appear
    • Use the References at the end of articles and books (print and online) for additional sources
    • Use the Keywords for searching and add to your keyword list as you find new terms, different terms
    • Wikipedia for Research?! Find the "Grade" and if B or better, use for Keywords, their Table of Contents to narrow a topic, and their references. See  YES and NO in "Wikipedia for Research" on this page

  • To find academic, peer-reviewed articles, use Databases and select Journal Articles
  • Know the difference between Research Articles and Literature Review Articles
  • Use the bibliographies in these articles to find more resources
  • Use Google Scholar and set up Google Scholar Alerts  on this page
  • Use Open-Source Academic article sites  on this page. Not a quick search--this is serious research!


Click image below for full analysis of different types of resources. Great Infographic. Portland Community College.

Collect research & examine resultsStep #5: Collecting Your Research and Examining Your Results 

(Time management tip: give yourself at least one week to work on this step.) 

After you identify your resources, you have to begin to think about the concepts and terminology you will use to discover the breadth and depth of information that can potentially answer your question. Make note of the terms used when authors are writing about your topic. These are new keywords to use and combine for more searching.

By “concept,” we mean a general idea, often abstract, of what something is. If that seems confusing, then that is a normal response! Essentially, we must assign terms and phrases to represent a concept.

What's potentially challenging is that a concept can be named by a number of different terms. So, we must break down our research question into concepts and representative terminology in order to find the best information. Have you ever done a search to find no good results? That's because you are not using the terms the writers on this topic are using.

Red arrow, down

You have to read material to know the vocabulary used

See on this page for more information on crafting search strategies including Boolean Operators and Truncation when doing a refined Internet search outside of a database

Research databases do not behave like Google, Yahoo, or any other open-web search engine. They have ways to help you refine your search.

  • To find academic, peer-reviewed articles, use Databases and select Journal Articles
  • Databases have Advanced Search options that incorporate Boolean Search Terms
  • Databases can search for specific phrases and eliminate certain words
  • Databases have areas to limit your search, sometimes by year, by topic, by author, by title, or keywords
  • And then search within these results. Your findings become more and more directed at your question

  • Use the bibliographies in these articles to find more resources
  • Use Google Scholar and set up Google Scholar Alerts > on this page
  • Use Open-Source Academic Articles  Not quick--this is serious researching!

Below find source evaluation tools:

  • OPVL (Origin, Purpose, Value, and Limitations) Good for primary sources
  • CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose/Point of View
  • How to identify "Fake News" 
  • And "Know Your Sources-- scroll down to analyze in depth!

Identify resourcesStep #6: Re-evaluating Research Question(s) 

(Time management tip: give yourself at least a week for this step) 

This step is one that you will already have begun to consider in Step 5 as you read and think critically about the information in the articles that address your topic and research question.

Now you have to reconsider each source and what it leads to.

  • Have I found enough information to inform or support the explanations/assertions/claims that I have made?
  • Has the information provided me with a new direction for my research question?
  • Have I found that my initial claims are unfounded and need to change direction and approach?  If so, aren't you glad you have not waited until the last minute?

Collect more researchStep #7: Collect More Research (if necessary)

 (Time management tip: give yourself several days+ for this step.) 

Steps #6 and #7 are repeatable as often as necessary.

The further we go in our academic careers, the more detailed and complex our research questions become. By the time someone becomes a graduate student and works on a dissertation, these two steps can be repeated endless times. You will, with experience, determine how many passes through Steps #6 and #7 are appropriate for your research needs.

This is another good time to set up appointments with your teacher, supervisor, and librarian.

Synthesise researchStep #8: Synthesise Your Research 

(Time management tip: give yourself several days or more for this step.) 

You have actually been synthesizing your research in some shape or form since Step #2 because you have been reading and formulating strategies to present your ideas.

The big question is, “how does it all fit together?” Stay focused on your research question and look to the information in the articles (or books or websites that you have used) for support, supporting and opposing arguments. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Is there a straightforward answer to my question? If there is a Yes or No answer, your Research Question is not acceptable.
  • Can I “read between the lines” and piece together information from various sources to construct an answer?
  • Can I develop a strategy of support from the materials I have decided to use?
  • Can I summarize general ideas and statements, which shows I understand each author’s contribution to the conversation? 
  • Can I outline my approach in an organized and logical way?

Express findingsStep #9: Express Your Findings! 

(Time management tip: give yourself several days+ for on this step.) 


Write. This step in the research process is when you combine your original thoughts on a topic with the research you have done. If you've recorded your sources and kept good note cards, then the writing is much easier. 

This is another good time to meet with your librarian about format, and how to cite images, label tables and figures, etc. If the topic is in the sciences or mathematics, your might be required to use CSE Style.

As you combine your theories and ideas with your research, think, "Is this the best evidence for my argument?" If the answer is no, then you may need to return to previous steps to find more materials. Oh no!

Present Your Findings and Ideas

Present. Now that you have all the information you need and have the information cited in your bibliography, it is time to do the work of presenting your research findings and your ideas!

  • Use "direct quotes" sparingly to be most effective
  • See on this page Evaluation & Anti-Plagiarism
  • Write with your voice, not the authors' of your sources
  • See Signal Phrases for Better Writing, IB Command Terms, and Descriptionari for writing ideas and word choice on this page
  • Time to check your bibliography again
    • Check your in-text citations. See MLA or See CSE format styles.
    • Ask your librarian to review your bibliography and in-text citations at least 3 days before your due date!

See Check and Double-check Before Handing In

Step #10: Reflect

(Time management tip: at least an hour when all is finished.)

  • Did I complete the assessment/assignment as required? 
  • Is everything included and in the proper order? Did I have the bibliography and in-text citations reviewed by a librarian?  NOTE: Librarians will NOT review work the day before it is due. 3 days minimum!

ReflectAs an IB scholar we reflect on our work and on the process. You will be inquiring, trying to find information and researching again. And again. And again! Thinking about the process will make future research more rewarding. Work through these reflection questions:

Starting Out

  • What was difficult about starting this research process?
  • What would I do differently at the beginning the next time?
  • Did I ask for help if I felt confused or lost?


  • What did I do to help organize my time?
  • What did I do that made it difficult to be organized?


  • Did I meet with other students in my class to get ideas?
  • Did I ask other people to go over my research and findings?
  • Did I acknowledge others' contributions?


  • What problems did I have finding information?
  • Did I ask for help when I needed it?
  • Did I use the library resources?
  • Did I have problems using the library resources?
  • What did working with experts in the field teach me?
  • What was the most helpful to me?
  • What was the least helpful to me?


  • If I were doing this again, I would do the following things differently?
  • I used to think this…now I think this....about my topic
  • The part I liked the most was…
  • The part I liked the least was…


  • What did I learn about myself as a presenter?
  • What did I learn about myself as a writer?
  • How did I handle any feelings of anxiety I had?
  • What strategies worked best in regard to preparation?
  • What strategies worked best in regard to presentation?

International Baccalaureate 

"The International Baccalaureate® aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect."

  • Did I consider international resources, situations, and point-of-view?
  • Did I try to virtually meet with students regarding the same topic from other parts of the world?
  • Did I live up to the IB mission?  
  • Which learning profiles did I use? Did I do honor to these profiles?
    • Balanced
    • Open-minded
    • Caring
    • Inquirer
    • Knowledgeable
    • Principled
    • Refective
    • Thinkers
    • Communicators
  • How was my Approach To Learning (ATL) affected?


  • How did this experience prepare me to be college, career, or military ready?
  • What new learning can I carry into my future?
  • How has this experience changed me?
  • If I were advising a future student I would tell them…

Based in part from resources from Baltimore County Public Schools!


Research & Writing Tips

EXPAND your keywords​​

  • Look at the subject headings of the materials you find and use those terms as applicable.
  • Or look up your keywords in a subject-specific database thesaurus to find predefined terms (called "Controlled Vocabulary")​

Try this tool to find predefined terms:  click the green buttonThesaurus

Which "google" search will give better results?

Google logo with X mark

What are the effects of climate change or global warming on Thailand?

Google logo with checkmark

"climate change" OR "global warming" thailand

Here's how to craft a better search to get fewer and more relevant results:

  • Identify the main ideas in your research question. These are your keywords
        What are the effects of climate change or global warming on Thailand?
  • Use quotation marks around 2 or more words that need to be together.
         "climate change"  "global warming"
  • Limit your search to a specific domain, such as .edu, .gov, or .org.
           "climate change"  "global warming" thailand 
  • Use nouns, not verbs or prepositions 

More information on Advanced Google and Google Scholar searching

Signal Phrases

Check & Double-Check Your MLA Paper

See HERE for a the IB Extended Essay Requirements

See HERE for the IB Personal Project Report Requirements

  1. Is the heading in the upper left-hand corner of the first page
  2. Does the heading include:
    1. Your name?
    2. Your instructor's name?
    3. The date?
  3. Does the paper have an original title (other than something like Final Paper)?
    1. Is the title presented without bold, italicized, larger, or different font, or placed in quotation marks?
  4. Does the paper have 1" margins on all sides?
  5. Is the entire paper written in Times New Roman or Calibri 12-pt. font?
  6. Is everything double-spaced, including Table of Contents and Works Cited page?
  7. Are your last name and the page number in the upper right-hand corner of each page (0.5" from the top or inserted using the "header" function in Word)?
  8. If you've used outside sources, do you have a bibliography page?
    1. Titled Works Cited, centered, not in quotation marks?
    2. Does it have a page number?
    3. Is it the last page of your paper, after any notes and appendices?
  9. If MLA Format: Are the entries in your list of works cited in alphabetical order by the author's last name, or if no author, by the next entry--usually the title?
    1. Does each source have an entry in the works cited page?
    2. Are all direct quotes in quotation marks?
    3. Do all paraphrases and summaries clearly indicate that they come from other sources using an in-text citation?
    4. Does each in-text reference include a parenthetical citation that includes the author's last name (unless it is obvious from the context of the sentence who you are referencing) and the page number from which the information was taken (if a source with page numbers)?
    5. If a quotation is 4 lines or more, is it block-quoted? (double-spaced, indented 1 linch from the left margin)
    6. Have you clearly indicated where you found all the information you did not previously know?
    7. Does the paper follow MLA 8 format?
  10. If CSE Format: Are the entries in your list of references in the order by which you use them in your text?
    1. Does each [1] numbered in-text citation refer to a numbered entry in your References?
    2. Did you follow CSE format?
    3. Are your Tables, FIgures, and Formulas correctly labeled?

Based  on Janechek, Writing  Commons