What is a research project?
A research project, whether it is a traditional paper, a video, or a media presentation, is the end product of a thinking process that involves student-centered questioning or inquiry.
Research is a life skill. We are always seeking information. What car or camera should I buy? Which college should I choose? Which book should I read next? How can I sell this idea to my boss? How can I convince the school administration to accept my proposal? Should I have this surgery? Our ability to use information helps us reach conclusions, make decisions, and communicate more effectively.
Just as the careful car buyer may “research” Consumer Reports and ask friends for comments about which model is the best, the careful student researches a topic in the process of thinking through his or her project. It is important to analyze information by checking a variety of sources. The car buyer may consult as many different, reliable sources as possible, makes notes, asks questions, consults additional sources, develops a point of view based upon all of the information he has found. As students gather information to reach a conclusion or support a hypothesis, they develop lifelong skills of information fluency.
Information fluency is the ability to access, evaluate, use and synthesize information from multiple formats, and to ethically create and share new knowledge in any of a variety of media. Information fluency is a set of competencies, skills that will grow with students, even when current operating systems, search tools, or platforms are obsolete. Information problem solving skills are required across all disciplines.
What good is your Research unless you can effectively communicate your new knowledge? The same skills that you use to write an expository paper are used to develop the research paper or a project in any medium. Asking solid questions, developing a clear and focused thesis, sketching an outline or a storyboard, drafting, revising, peer reviewing, and editing all are steps with which you are already familiar. The research process is recursive. Although we describe steps, you will find yourself going back and forth among the steps, returning to several as you refine your work.