Homework Tips | Conseils pour les devoirs

Research Skills | Compétences en recherche

Steps 1-5 | Étapes 1 à 5

The first five steps of the research process provide information on preparing and developing a research paper, on accessing and finding information, on extracting and documenting resources, and on organizing and categorizing thoughts.

Step One: Define the task and understand the assignment

  • Be clear about what is expected of the task or the assignment
  • Identify the question and the end product
  • Identify key words in the task or assignment
  • Decide on your approach (e.g., to analyze critically: arguments for or against, to persuade to inform, to evaluate or to summarize)
  • Know your timeline; use an online calendar, a regular calendar or an agenda to plan and chunk the assignment into manageable parts
  • Consider your audience


Step Two: Narrow the topic

  • Focus on a particular aspect of the topic
  • Concentrate on specific aspects of the topic; (e.g., time period, geographic region, historical or social issues)

Step Three: Plan and select the most appropriate sources

Think about the best and most relevant types of resources for the topic. Make new folders in your “bookmarks” or “favourites” area to receive new links, resources or information.

Primary sources are works created
  • at the time of an event, or
  • by a person who directly experienced an event

Secondary sources are works that
  • are one step removed from the original event or experience
  • provide criticism or interpretation of a primary source


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources

E-mail contact

Interviews (personal, telephone)






Community Meetings




Reference Material

Search Engines, websites and databases

Articles found in e-newspapers, e-magazines, online reviews, online journals, online catalogues
and online encyclopedias



CD’s, music lyrics, television, video tapes, audio tapes and other art forms


University or College Libraries

Articles found in newspapers, magazines, reviews


 Primary or Secondary Sources

Internet web sites
Graphs, charts, diagrams, tables

*It is important to know which sources are reliable and valid

Think about the following questions:

  • Who put this information on the internet?
  • Does the Web page document sources for its facts?
  • When was it put there?
  • Is there a date on the page? Has the page been updated?
  • How do you know where the information comes from?
  • Is the information biased? Does it give only one opinion? Are there links to other sources?
  • Who is the information meant for?
  • What type of information is it? Is it scholarly or amateur level?

Step Four: Read and Record Systematically

  • Key in or write down what you already know about the subject
  • Use programs such as SMART ideas to organize your initial thinking
  • Brainstorm every useful word you can think of about the subject
  • Relate your prior experience and learning
  • Extract information from your sources
  • Record your thoughts, questions, lists of words, interesting quotes and bibliographic information
  • Make notes and keep them saved in a word processor document or a notebook

Step Five: Draft an outline

  • Look at good models or examples for the type of assignment you are writing
  • Develop a plan to organize your thoughts and materials
  • Group information into key points and sub-points