Tips for Student Research on English 9 and 10 Reports
When it comes to the prospect of beginning research for the English 9 or 10 reports, some students are less than enthusiastic. However, with a basic plan and the right approach, research can be made easier and even enjoyable.
It Starts with the Thesis
The thesis statement is “where you are going” or “what is your goal” in your report. If essays were Mapquest directions, a thesis statement would be the final street address. Submitting your thesis statement in first quarter may be confusing to you: why decide what your paper will say first? However, identifying your destination is the first step to getting there.
Some brief initial reading or an encyclopedia article may help you focus on basic points, but to begin major research without a thesis can be frustrating. Suppose a student in English 9 begins to research St. Thérèse without a thesis. Confronted with a 500-page book on the subject, the student does not know where to begin or where the focus should be. The student may end up with a mass of information and no idea what to use or how to use it, resulting in a rambling paper, or a sporadic biography. The student must focus, narrow, and clarify what the paper will discuss, which is the thesis.
Seton strongly promotes the three-part thesis. Consider a student with a three-part thesis: “During her years in the convent, St. Thérèse exemplified the virtues of faith, hope, and charity.” With the same 500-page book, this student can skip all chapters unrelated to the three-part focus on “faith, hope, and charity.” The modifying phrase, “During her years in the convent,” narrows the research even more.
With colored tabs (blue for faith, red for hope, yellow for charity), this student can skim relevant chapters, placing a blue tab wherever there is a good fact or quote about faith, a red one for hope, and so on. Now the student can begin to write the first source and note cards. This student knows the thesis and is focusing on it. The research information is found quickly.
The three-part thesis allows for adjustments along the way. If a student notices much more information about St. Thérèse’s patience in her readings than hope, she can make the change to her thesis quickly, without starting from scratch. (Remember, if you change your thesis, resubmit it to Seton as you would a redo for official grading.)
Start Locally but Think Creatively
The most important first step in research is to contact the reference librarian at your local library. It’s the reference librarian’s job to provide search assistance. A reference librarian can tell you about all sorts of sources, including magazine or newspaper archives, interlibrary loan, and in-library databases of academic essays that you can search by topic. She can help you to avoid juvenile sources aimed at a younger audience.
Don’t limit yourself to your local library, however. Think creatively. What about a church library? A neighbor’s book collection? A field trip could be made to a college library, which has a wealth of resources and an atmosphere of study, where you may be inspired by seeing higher level students taking their research seriously. If you are writing down all the information on source and note cards, as you should be doing, you don’t even need to bring these books home.
Seton allows one personal interview for a research report, used sparingly. Some students have interviewed mayors, military officials, and even senators. Choose an authority whose current or former position a reader would respect. This can be a fascinating experience.
The internet, with a parent’s permission, can connect you with excellent information. Be a true researcher even here, going to online newspaper, journal, government, and official organization sites. Wikipedia, message boards, blogs, and other user-generated sites are not appropriate for a school or academic report. Look for credible sources. Ask yourself if there is a respected authority standing behind the information.
Remember, the five-source minimum isn’t a maximum. If you submit more sources, and the graders, with their experience, cross out a few of the weaker ones, you still have five solid sources for the report. This is one of the reasons why the bibliography is submitted in second quarter. You will receive feedback on whether the sources are strong and well-formatted, and can make changes beforehand.
In conclusion, researching for your high school research report can be quicker and easier than some may think. You are practicing an adult skill, and working with sources that professionals use. Whether this is the first research you do in a road that leads to a Ph.D., or just a chance to see what goes into true research for report writing, you’re learning a valuable skill.