Module Two: What's the Plan?
The high school ELAR TEKS call for students to ask their own open-ended research questions and develop a plan for answering them. Teachers are expected to provide guidance and support as students ask these questions and formulate a workable plan for engaging in research on a complex, multi-faceted topic. Teachers find it easy to take charge of the research experience by providing topics, stipulating what information must be covered, and outlining for students exactly what must be in their final paper. Ken Macrorie states in the preface to his book The I-Search Paper that high schools and colleges have "unwittingly taken the 'search' out of 'research'." However, when we teachers base our instruction in the new ELAR standards, we will follow the more difficult path to authentic research with our students. One effective way to provide students the support they need as they travel this path is to use the I-Search Process, based on Ken Macrorie's book The I-Search Paper.

View Carolyn Foote and Elaine Leggett's presentation below on scaffolding the research process. Carolyn Foot is a high school and district librarian at a suburban Texas high school. Her blog Not So Distant Future "explores the intersection of technology, libraries, and schools."

Consider the following steps that students could follow to complete a research project:

  • Formulating the Essential Question and secondary questions that are appropriate for researching.
  • Searching for sources of information, both printed and online.
  • Sorting through what is available, evaluating the information, and selecting the information most relevant in answering the research questions.
  • Using information ethically and appropriately.
    Note: We must build in adequate time for reflecting on the information students locate and how that information aligns with what they know and what other information they have gathered. Reflective journal entries are one way to hold students accountable for this reflection and make their thoughts visible to teachers. Meaningful research requires time to think, reflect and synthesize.
  • Synthesizing information from multiple sources in a way that answers the research questions.
  • Evaluating the research process and reflecting on what worked and what didn’t, as well as what the researcher will do differently next time he/she faces a research task.