Graphic for Step 2 Explore an Issue or Problem
Step 2 Explore an Issue or Problem
Databases & Search Tools Lesson 2.1A

Think about the topic you have in mind for your research. Survey the information landscape to do some

  • Generate a list of 10 keywords/search terms related to your topic.
  • Using the BCPS Digital Content/Databases and other search tools linked below, locate at least five sources of information related to your topic
  • Use skimming and scanning techniques to review your search results and select the most relevant sources.
  • Use the Databases: Finding Research Information chart to make a note of your findings.
BCPS Digital Content tile

BCPS Digital Content & Databases - Do a keyword search in a subject-relevant database for authoritative sources in a variety of media formats. Access the databases from the Digital Content tile in BCPS One from school or home.

Google Scholar logo Google Scholar - an academic search engine for journal articles, abstracts and other scholarly sources.

Google Bing

General search engines (like Google and Bing, among others) may also be useful for academic research, particularly if you use advanced search techniques. However, you must carefully evaluate the information sources you find via these search engines for authority and credibility. These skills will be covered in subsequent lessons.
Google Public Data Explorer makes large datasets easy to explore, visualize and communicate. As the charts and maps change over time, the changes in the world become easier to understand. You don't have to be a data expert to navigate between different views, make your own comparisons, and share your findings. 
Advanced Searching Lesson 2.1B

In the previous lesson, you identified some keywords related to your topic of interest and used them to do a preliminary search for information. For casual searching, people typically type in their keywords or use "natural language" searching by typing in a question or phrase. Serious researchers use a variety of advanced searching techniques to refine their search queries and return the most relevant results.


In this lesson, you will practice using advanced searching techniques in general search engines and BCPS databases to locate additional relevant sources about your prospective research topic.

  1. Use the resources below to learn more about advanced searching techniques.
  2. Refer to the keywords on the Databases: Finding Research Information chart you completed in the previous lesson.
  3. Repeat your searches using some advanced searching techniques in relevant databases and general search engines.
  4. Compare your search results using advanced searching techniques to your previous search results. Keep track of new information sources you find that may be useful later in the research process.
  5. Complete a Journal entry: How does using advanced searching techniques help you to refine your searches and obtain more relevant results? Which advanced search techniques were most useful during this preliminary information search?

Boolean Searching:

Advanced Searching in General Search Engines:

Advanced Searching in BCPS Databases:

Brainstorming Lesson 2.2A
With your instructor and classmates, you will engage in a team brainstorming activity using a sample topic.

Explore some traditional forms of brainstorming with paper and pencil:

  • Click one of the links below to access a brainstorming graphic organizer.  If you prefer the paper/pencil approach to brainstorming, print out the organizer that works best for you and record your brainstorm onto it.  Be sure to hold on to your brainstorm throughout the research process.

Explore some digital brainstorming tools:

Now, select a brainstorming method/tool and conduct independent brainstorming on an issue or problem you're considering for your research. You will need the ideas generated from this brainstorming for the next activity.
Making Connections Lesson 2.2B
Access your brainstorming activity and narrow the topics down to the 2-4 that you are most interested in researching further. In order to prepare for conducting developing a more in-depth understanding of these topics, a best practice is to connect them to your prior knowledge. You can try using these tools and strategies to connect your prior knowledge to the the topics you are considering:
  1. Learning Log or Quick Write (complete this in your Journal)
  2. K-W-H-L (complete using linked document)
  3. Double Entry Journal  (complete using linked document) *See a Sample Double Entry Journal.
Complete one of the "connecting" methods above for each of your topics of choice. Include personal experience along with factual knowledge, and draw on as many aspects of your prior knowledge as possible.
The Art of Questioning Lesson 2.3A

Having brainstormed and connected to your prior knowledge, you will now develop the skills necessary to generate a series of questions about your topic(s). These questions will guide your preliminary research to build background knowledge, and ultimately provide a focus for your project.

  • Reflect on your charts/organizers from the previous lesson.  For each topic, write as many questions as you can about each topic that would be used for further research.  You may want to turn any of your statements into questions to assist with this process.
  • Your teacher will introduce Bloom’s Taxonomy and Costa's Levels of Inquiry as concrete ways for you to generate questions at various cognitive levels.
  • Using these Questioning Prompts, write questions about an article you located and read earlier in this Unit.
  • Refer back to your list of questions and eliminate or edit any questions that do not fit the definition of a “big and deep” question by modeling them after the upper three levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy or Costa's Level Three.  Narrow your research questions to at least three "big and deep" questions that you want to research further.

essential question concept map
See a full size version.

Writing a Researchable Inquiry Question Lesson 2.3B

In this lesson, you will generate and refine one researchable inquiry question to guide your ongoing research.

  • Using the questions you generated in the last activity, complete this Looking at Questions activity.
  • Review your work from the previous lessons: Brainstorming, Connecting journal/chart, and "big and deep" questions from the previous activity. Using these materials, begin to formulate a researchable guiding inquiry question.
  • Once you believe you have a researchable question, apply the Evaluating a Research Question tool to your question, and revise your question as necessary.
  • If possible, student researchers should peer review each other's question using the "Evaluating a Research Question" tool in order to continue refining their research question.
Plagiarism Lesson 2.4

You will need to be careful to avoid plagiarism throughout the research process. Use these resources, as directed by your teacher, to develop knowledge and skills for avoiding plagiarism as a researcher. In your Journal, make a list of strategies for avoiding plagiarism.

Your teacher will use this World Book Advanced article about Auroras to model and have you practicel paraphrasing, one way that you can avoid plagiarism.

Refer back to some of the articles you gathered on your Databases: Finding Research Information chart to practice paraphrasing using this Note Taking Guide.

Critical Evaluation of Sources Lesson 2.5

Day 1:

  1. Review the information resources linked on the Critical Evaluation of Resources worksheet, and provide a definition for each term in relation to research.
  2. Choose one of the following information sources and use a tool like this Evaluating Websites Checklist (or another resource evaluation tool recommended by your librarian) to evaluate the source:
  3. Choose one source from your Databases: Finding Research Information chart and use the Evaluating Websites Checklist to evaluate the source.
  4. Using an internet search engine of your choice, locate an article that may be useful to your research and use the checklist to evaluate the source.
  5. Reflect in your Journal: Consider the significance of critical evaluation of sources overall. Why is it valuable? Now consider your specific research topic and sources. How will critical evaluation of sources impact your research?

Day 2:

  1. Sign up for an online citation tool account with EasyBib EDU. Ask your library media specialist for the coupon code.
  2. Start a Project using the appropriate style for the discipline connected to your research topic.
  3. Using the two articles from the previous activity (one from a database one from a search engine), cite the sources. Review When & How to Cite.
  4. Review the citations for accuracy. 
Primary & Secondary Sources Lesson 2.6

Use these resources to review the difference between primary and secondary sources, and complete the Recognizing Primary & Secondary Sources activity.

Annotated Bibliography Lesson 2.7

Use these resources to summarize, analyze, and reflect on the information sources you have gathered so far by writing an Annotated Bibliography: