The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay School Library
Research Tool Kit

Define Your Task

Define your task.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”  – Lao Tzu

The first step of a journey determines your direction. Defining your task will help ensure a successful journey along the Research Road.

What is the assignment?
  • Read the assignment carefully and be sure you understand it. Make a timeline for various due dates. If you are unsure about any aspect of the assignment, ask the teacher! There will be some requirements, but you may have options. 
  • If you choose a topic you care about, you are more likely to create a better final presentation. What interests you? What are you curious about? Be sure the topic is not too broad (you'll be overwhelmed with information) or too narrow (you won't be able to find enough information). Ask your teacher for guidance.
  • Do you know enough about your topic to state the task very clearly in terms of a question or problem? Do some background reading in a print encyclopedia, Britannica Online or Wikipedia. This will help you write an essential question or thesis statement (see below).
  • Find out how your project will be assessed. If your teacher uses a rubric, be sure you refer to it during the research process to know you're on track to succeed.
Time to Brainstorm
  • What are the major concepts?
  • Write down everything you already know about your task.
  • Write down what you need to find out. It will be helpful to write questions.
  • Make an outline, using a traditional outline form, EasyBib, or a graphic organizer, such as Inspiration™.
  • You may find a KWHL chart useful for planning, to record what you Know, what you Want to know, How do you find out, and what you've Learned. 

Essential Question or Thesis Statement
If you don't know the question, you'll never know if you have the answer!

An essential question clearly presents what you want to discover about your topic in the form of a question. To develop an essential question, first write down everything you already know about your topic. Think about what you'd like to know, and use that to create your essential question. 

ExampleDo violent television programs and video games affect teenage behavior?

A thesis statement is your answer to the essential question. It is an opinion statement for which you will present supporting evidence. It should clearly express your viewpoint.

Example: Violence in television programs and video games is responsible for increased violent behavior in teenagers.
A thesis statement and an essential question accomplish the same purpose: directing your research and leading to original thought. 

Developing a working thesis statement is critically important to your research. Without it, you will not have a direction and focus for your project. The following steps will help you to develop this working thesis statement.
Step 1: Write down a description of your research subject. Why is it important?
Step 2: Refine, narrow, and clarify this subject based on your overview
Step 3: List supporting evidence gathered from your overview
Step 4: List opposing evidence (if any) gathered from your overview
Step 5: Write a statement that clearly and concisely summarizes the information from the first 4 steps

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