Gather and Analyze

This the fifth post in a series that explores IQ: A Practical Guide To Inquiry-Based Learning by Jennifer Watt and Jill Colyer. Here are the links to post one (IBL and Learning), post two (In the Mess of Learning, what will stick?), post three (Questioning and Expertise in Inquiry-Based Learning), and post four (Supporting Conversations).

What I appreciate about IQ: A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Learning’s Chapter 5 “Gather and Analyze” is the strong focus on teaching students how to find and evaluate sources. Too many teachers ask students to “research” without teaching them how to find appropriate sources online. Not only is so much time wasted as students aimlessly wander the web, but the struggle they encounter to locate sources leaves them feeling frustrated and incompetent. This is not the productive struggle that cognitive psychologists claim we need to engage in during the learning process.

To help students get the most bang for their buck, I will use the lesson activity from the ENG4C elearning course, which can be accessed in the Ontario Education Resource Bank (OERB).  The first 13 pages of this lesson is a modified version of that elearning lesson. Here students are introduced to or reacquainted with Google’s advanced search features. For many students, this is their first encounter with tools like the key word search, and it blows their minds!



What I find lacking in this chapter (and thus, in the book) is the inclusion of the note making process. While note making may not be a significant part of young learners’ research process, certainly it must be for older students as the ideas, questions, and sources being explored become more complex.

Students first learn to unpack the sources they discover by asking questions of the text, locating the pertinent information in the text that provides evidence that supports their claim (inquiry question), and ultimately deciding if that source is sufficient, current, accurate, relevant, and suitable (SCARS).

Students make notes by collecting the relevant evidence (facts, statistics, expert opinion, analogies) and noting their thinking about the evidence. Initially, this step is tough for students. I am asking them to not only find evidence that supports their claim, but to also think about how it does. By including their ideas in their notes, they are constructing new knowledge. They are building connections and relationships between the ideas of the various sources and their own thinking. Typically, there is a wide disparity between a student’s first research note and her last note, and not just because better sources are discovered. Since the thinking in each note builds on itself, the first note will generally include little evidence of student thinking (mostly superficial connections) while the latter notes will reflect more sophisticated and significant thinking. Note making also supports many effective learning strategies like summarizing (Marzano) and paraphrasing.

Here are the steps in my research process (pre-writing):

Here is one student’s process:

Here is one student’s note:

Here are the criteria for the note:

Research Note Evaluation Checklist                 

  • Bibliographic Citation information
  • Thesis/Lead of the article—identified
  • Headings
  • Key Words/Phrases
  • Your ideas—identified in some way (ALL CAPS, italics, colour, etc.)
  • Quotations—identified by “  “
  • Paraphrase—identified by (paraphrase)
  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Summary  

Here is one student’s mid-term reflection:

When it comes down to researching and creating research notes, annotating, increasing vocabulary to understand harder texts, and learning about media portrayal, I have to say this is the biggest learning process I’ll ever go through. I have to say it is fun and hard, and in going through it I have learned about so many things: purpose questions, styles of text, elements of text/posts, learning new words and phrases. Furthermore, the process gives me more knowledge to use for when I head off for college.

You can see the intersection between my process and that of Watt and Colyer’s. Where they use Reproducible 15 “Assessing my point of view”, my students will use the KWL(revised) ,organizer. Where they use SOURCE (Source, Objective, Usefulness, Reliability, Context, and Evidence) as their method of evaluating websites, my students will use SCARS (Sufficient, Current, Accurate, Relevant, Suitable).

I’d love to hear your thoughts about note making. Do you teach note making explicitly for the research process? If so, how?


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