Research involves the following steps:
1. getting an overview of the topic
2. narrowing the topic
3. selecting useful resources
4. developing a thesis
5. collecting information to support that thesis

To organize and keep all research information together, it is recommended that you use source sheets (available in the library). Use one source sheet for every resource used. Source sheets assist you in recording the bibliographic information and notes from the source together in one place. By using the source sheets all the information you need is located in one place.

Whether your essay topic is assigned or is one you select yourself, the whole process of research begins with a single question. Even if your topic is not in the form of a question, you should formulate an incisive research question. The nature of this question is an important contributory factor in the quality of the essay. Therefore, it is worthwhile to begin with a question that is clear, concise and challenging.

As soon as possible, determine whether sufficient information about your topic is available. To locate sources of information, use the school library, the Hamilton Public Library and McMaster University Library.
The catalogues for these libraries can be found at the following websites:

Sir John A. Macdonald S.S. Library

Hamilton Public Library

McMaster University Library

At SJAM, depending on your topic, you may need to use:

1. Library catalogue for all SJAM library books– (icon in your desktools)
2. Internet
3. The Virtual Library (for all our many valuable databases)
4. Newspapers or Magazines

Do not rely on print and electronic sources alone; use maps, charts, statistics, photos, personal interviews, experiments, and television programs.

The thesis statement is a single assertive sentence that announces your point of view or opinion on a topic. Generally, it appears as the final sentence in your introductory paragraph. The thesis is the most important sentence in your essay because it is the central idea of your essay. It limits the scope of the essay so that the topic does not become ungainly.

You may now begin to take notes directed toward a particular end – your thesis. When reading, do not read everything cover to cover, but rather use the index and table of contents to find the specific information for which you are looking. Read critically and distinguish between fact and opinion. Use your own words to paraphrase what you have found. If using quotations, carefully follow the guidelines in this style guide. Notes may be kept on source sheets so that they may be ‘juggled around’ when preparing your essay outline. Learn to impose limits on your research – there is a time to start researching and a time to start shaping.

You are preparing an essay on a topic that is mostly unknown to you. It is necessary to use a number of resources to accumulate the knowledge you will need to formulate a thesis and prepare a meaningful essay. Plagiarism is an idea, thought, expression, etc, taken from another and used for your own purposes. You must put everything in your own words, or if you are going to quote from a source or someone’s ideas, you must give credit to the person whose work you are using. This is done through the preparation of footnotes/endnotes and a bibliography. There are examples in this STYLE GUIDE to illustrate how to cite sources. Read a portion of the text and summarize it in your own words. DO NOT COPY information from a source word for word.


Use your notes to develop your essay outline. When you see your essay as a picture on paper, you will be able to determine what your needs are: more information, less information, thesis has/has not enough support, where emphasis is needed, etc. Sub-statements into which you have broken your controlling idea for analysis should support your thesis statement. The essay outline is a way to ‘manipulate’ your information and ideas to provide the framework for your essay writing.

This is the time to get your ideas down on paper, using your outline as a guide. If you find that the introduction to your paper is causing you some trouble, write down your thesis statement and carry on from there. Exact expression can be done at the revision stage and is less important than shaping at this point.

Ensure that the paragraphs are constructed carefully and correctly. Each paragraph must have:
a) topic sentence
b) evidence or argument which supports the main idea
c) transitional device
Adopt a systematic method of revising your rough draft (i.e content, then organization, then mechanics, then use of language, etc.) and read through several times, analyzing each. A peer, parent, teacher, etc. should help revise.

Proofread your essay to check for spelling, grammar, writing and typing errors. Then read your essay aloud to check for flow, content and use of language. Your paper is not complete until this vital step has been taken.