What if you have to choose a topic and you don't know where to start? It's a good idea to choose something you are interested in. If you still need help coming up with a good topic that you can find lots of information about, check out these sites and look through their subject lists.
A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing. (Definition from Wikipedia)
This tool is a free-form diagram that you create yourself to better see how a subject or an idea comes together.
Skimming and Scanning
Skimming and scanning is a strategy to quickly decide if a resource fits your need. This will help you,the researcher, focus on learning from information that relates to your search instead of spending time reading information you do not need. Here are a few tools you may find in the resource texts that can make finding what you need easier.
Table of Contents Page: Found at the beginning of the book, the contents page usually provides titles and descriptions with the beginning page number for each chapter. This can help you go directly to a chapter that has information related to your question's key words.
Index: Generally found at the back of a nonfiction book, the index is a list of words in alphabetical order with the page number where that topic is located. Think of the many different words for describing the same thing. That way you can look up the same idea in many different ways in the index. Know the synonyms of your key words.
Guide Words: Guide words are most commonly used in resources that are arranged in alphabetical order. You can quickly locate information in these sources by locating a section that relates to your question's key words.
Words in Bold or Italic: Non Fiction texts often have their information arranged in chunks. Look at the words in bold or italic that separate the information into sections. Ask yourself, "Do I think this will help me with my topic, interests, or key words?" If the answer is no, skip that section. Keep repeating this until you find a section worth reading. Words in bold or italic are often key words in the text or words that need to be defined and can be found in the glossary.
Teachers: You may want to create a classroom visual with key terms to be skimmed or scanned for so students can see, read, and listen. Then discuss each term. Give hands on practice of where or how to find the term in a traditional resource. Allow students to locate each skimming tool in the resource. Introduce skimming and scanning now, but reinforce it after questions have been formed and the investigation has begun. Emphasize the importance of the topic and key words with each skimming and scanning type. Remind them to always keep the topic and the question's key words in mind. Students have difficulty understanding that during research they will not read everything, only sections that relate to their key words. Following are links to a few sample lessons for introducing your students to Skimming, Scanning,and Scrolling for Key Words.
Here are some GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS that may help you arrange your facts and thoughts in a way that links them together on a page so that your eyes and mind can connect and organize the ideas or information you have come up with.
KWL CHART- Helps you think through a possible topic you might choose get more information about.
KWS CHART- Will help you think about possible places you can find answers to your questions about your topic.
CLUSTER or WEB CHART- You can use this tool to add subtopics to your topic or details to your subtopics.
SANDWICH CHART - Instead of note cards, younger students might like using this chart to help form details for your subject.
PRE-RESEARCH PLANNER - Like a KWL Chart kicked up a notch. Critical thinking ideas in Wow! factor box.