Stage 1: Define

Steps in this stage:

  • Read the assignment instructions and assessment criteria. Highlight key words.
  • Brainstorm what you already know about the topic
  • Complete some quick background research on the topic (e.g. using an encyclopaedia)
  • Pose questions to guide your research.
  • Plan how you will present your work.

Questions to ask:

  • Do I understand my assignment and what I am being asked to do?
  • Can I choose how I will present my assignment? If so, what is the best way?
  • How long have I got to do my assignment? How can I break down the assignment into manageable chunks?


Tools to help you complete this stage:

Understanding your assignment and topic

Defining Your Task Worksheet Answer the questions on this sheet to get a better idea of where you are headed with your research (From The Research Safari website)

Define Your Project Parameters Look under the ‘Resources’ heading on the right-hand side for relevant videos & links

Define Your Topic Look under the ‘Resources’ heading on the right-hand side for relevant videos & links

Encyclopedia Britannica Schools and Use these reference sites to help define your topic and get an overall understanding.

Futurelab Thinking Guides Use these graphic organisers to help shape, define and focus your ideas for an assignment.

Spider Map Use this template to organise the main ideas and sub-ideas of the topic.

Inverted Triangle Use this template to narrow down a broad topic into a more specific one.


Exploring what you know

KWL Chart Complete the first two sections of this chart – What you Know and what you Want to Know – before you begin your research, then reflect on what you Learnt at the end of the research process.

Cool Tools 4 Research: Defining A collection of online tools to help you to define and understand your research assignment.


Web2.0 Brainstorming & Mindmapping sites:

Mindnode An app for Mac, iPad and iPhone (Children under 14 years of age will need parental permission to download)

Stormboard A collaborative online brainstorming tool. Sign up for a free account to brainstorm with up to 5 people and share pictures & videos (users must be at least 13 years old). A free online mind-mapping tool. To save and print, users can create an account by simply providing a username and password.

Popplet A free mind-mapping tool for the web and iPad that allows you to insert text and pictures. To create an account you must be at least 13 years old.


Web2.0 Collaborative Idea Sharing Sites:

Padlet Share sticky notes, pictures and videos (Users must be at least 13 years of age).

Lino Similar to the site above, use this tool to share sticky notes, pictures and videos (Users must be at least 13 years of age).

Developing questions

Define Your Questions Look under the ‘Resources’ heading on the right-hand side for links and information.

The Knowledge Compass This site will help you develop effective questions for your research task.

Question Matrix A matrix of question stems based on Bloom’s Taxonomy to help you create questions to guide your research.

Question Generator A fun way to create questions – this tool lets you spin the generator and provides you with question stems.

Creating Focus Questions A Word document that provides prompts to help you write focus questions.

Prewriting Questions for Exploring Ideas Questions you can ask yourself about your topic to help you think of ideas.

Six Thinking Hats Looking at your topic from different perspectives might give you more of an idea what aspect of your topic you want to explore.

Planning your assignment

Research Project Calculator Use the Research Project Calculator to break down your assignment into steps and follow the timeline provided.