Research Skills - Mercy High School

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Research Skills

The ability to find, use, and evaluate information is integral to the success of any research endeavor. These skills are explicitly taught in the library at Mercy High School.

Every 9th grader attends Freshman Seminar in the library once per cycle throughout the first semester. Additionally, teachers of any year level may reserve time in the library to bring their classes for presentations that are customized to meet the needs of a particular assignment. Students may also take advantage of individualized help from the library staff by using the library before and after school or during an unscheduled class period.


  1. Getting Started – Know all the requirements of the research assignment. Have a clear understanding of what is expected of you – length of paper, number and kinds of sources required, due dates, etc.
  2. Before Coming to the Library – Write down everything you already know about the topic. Identify subtopics or questions about your main topic. Think of keywords, synonyms and phrases that could be associated with the topic, subtopics or questions. These will be helpful when using library catalogs, indexes, online databases, and Internet search engines. 
  3. Finding Information – Determine the best possible resources for obtaining the information required. Remember to consider both print and non-print. The Mercy High School Library collection has been developed to support the curriculum of the school; therefore, you are strongly encouraged to search the library catalog for resources. Audiovisual material, CD-ROM software and online databases complement the print resources of the library.
  4. Evaluating Information – Judge the trustworthiness and relevance of the information found. Is it scholarly, accurate, current and unbiased? If you are using information from the Internet have you performed a website evaluation?

    Many students are overwhelmed by the amount of information available on a particular topic. When deciding whether to use information, you should ask yourself the following questions: Is the information pertinent to my research assignment? Have I extracted only valuable information? Does it meet the requirements of the project?
  5. Using Information – Responsible use of information is a critical research skill. You must be aware of copyright and plagiarism issues.

    Copyright Law gives authors and inventors exclusive rights to their works for a limited time. It prevents individuals from copying, reproducing, distributing or performing someone else’s work without permission. “Fair Use” provides an exemption for educational purposes if certain other factors are met. The Checklist for Fair Use from the Copyright Management Center at Indiana and Purdue Universities may help you to determine whether your use of copyrighted work falls under this legal exemption.

    Plagiarism results when an individual does not give credit to the original source of information. Students must remember that original work includes ideas as well as written words. Using someone else’s written words or ideas is generally considered acceptable in research provided the original source is properly cited. You may want to review the Plagiarism Lesson on the Indiana University website to determine your skill at avoiding plagiarism.

    Mercy High School requires that you follow MLA guidelines when citing sources.


If at any time you have difficulty with any of the steps listed above, ask a Librarian for Help.