9th graders learn research skills through the I-Search Project

“Information is not knowledge.” -Albert Einstein

The I-Search paper is designed to teach you and your reader something valuable about a topic. As opposed to the standard research paper in which a writer assumes a detached and objective point of view to reveal newly acquired facts, this paper allows your voice to thrive.

You begin with a passion to know something. You articulate the specifics of your curiosity. You learn new ways of finding answers. You follow the paths of curiosity by reading what interests you. You organize your findings and write honestly about where you learned each new fact or from whom you gained each new perspective.

This was how the 9th grade English classes began a month-long immersion in research for the I-Search project. I-Search is a key part of the 9th grade English program and an exciting opportunity for students to pursue areas of personal interest while developing deeper research skills. The “I” in I-Search is about students choosing an inquiry that is significant, culminating in a paper that discusses not only their research findings but also a reflection on the process.

“There is one thing one has to have: either a soul that is cheerful by nature or a soul made cheerful by work, love, art and knowledge.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

Providing support for this endeavour is a team effort; Melissa Boehman, David Rynerson and Eduardo Gomez Sanchez (the Grade 9 English team) work closely with library staff. Together they teach students about accessing information through a variety of media to expand and refine student search skills (this includes advanced search engine strategies and learning about databases), and defining and practicing authentication of quality resources.

When asked to share her reactions to I-Search, Grade 9 student Nana Yoshimura, said it was an insightful and memorable experience; “It is nice to work on a long-term project independently and also the fact that we can research whatever we want to know more about. I think the best part about this I-Search project is how we start our project with a personal experience or interest, and from there start the whole process. I discovered that it is extremely significant to focus your search in order to gather relevant information. I will probably remember this whole process since it is quite a big project and I enjoyed it. To make a research paper really interesting for the audience is one of the most difficult yet crucial parts of the whole process of writing the paper.”

Why does I-Search matter?

Linda Hayakawa (HS librarian) said she believes that the I-Search project “gives students a great introduction to the research process that they may not have had previously experienced to this extent.” The library plays a key role in supporting students throughout the whole process including offering flipped classroom resources to differentiate lessons to meet a student’s specific needs. Along with the classroom teachers, librarians provided one-on-one support during the research process to coach students through higher order analysis of their resources, cross-referencing and validating facts, and helping them learn how to appropriately cite tricky sources.

“To repeat what others have said, requires education; to challenge it, requires brains.” -Mary Pettibone Poole

We asked 9th grader, Sebastiano Matera what stood out for him through the I-Search process. He said; “Well the big thing that I learned from the I-Search project was that you can’t believe every single thing they tell you online. I-Search taught me how to be an intelligent and meticulous web browser, showing me the difference between something that’s legitimate and something that’s a complete hoax. And this becomes an extremely important piece of knowledge to have as you go on to university and even farther beyond. It has also taught me how to back my ideas up with valid and concrete evidence.”

Ruth Bender (Library support) pointed out that I-Search is “the whole process! Sometimes we teach parts—which is super important—but I-Search is the complete research cycle.” I-Search is one project among many during a high school student’s career that helps build a strong foundation for the kind of research students will be asked to do at college or in careers. (Glenda Baker, HS Instructional Technology Coach)

Samples of student I-Search projects

Excerpt from “Intelligence: What it really is” by Nana Yoshimura (grade 9 student)

Grade 9 student Nana holding one of the sources for her research

Grade 9 student Nana Yoshimura holding one of the sources for her research

Before jumping head first into my stack of questions, I decided to clarify on what intelligence is, and its method of scaling. Shortly after I started researching, I realized that I’ve made a terrible misconception. IQ test results do not thoroughly reflect one’s level of intellect, due to several reasons. First of all, various types of intelligence exist, consisting of naturalist intelligence, spatial intelligence, logical intelligence, and so forth. IQ test results are not devised to estimate those abilities. Second, while various types of intelligence reside, generalizing, intelligence is an overall cognitive problem-solving skill, which incorporates intellectual capacity and comprehension skills. I discovered that these abilities could be acquired and established by practice and effort. Meaning the IQ test does not measure the initial smartness of people, but rather the extent to which that innate ability has been put to work developing specific skills. From supplementary research, I discerned that intelligence is exceptionally convoluted, thus IQ tests are not capable of coping with every aspect of intelligence, but barely digs up to the very surface. It turns out to be that there is still no accurate method to measure intelligence.

Excerpt  from “Can we renew our energy?” by Sebastiano Matera

Are there certain factors that prohibit the use of renewable energy from moving forward? Who’s leading the movement for a greener-energy world? Will the use of renewable energy eventually outweigh its cons (specifically within ASIJ)? What’s Japan’s standpoint on the issue? Are they working to help the industry bloom or are they going to continue with their fossil fuel route ever since the earthquake? Can the world finally have the answer to the urgent question of whether or not renewable energy will be a good investment? I know that I am not a scientist with a PhD with numerous certificates from established colleges nor do I claim to know everything about renewable energy technology but that’s what this paper is about, discovering the information that will help me expand my knowledge on renewable energy. These are the questions for which I am curious to find answers for, because with this knowledge I will be able to revolutionize the thinking of the average consumer. I want to know if people are ready to take that monumental step, the much-needed commitment to help bring renewable energy into a new light.