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Inquiry and Research

Students need the fundamental skills and knowledge of inquiry and research to be information literate. Information literacy is a prerequisite for success in all subjects of the curriculum, for preparation for work and further education, and for lifelong learning.

The purpose of inquiry and research is to encourage high levels of critical thinking so that processes and resources are appropriate, conclusions are based on supporting evidence and problems are solved and decisions made that will extend learning for a lifetime.

All subjects require attention to the expectations of this strand. However, research demonstrates that students benefit most when they engage in systematic study of the process of research and in varied, continuous and well-planned opportunities to extend their information skills.

The resource-based learning programs offered by the integrating partnership between teacher and teacher-librarian ground research and information problem solving in a continuum of information skills and knowledge. This continuum can be described as the development of the metaskills of understanding of concepts/reasoning, organizing, communicating and applying through the process of preparing for research, accessing of information, processing of information and transferring learning.


The Importance of an Inquiry and Research Model for Problem- Solving and Decision-Making

There are comprehensive studies on the importance of research as a complex process that depends on and fosters higher-order knowledge and skills. Recent work by Kuhlthau, Eisenberg/Berkowitz, Irving, and Pitts/Stripling provides interesting international models (See Appendix A).

Several research-inquiry models have been in use in Ontario Schools over the years. Teacher-librarians have found that students learn best when schools adopt a consistent inquiry and research model across all grades and disciplines within a consistent information studies curriculum from grade to grade.

The Ontario School Library Association believes strongly that such a model should be central to all curricular documents. The OSLA has studied the wide range of literature and research in the field of information science and information studies, and has identified four stages which are common to all models:

  • Preparing for Research (e.g., defining question)
  • Accessing Resources (e.g., locating information)
  • Processing Information (e.g., evaluating information)
  • Transferring Learning (e.g. presenting information)

Table 6 outlines how these four stages synthesize various models and provide congruence with the diverse Ontario Curriculum documents.

Table 6. A Comparison of Inquiry / Research Process Models
Information Studies
K - 12
Cognitive Skills Model Social Science Independent Study English Writing Process Mathematical Problem Solving Tech Design Process Scientific Method Inquiry Process
Stage 1

Preparing for Research


Stage 2

Accessing Resources


Stage 3

Processing Information


Stage 4

Transferring Learning

1. Focus
what is the question

2. Organize
plan possibilities and sources

3. Locate

4. Record


5. Evaluate and Assess

6. Synthesize and Conclude

7. Apply

8. Communicate

1. Focus


2. Gather Information
locate sources


3. Record
write a thesis statement

4. Use
extract information

5. Organize
synthesize and present

6. Evaluate for Effectiveness

1. Decide on topic
focus ideas

2. Brainstorm
group data outline

3. Write
Introduction, organize information, rough draft

4. Revise
edit, proof, add/delete, conclusion

5. Final Copy

6. Communicate

1. Understand the problem


2. Make a Plan


3. Carry out the plan


4. Look back over the work done


5. Communicate the solution

1. Develop a focus


2. Develop a framework


3. Choose the best solution


4. Implement a plan


5. Reflect on the process and product

1. Decide on the problem


2. Write hypothesis


3. Design and conduct experiment

4. Observe relationships

5. Formulate conclusions

6. Apply results

7. Present information

1. Exploring


2. Inquiring


3. Predicting possibilities


4. Planning and collecting

5. Deciding

6. Communicating

7. Evaluating

8. Applying

To assist in the assessment of student achievement, Table 2 organizes the overall expectations of inquiry and research according to the four metaskills.

To help design and implement inquiry-based and research-based activities, Figure 3 (below) reorganizes these overall expectations as steps in the research process itself, from identifying the task and beginning to find resources to the higher level thinking skills such as synthesizing findings, formulating conclusion and transferring skills and knowledge to new situations. The research process is often depicted as a linear progression but the circularity of the diagram shows how the development of information skills and knowledge is as recursive as information itself.

Figure 4 (below) recasts this inquiry and research process in a simpler diagram.

Tables 7a, 7b, 7c, 7d and 7e represent a scope and sequence of the knowledge and skills of Inquiry and Research to help track student progress as a continuum for Kindergarten to Grade 12. Such progress is made possible when teachers and teacher-librarians work together to collect demonstrations of authentic performances grade to grade.

Figure 9. The Process of Inquiry and Research: Model 1

Figure 3. The Process of Inquiry and Research: Model 1


Figure 9. The Process of Inquiry and Research: Model 2

Figure 4. The Process of Inquiry and Research: Model 2

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Inquiry and Research: Kindergarten
Inquiry and Research: Grade 1
Inquiry and Research: Grade 2
Inquiry and Research: Grade 3
Inquiry and Research: Grade 4
Inquiry and Research: Grade 5
Inquiry and Research: Grade 6
Inquiry and Research: Grade 7
Inquiry and Research: Grade 8
Inquiry and Research: Grade 9
Inquiry and Research: Grade 10
Inquiry and Research: Grade 11
Inquiry and Research: Grade 12

Preface Intro Achieve Inq & Res Info Tech Info & Soc
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