Now it's time to start finding the information that you will need to produce your essay,team presentation, and city narrative and complete your city design. Research can be a lot of fun because it is a scavenger hunt for knowledge. Hopefully, you've completed your preliminary project plan and started your city plan outline and your community outline so that you have a roadmap to guide you in your quest for knowledge. There are two basic types of research, secondary and primary.

Secondary Research

It may seem strange that we're going to talk about secondary research before we talk about primary research, but it is the type of research that you will use the most. Secondary research does not mean that it is less important than primary. Instead it means that you don't have direct access to the primary creator of the information. You get it through another source such as a book or webpage. Secondary research sources are books, periodical articles, scientific papers, DVDs, webpages, and even TV programs such as those on the Discovery or Science channels. Sometimes content shown on YouTube can also be used if it is a science program that is no longer shown on TV. However, they do NOT include Wikipedia, comic books, tweets, Facebook posts, and most blogs.

Collecting Research

Research is usually an individual effort so you will have to copy the information that you find so that you can share it with your team. There are many ways to do that. An old way is to write the information on individual 3 x 5 cards and it still works. Another way is to make a copy of the article or book page on the copier in the library. I saw some students at the university library recently who are using their cell phones to take pictures of the pages. If you're going to use this method make sure that the photos are clear and readable. It does have the advantage that it is in electronic form and can be easily e-mailed to your other teammates. Make sure that no matter what method you use that all research is put in the Research Folder in your Project Archive. Also, if your research is in electronic form make sure that it is backed up.

If the source of your information is the Internet see if the information is available as a PDF file. If it is, download it and put it in the Research Folder in the Project Archive. If it isn't, highlight it, then copy it and paste it into a page in your word processor. If that doesn't work use the print screen button on your keyboard. This makes a copy of what you see in your screen and puts it on the Windows clipboard. Open your word processor and paste the information in a blank document. Make certain that you get all the bibliography information.

Hint: use file names that begin with the current date (yymmdd) and then describe the information in the file e.g. 110831 solar panel design research. When you use this method, Windows sorts the files in date sequence oldest to youngest and it makes it easier to find files that you're looking for.

If you're using information from a TV program you might want to TiVo the program so that you can look at it repeatedly to get the correct information. If you don't have TiVo, many networks and cable companies rebroadcast programs on the Internet or a special channel after they've been shown on the regular TV channel. The benefits to these methods are that you can pause and replay portions of the programas often as you wish. If you're using visual media like TV programs and DVDs, you should write down the important points that you want to use in the project so that you can share them with your teammates. Always remember to write the bibliography information and put your notes in the Research Folder in the Project Archive.


One of the first places to start your quest for information is your school or public library (media center). The information in the library is well-organized and easy to find. Librarians have stocked the library with information from reliable sources. Librarians are there to help you find what you're looking for in the library. If you're having problems, talk to them.

Printed information has a number of forms. There are books written by experts. There are periodicals (magazines) such as Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, or Architectural Digest. There are also periodicals produced by industry or professional associations like the New England Journal of Medicine. Recent newspapers may also contain information that you can use. All of these sources of information are available at most public libraries. There are published guides that the librarian can show you with specialized lists of information called Readers Guide to Periodic Literature.

Hint: if time permits you might want to read some science fiction or futurist publications to get an idea of what the dreamers think.

Another source of printed material can be government and Chamber of Commerce publications. Local governments as well as Chambers of Commerce print brochures and booklets that they use to promote their city. You can probably obtain one easily from either organization. You can use this information to help you write your city narrative and prepare brochures for your presentation.

Make sure that all copies of printed information are kept in the Research Folder in the Project Archive. Also make sure that every piece of printed research has bibliography information attached to it.


DVDs containing TV programs that are no longer available on TV are often available at your public library. There may also be special DVDs that contain lectures or industry information. Remember to voice record or write the information that you need. Make sure to also record the bibliography information from DVDs. Again, put the information in the Research Folder in the Project Archive.

The Internet

One of the primary uses of the Internet is to find information. However, unlike libraries, it is almost totally disorganized and contains a lot of worthless information. We use search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. to help us find the information that we are looking for. The best way to use these tools is to be very specific about what we're looking for. For instance, if you search for "solar energy" you will get pages and pages of sources of information. However, if you search for "solar energy research", "solar energy production", or "the future of solar energy" the search engine will return you a shorter list of sources.

How do you know the information is reliable? That's a difficult question, but normally addresses ending with ".edu" or ".gov" have good information. Website addresses ending with ".org" can be reliable if they are for industry and professional organizations. You might want to ask your parents or teacher to help you with these websites. Website addresses ending in ".com", ".net", or anything else probably have limited value because the websites are there to promote a specific product or company.

YouTube may also be a source of information especially if there are clips from old TV documentary programs there. YouTube also has the advantage that you can replay the video clips. Video clips that you might want to look at include "James Burke’s Connections" documentary series. It's great for helping you understand how inventions caused new inventions to be made throughout history.

When you are surfing the Internet, it is always a good idea to have a parent or a teacher as your copilot. They can help you identify the good sources of information. Also, make sure that your antivirus software is current and functioning.

TV Programs

TV programs may also be good sources of information, if they are documentaries. PBS, the Discovery Channel, and the Science Channel are good sources of these types of programs. Scan your TV listings to find programs that may have information that you can use. Remember what we told you earlier about using and collecting information from this source.

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