Student Research Tracker

A research tracker provides students with a way to document and reflect on their research throughout a project
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About This Strategy

The Student Research Tracker is a graphic organizer students complete throughout the research process that helps them focus on the research topic as they gather information during the project. The Student Research Tracker provides students with the opportunity to summarize their research as they engage in the research process and then reflect on what they learned at the end of the research process. The tracker also provides space for students to keep track of specific quotations that support their topic, and it supports the proper citation of resources in research. This strategy can be used in any content level at the secondary level (grades 6-12).

Implementation Steps

15-30 minutes
  1. Provide students with a project or problem that they need to solve. Consider using the Building the Driving Question strategy or the Design Thinking Backwards Planning Template in the resource section below or available as strategies in the BetterLesson lab to develop the project or problem.

  2. Decide if students will be working individually or collaboratively on the project and research. If collaboratively, divide students into their groups.

  3. Provide students with the Student Research Tracker Template (in the resources below). This can be provided digitally (see tech tools section for more information about digital uses) or as a hard copy that students fill out.

    • If students are in collaborative groups, the group should fill out the first two sections (Research Question and Thesis Statement) together. The rest of the sections should be completed individually as students research their topic.

    • If students are not in collaborative groups, each student should fill out the student research tracker individually.

  4. Meet with students throughout the research process to look over their student research tracker and discuss any questions/concerns they have. Make sure students are working at a pace that will allow them to finish their project after the research is complete. Consider creating a timeline with the class of how much research should be completed each day, so students do not feel overwhelmed or like they are out of time.

  5. When the research phase of the project is done, meet with the students (if completed individually) or with the collaborative groups. Areas to include in the check-in:

    • Make sure that students have gathered enough information and research to complete their project.

    • Ask students or collaborative groups to give a brief explanation of how the research and findings will drive the completion of the project or task.

  6. Students should use the information on the Student Research Tracker to begin completing the project or task.

Student Research Tracker for Distance Learning

Use digital tools for students to track their research and reflect on their learning process. 

Implementation steps:

  1. As you would in a traditional setting, provide students with a project or problem that they need to solve. In distance learning, consider creating a list of topics with possible sources so that students do not get stuck while engaging in research on their own. Consider using a tool like Newsela to curate sources for students so they are easy for students to find and use, which is especially important for distance learning. 

  2. Create a Google document with the project's requirements for students to view or create a screencast with Loom or Screencastify where you explain the project to students. 

  3. Share the Student Research Tracker Template from the resources above with students. 

    • Students could also create their own personal Sutori to track their research. They could post the link to their source and their summary of their source. Check the tutorials in the resource below for more on how to use Sutori. 

  4. Create a video in which you model how to complete the tracker or Sutori. Specifically, make sure to model how to use search terms and how to find credible sources. Use Loom or Screencastify to create your video, or create a screencast directly in FlipGrid. Students can then respond to your FlipGrid with their own video if they have questions. 

  5. Consider having students post a daily or weekly reflection on FlipGrid about the status of their research, about what they have learned so far, or about challenges they are facing. Students can respond directly to students' videos with a video of their own. Consider sharing a new "grid" on FlipGrid each day. This gives you an opportunity to post a daily video to students with feedback, suggestions, and encouragement. This can help to build community in a distance learning setting. 

  6. Meet with students 1:1 throughout the research process. Consider having students sign up for a time with you using a tool such as Calendly. If students cannot meet with you 1:1, develop a systemic way to provide personalized feedback for students on their research. You could use the Talk and Comment option on their research tracker, provide video feedback with an individualized Loom, or email or text students directly. 

  7. When all students are complete, choose a method for students to share their research with their peers. You could: 

    • Have students share during a live, synchronous video session. Students could share to the whole class or share in a Zoom breakout room. 

    • Have students create a presentation with Google Slide or Prezi. Students could also create a poster with Piktochart or Canva.  The links can be shared with peers and students could comment using a Google Form, Padlet, or FlipGrid. Refer to the BL strategies Poster Session or Group Presentation or Gallery Walk shared below. 

Special Education Modification

Provide students with learning disabilities that affect their organization or reading skills with a curated list of resources or search topics they can use for research. This will help them not get overwhelmed with too much information that may or may not be important to the research or project.

EL Modification

Provide English Learners with a curated list of resources they can use for research. You can ensure that these resources are accessible to students by annotating challenging vocabulary or choosing resources that are at an appropriate reading level. 

Questions to Consider

  1. What are benefits to using a highly structured graphic organizer like this and what are the drawbacks?

  2. How could you introduce this research project and graphic organizer to your students?

  3. How does this strategy support students to conduct research?

  4. How would you modify or adapt this strategy or sheet to meet the needs of your students?

Tech Tools

Google Docs

  1. Google Docs is an online word processor (part of Google Apps) that allows you create and edit documents collaboratively in a web browser.
  2. Google Docs supports this strategy by allowing the students to create a copy of the template and fill in the information as they go. They can also link resources into the document. Collaborative groups can access each others documents and comment/revise as needed. The teacher is able to track student progress, see information in real time, and provide comments to individual students as needed