The teacher tells everyone that they have to complete a research report.  Eyes roll across the room, whispers fill the room like buzzing bees on a spring door.  One boy collapses in fear.  Only one shy girl in the corner smiles and exuberantly shouts, “My old school taught me about the Big 6.”

Okay, okay…maybe that is a bit dramatic, but the Big 6 is a useful tool to guide students down the path of research enlightenment.  As the name implies, the Big 6 has six steps:

Step 1:  Task Definition.

Step 2:  Information-Seeking Strategies

Step 3:  Location and Access

Step 4:  Use of Information

Step 5:  Synthesis

Step 6:  Evaluation

What Am I Reseraching?

As with any type of writing, the first step in using the Big 6 is to decide on a topic.  After a topic is selected, consider what you already know about the topic and what you want to know.  The use of a KWL graphic organizer might make this process simpler.







What Resources Are Available?

After deciding on a topic and determining what you still need to know about the topic, it is time to start searching for resources.  Step 2 of the Big 6 is about seeking out that information.  Once you have identified available resources, select only the best resources.

Locate, locate, locate…

Step 3 requires that you physically locate the sources where your information can be found.  After finding these sources, you are ready to begin learning all of the info that you determined you wanted to know in step 1.

Note taking:

The ability to decide which information is relevant to the topic is crucial in step 4.  Using an effective note taking method will assist here.  Information may be gathered from print, visual, and audio sources.   Successful extraction of the information from your sources is the compilation of step 4.


After gathering all of your information, it is time to start organizing it.  Depending on what your intended purpose for the information was this may be that you’re ready to start composing a speech or writing a feature article.  For other researchers, it may mean that you are ready to create a PowerPoint presentation or a poster.   Ultimately, step 5 is about organizing the information to get it ready to present to others.


Step 6 completes the research process.  Now is the time for evaluation on the finished product and the effectiveness of the problem-solving process.

The Super 3:

The thoughts of trying to guide third grade students through completing the Big 6 is a bit daunting, so thankfully, there is a simpler research model called the Super 3.  This elementary research model concentrates on three simple components:  beginning, middle, and end.

The Beginning:

Here, students will consider the assignment that they have been given.  They may ask questions similar to:

  • What am I supposed to do?

What will a good job look like?

How can I find out how to do this?

The Middle:

The middle is about actually DOING the activity.  This may involve students reading, talking, drawing, or viewing something.

The End:

The end if very similar to the Big 6’s “Evaluation” step.  Here students will ask:

  • Am I done?

Did I do what I was supposed to do?

Should I do something else before I turn it in?

Final Thoughts:

When preparing to complete an assignment or gather some research, you may never say, I am going to use “The Super 3” or “The Big 6”, but whether we consciously realize it or not, this is the process that our brains process research.  By truly considering what we want to know prior to searching for it, the task of finding it becomes a little easier.

The Super 3 and The Big 6:  A Guide to Research Skills