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Start Thinking!

Introduction to this Guide

Welcome to the Dartmouth High School Research Guide. Now that you are attending a senior high school, you have morphed from being a youngster into a young adult, from a student into a scholar, from a searcher into a researcher. Your academic experience from here on will require the use of advanced research skills. It is best to develop efficient and effective research skills early and practice those skills to proficiency throughout your high school career. Information literacy is essential for every student, whether for merely gathering information or preparing for a presentation or research paper. The steps outlined in this guide will lead you through a complex process in the most time effective and academically sound way. Examples are provided throughout the guide for student use. If you are doing a research paper, you should begin by getting a calendar and marking the due date for your final draft and any other due dates already assigned by your teacher. Identify the day that marks one full week before the final draft due date; this is the day your rough draft should be complete. You will need an entire week to edit the rough draft and correct any errors before the final draft is due. The library staff is available to assist you in this process. Please ask for assistance early. Link to and print out The Big6 Research Paper Organizer. This online organizer and checklist will go a long way in keeping you on track during the next weeks. Also, try out the Assignment Calculator: it can help you "beat the clock!" Be sure to use its links in order to get organized on stay on task! ... sooooo goooood!

Topic Selection

Students may be assigned very specific topics for research or given free reign for choosing a topic. It is up to the student to be clear about the expectations of the teacher’s assignment. Before beginning, go back and reread the assignment sheet. If anything about the assignment seems unclear, speak to your teacher for clarification before you begin. You do not want to waste your time doing the wrong assignment.

Every assigned topic, even those that seem narrow, has flexibility. So choose a topic or narrow an assigned topic so that it is of interest to you, or choose one that you want to learn more about. The laws of attraction are at play, even when one is doing scholarly work! Research is especially difficult if you choose a topic in which you have no interest.

Brainstorm and list 3-5 questions about your topic that you want to learn more about. These questions should be broad and open-ended, meaning there should be multiple ways to answer these questions.

The Dartmouth High School staff takes a constructivist approach to library services and encourages students to formulate their own questions, and then guides them in the process of finding their own answers.


Topic: Ernesto “Che” Guevara


1. Why has the image of Che become so popular?

2. What was Che’s philosophy?

3. What experiences led Che to become the principal revolutionary in Latin American history?

4. What role did Che play in the Cuban Revolution and later in the new Cuban government?

5. What were Che’s goals?

6. Did the new Cuban government of which Che was a part fix the problems of the former regime?

Finding background information

Begin by using general sources such as textbooks and print as well as online encyclopedias to take notes. See the “Organizing Research” Notes section in the Start Researching section of this guide. Use the indexes and tables of content to survey information on your topic. Additionally, you may use teacher lecture notes and handouts as sources for background information. Also, check bibliographies or the list of books the author used; sometimes they can give you more suggestions for sources. Do not limit your background check to merely your narrow topic. Expand the research into topics that are linked to your topic. Be sure to record the full bibliographic information on all resources used and keep a list of resources that you may be able to use for the final paper. Even though it is time consuming, typing these sources in the proper format now will save you time later. See the “Parenthetical …" in the Start Researching section of this guide

For example, when researching Che Guevara, one would clearly research Ernesto Guevara in textbooks and encyclopedias, but one would also research the Cuban Revolution and Latin American history at the time of Che’s life. This gives one a context for understanding the specific topic, in this case Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
Writing a summary

When the assignment is a research paper, this is probably where your teachers will want a summary of your topic. A summary gives a broad overview of main points gathered from a number of general resources and is always followed by source citations. The expectation is that you understand the basics of the topic and the context in which your topic exists before you proceed with your deeper research. This summary should be paraphrased. Paraphrase by restating the author’s words or ideas into different words, grammar and structure. Reread all your notes, and then write this summary without looking at your notes. The information included in this summary should be general enough to be found in most sources on the topic. It needs to be followed by a list of sources consulted.


      The “Che” that appears on Tee-shirts across the world, known as a crusader for the common man, came from an upper middle class Argentinean family. Prior to his revolutionary career, he studied to be a doctor. During the semester breaks, he would travel through Latin America meeting many people and sharing their life’s experiences. These trips opened his mind to the plight of the common person. After earning his medical degree, Che met a man who will change his life, Ricardo Rojo. Guevara changes his career plans and travels to Guatemala where he and Ricardo immerse themselves in the resistance to the right-wing coup of democratically elected Jacob Arbenz. It is in Guatemala where Che meets a few Cuban rebels, and after fleeing to Mexico, he meets Fidel Castro. He then joins the Cubans and fights on the front lines for two years until the dictator Batista is overthrown.

      Fulgencio Batista had been dictator in Cuba for seven years following his own coup d’etat. His policies eliminated democracy. He voided the constitution, removed Congress, and abolished political parties Although the economy of Cuba thrived during his reign, the poorest Cubans never saw the benefits; there were few schools, a poor health care system, unstable employment, and workers had no right to strike. The young and idealistic opposed Batista most fervently. It was this corrupt Batista government that Che helped to overthrow in 1959.

      Ernesto “Che” Guevara held several positions in the new Cuban government: head of agricultural reform, head of the national bank, and head of the ministry of industry. His revolutionary spirit is re-ignited on his travels in poor Latin American countries during this time, and finally in 1965 he decides to leave Cuba to help aid other peoples in their dreams of independence. He hoped for a Pan-American Union. He is killed in Bolivia in 1967 by government forces. Che has become a martyr for the poor and oppressed throughout Latin America and the world.

Works Consulted:

Dette, James. “Defending Che.” Commonweal Foundation. Expanded Academic ASAP. Jan 2005: n. pag. Web. 13 Nov.

Dorfman, Ariel. “Che Guevara.” Time. 14 June 1999. Web. 13 Nov. 2009.

Gordon, Irving. World History. New York: AMSCO School Publications, Inc., 1993. Print.

Kornbluth, Peter. “The Death of Che Guevara: Declassified.” George Washington University. 1997. Web. 13 Nov. 2009.

Skidmore, Thomas and Peter Smith. Modern Latin America. New York: Oxford
      University Press, 1997. Print.  

Reevaluate Topic and Approach

Once the initial research is complete and the summary is written, take a moment to decide whether there is enough information available to continue the assignment. If not, decide on a new topic. If you are not sure if you have enough sources or information, then conference with the teacher. If you wish to continue with this topic, you need to narrow down the topic to a defendable thesis. Review the questions that you brainstormed earlier. The topic we have used as an example, Che Guevara, is too broad. Based on your initial research you should be comfortable identifying the area of your topic that has sufficient resources for a full research paper.

In the example of Che, there are many books, including published autobiographical journals, on Che’s early experiences.

Works Consulted:

"Library Research Guide Introduction." Pentucket Regional High School. Web. 07 Dec. 2009.


"Research Advice." Williams College Libraries. Web. 07 Dec. 2009.