The I-search Paper helps you, as a student, to incorporate the story of the search itself into the writing of the paper. It also permits you to search for the answer to a question that is personally important rather than choosing a topic that may have little bearing on your life and little connection to your personal interests.
The Assignment: An I-search paper calls for you to tell virtually every step of the search that led to the answer of your question, including dead-ends and failures, which means that you can be drafting your paper as you proceed with your search rather than waiting until you have all the information you need before deciding upon what you will actually write. It also means that you can tell your readers of your frustrations as you underwent your search. Even if you have not found an answer to your question, you can still write your paper, explaining to your readers at the end of your paper that your question remains unanswered and describing what you did to learn that was worthwhile, or how you would amend your search on a future attempt.
The Question: Spend some time deciding and formulating your question. Do some brainstorming to come up with a list of several possible questions and explain to yourself in writing why some of these questions would lead to an interesting search.
The Lead (introduction): All I-search papers must begin with an interesting lead, something that pulls your readers into your paper making them want to keep reading. Most introductions take the form of a narrative, a story relating where in your life your question came from.
The library search: About a third of the way through the semester, we will visit our campus library and you will be provided much useful information about undertaking your research project, and how helpful librarians can be throughout your project. Use this valuable resource.
The Internet search: You’ve already been well-briefed regarding the perils of much information you’ll find on the Internet. You’ll encounter information that can seem to be readily accessible and fast, but the amount of information we often receive during Internet searches can be overwhelming, and there is always the problem of knowing for certain that the information we receive is valid. We suggest that you use the CRAAP test.
The story of the search: Your story about your I-search should be both interesting and informative. It can be written in casual language, as opposed to the more formal academic language of your research paper, because you are essentially writing about something only you may benefit from.
The conclusion: Here, you have some options; the conclusion of your I-search paper can take many forms. Generally, it contains an explanation of the success you have had in answering your question and what you intend to do now that you have the answer you wanted. Sometimes, your conclusion might explain that you failed to answer your question, but that you did gather some interesting information and have now changed your question to continue your search. At other times, students might express disappointed, or even anger, at how difficult it was to find answers to a question they feel to be crucial. That anger may result in a determination to discover why it is that so little information is readily available on an important topic. All conclusions must be interesting and leave your readers with something to think about, now that they have experienced your search with you.