In Teaching Search Strategies to History Students I wrote about the importance of identifying the goal of a research task before ever typing a query into a search box. I was reminded of that last week when someone asked me “what does the research process look like in the age of AI?”
My short answer was that it is still important to complete a short pre-search checklist before typing a query into a search box. In fact, in the age of AI it might be even more important than ever to have a clear goal for a research task before typing that first query into the search box on any search engine.
AI is great at making suggestions for things to search for and suggestions of things related to a topic. However, without a clear goal for the research task, students who turn to an AI tool for suggestions may find themselves going down a path that while interesting isn’t actually moving them toward their goal.
So use your favorite AI tool for suggestions, but just make sure you know what your goal is when you start the research process. To that end, I have a simple pre-search worksheet that you might find helpful. A PDF of that worksheet is available below.