Students How to Do Online Research
When I first
started teaching technology, I focused more on the technical side.
How to insert pictures, how to add sounds, how to do all the fancy
buttons and bells.
It was the least
satisfying experience in my entire teaching career. I also found
out that the students weren’t happy either. They had made
some amazing hypermedia projects, including web pages, but they
lacked substance. Surprisingly, the students instinctively knew
that without the substance to back up the project, without the heart,
there really is no project.
The next year,
I went to my principal and said, “I want to redesign my class.
Instead of teaching technology, I want to teach research. “
no matter what project I have planned, I first teach research skills.
I found a list of the six steps to online research, and have used
these steps ever since in every class I teach.
First, I make
my students learn the list of the six steps to online research.
- SORTING &
Then, I talk
about each step and what it means to me, to them, and for the class.
You must understand the assignment before you can begin to ask questions
about the project.
The idea is to make sure you (the student) understand what the teacher
wants you to research. Once you understand the topic, then you should
brainstorm and write down some questions about the topic that interest
you. Talk to your parents and to friends and even other teachers
about your topic and find out what others might find interesting
about your topic.
This is a great time to come up with key words to use with search
Once you have some questions, then plan out your project. How
long is it going to take? Where should you look for information?
How many different sources do you need? Will you need to work with
others? If you have to e-mail experts, how will you get their addresses?
While it might seem the easiest thing to get all your information
from the Internet, it is NOT the best thing to do. There is a lot
of wrong and misleading information out on the WWW. It is a great
place to get information, but it should never be the ONLY place
to get information. Make sure you go to the library to check out
books on your subject. You should also use as many primary sources
Primary sources include diaries, journals, speeches, interviews,
letters, memos, manuscripts and other papers in which individuals
describe events in which they were participants or observers. Memoirs
and autobiographies are also types of primary sources. Important
primary sources are records, such as births, deaths, marriages,
permits and licenses and census data. Photographs, audio recordings
and moving pictures or video recordings can also be considered primary
Primary sources can be found on the Internet. For example, Duke
has copies of diaries, letters and documents on the web. Also C-Span
has information that is considered primary. (http://c-span.org/)
I also encourage my students to write as many experts as they can.
I have found that NASA is wonderful about writing back. This year
alone, we had three NASA engineers working with students via
e-mail. Also, many university professors will write back.
Sorting and Sifting
Once you have gathered together many different sources, you need
to put them in some sort of order. Sorting your information into
categories or even piles can be useful. While you do this,
you can start to get rid of the information that you won't use.
If you have any information twice, or three times, you need to
get rid of repeated information.
This is especially
true of Internet resources. Many web page authors just cut and paste
information they find on other sites. Do not use repeated information.
Now that you have all you information gathered and sorted, you need
to put it together into one report. There are many different ways
to do this. One idea is to do concept mapping. To do a Map,
write the main idea in the center of the page -- it may be
a word or a phrase -- then place related ideas on branches
that fan out from this central idea.
There are also
types of software that help with concept mapping, Inspiration
and Kidspiration are two that come to mind. Also, for the Palm Handhelds,
there is the Hi-CE PICoMap software.
You could also
try clustering which is a type of prewriting that allows you to
explore many ideas as soon as they occur to you. Like brainstorming
or free-associating, clustering allows you to begin without clear
ideas. There is also the tried and true outlining method.
With an outline you first identify the topic, then you create
some main categories and then subcategories.
Once you have written your paper you have to read it and make sure
it satisfies the requirement of the project. You can try to fix
your report, but you have to also be prepared to start all
research please remember to make effective use of time online and
in library (media center) Stay on task at all times. You must use
a wide variety of information sources, both print and non-print,
and take meaningful notes. Remember to keep your information
organized. You also have to keep careful bibliographic records
of all sources used and then remember to cite all sources!
One great tool
to help keep your bibliographic records in correct form is
NoodleTools is a suite of interactive tools designed to aid
students and professionals with their online research. From
selecting a search engine and finding some relevant sources, to
citing those sources in MLA or APA style, NoodleTools makes online
I always show
my students NoodleTools and encourage them to use the free QuickCite
tool. QuickCite will help them to create MLA style sources for:
books, encyclopedia articles, magazine articles, online magazine
articles, newspaper articles, professional web pages, personal
web pages, e-mail messages, Interviews and even online discussion
boards or forums. When students do intensive research, they
should have books, articles, e-mail messages and interviews