I remember as a child watching TV and seeing ads for toys. My eyes bulged out and I exclaimed, “I want that!” I can recall parsing through catalogues and dog-earing pages for stuff that my siblings and I wanted for Christmas.

Being older and wiser, I am aware of the hold that advertisement and marketing has on entertainment, education, and all parts of our lives. We’ve got huge billboards, commercials on YouTube, and ads on social media. They’re all tempting us to click here and there, to get us on their websites as customers.

Enter the student needing to use their research skills for one assignment or another. They plug into the Internet and BAM!—all kinds of information is hurled at them at 2000 mps.

How do we help students sift through so much information to get at the best and most reliable content? As in life, we adults know that not everything on the Internet is true. Sooner or later, your child is going to have to acquire good research skills. Let’s have a discussion about how to teach that.

Tips for Building Research Skills

Teach Your Children Well

Prepare to guide them through this process daily if not weekly, and not just in the library. As you’ll see, the cards are stacked against kids from really getting at good reliable information. It’s important to provide ample practice on finding good information.

Kids need to understand the age of information and how the Internet is used in marketing. Why not show a video about it? A few that come to mind are Consuming Kids, or How the Kids Took Over.

This will help to frame what kind of sorting out they’ll have to do when building their research skills while knowing the game that is being played against them.

Employ Tutorials

Find a tutorial and walk them through using research skills on the Internet. Here’s a good one from VTS Tutorials. You may also enjoy a blog post we did on website credibility. Have a look at the rubric featured below from that article, and walk them through this process.


Contrast, Compare, and Challenge

Do a case-by-case comparison of various scenarios: “You are doing an academic research paper on the topic of ————. What will you do?” Pull up web sites and test them for credibility with the chart above.

You can also try an assignment that restricts students from using Google as the primary search engine. Here’s a good list to use.

Share Some Smarts

Remind your students of these common tips for practicing good research skills:

  • Google does not display all search results available.
  • Know which sites your teacher wants you to use and to avoid.
  • Know what kind of paper you’re writing (formal, informal, analytical, etc.); this should lead you to the kind of information you are looking for.
  • If in doubt, leave it out.
  • Always check your work for plagiarism, violation of copyright, citations and references. Your credibility is on the line when you violate any of these rules. See How to Cite a Website in MLA.

These resources will no doubt challenge your students to keep their projects credible and accurate. It will save both you and them valuable time and hassle in college if they learn these research skills early. It will also help them in the long run to find the best information to make critical decisions about their lives.


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