Effective Research Skills for Students

Have you noticed how difficult it is to get students to effectively search for information these days? The first inclination is to simply google the topic. In fact, it has become so common place, the term has become a verb! In the past, I have always provided my students with a list of resources for them to use. This was a safe and less time-consuming way of managing my students' research. The problem is, with the proliferation of information on the Internet, one of the most important things teachers can do for students is to show them how to effectively search for and evaluate critical information on the web. This is the real-world approach to effective searching. I doubt their bosses will ever provide them with a list of resources from which to select! This week's TCEA TechNotes had a discussion about the importance of effective search skills and provided a wealth of resources for even the very young students.

SortFix is a search engine that could be just the tool for the job, even for the youngest students who need to understand Boolean logic in the search process. I have embedded a video I found describing just how SortFix works. It is now available on the Internet and as a free iPad app (SortFix and SortFix Kids). SortFix allows students to drag and drop search terms to create the most accurate results. You simply type in your search as you normally would. Then SortFix breaks down the returned hits into Power Words that you can either use or delete. As you drag and drop, SortFix details what has been added and deleted to create a Boolean logic stream in the search bar.

Because googling has become so commonplace, most don't realize there are a multitude of other options. Frankly, I personally have been skeptical with some of the options I tried that left me frustrated in my search. That is not the case anymore. TechNotes detailed a list of search engine options that you need to explore. Check these out:

  • Boolify - Like SortFix, the search site helps you to construct a logical sequence of search terms. It includes a video introduction and lesson plans.
  • Google Custom Search Engine - Create your own search engine on specific topics and limit it to just the websites you want students to use.
  • KidsClick - a search engine designed by librarians for children.
  • KidRex - kid safe searching.
  • Google Squared - a search tool that helps you quickly build a collection of facts from the web; best used for comparing data.
  • Fact Monster - a good place for younger students to find basic information using its almanac, dictionary, encyclopedia, and homework help.
  • Complete Planet - allows searching of deep web content found in 70,000+ databases and specialty search engines. Search by keyword or browse the list of topical headings.
  • Yippy - breaks the search results down into categories, displayed on the left-hand side of the screen. Good for narrowing down topics.
They also provided a list of links for some good lessons and activities to help students practice their searching skills:
As you explore some of these options, look for ways to purposefully introduce these ideas to your students so they can develop those effective search skills for future research. Then maybe they won't really believe in the infamous tree octopus when they google it!

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