Strategies for Teaching Research Skills

Instructor: Tammy Galloway

Tammy teaches business courses at the post-secondary and secondary level and has a master's of business administration in finance.

In this lesson, we'll explain the importance of research. You'll learn three popular research methods and how to validate information. We'll also explain how to minimize plagiarism and show students how to organize and synthesize information.

Why Have Students Research?

The principal at Washington High School has ordered a research directive for all high school students. He asked Mr. Sandifer, the head of the English department, to host a lunch and lecture on the benefits of student research and the processes.

Mr. Sandifer explains that research broadens students' knowledge bases. Independent learning, such as research, allows students to apply learned concepts and increases comprehension. Research also encourages creativity. As students research, ideas and opinions formulate. Now, let's look at the different types of research.

Types of Research

Before the Internet, students researched print sources and conducted interviews. Researching printed material such as periodicals, encyclopedias, magazines, and books have many benefits. First, it's been statistically proven that students recall more with printed material. Secondly, reading print is a kinesthetic activity. Meaning, students are actually doing something with their hands such as using their pointing finger to follow along with the words or turning the pages. Studies show kinesthetic activities engages the learner and encourages learning.

A high school teacher asks Mr. Sandifer if teachers should require students to use printed material in addition to other resources. Mr. Sandifer responds by saying it depends on their abilities, the requirements of the project, and learning objectives.

Interviews are another source of research. Interviews take many forms such as face-to-face, telephone, or electronic communication. Students have the ability to ask follow up questions for clarifications and receive real-world information sometimes not found in printed material.

Lastly, and more common these days, is online research. Online research provides many benefits such as on-demand data and convenience. Another advantage of online research encompasses the plethora of data available to students, which help them formulate opinions and explore the subject further.

Mr. Sandifer mentions that most teachers encourage students to utilize print, interviews and online research and cite sources. But do we ever ask them to validate the source and if so, what steps would they follow?' Let's take a closer look.

Evaluating Sources

Most believe printed material - especially books - are fact-checked by the publisher. While larger publishers fact-check more than others, the truth is that material found in books can be unreliable. Of course, interviewer responses and online material validation are needed also. Mr. Sandifer suggests teaching students to validate a source by using an online website with a .edu or .gov extension. If accessing .edu, make sure students are referencing credible information such as a published professor or education journal, not another students' work. Additionally, students may still use the original resource as their citation, but it certainly doesn't hurt to list the .edu or .gov as an additional resource to ensure validation.

It's also important to note that there are experts in every field of study. If a student can become familiar with common experts in that field, they will know they have found another credible source. And lastly, evaluating by writer, publisher or date provides an additional avenue to ensure accuracy. If a piece of work was published too long ago, the information they are using may have been disproved in a more recent journal or experiment.

Respecting Protected Work

Mr. Sandifer asks the teachers to stand and separate themselves by the level they teach: elementary, middle and high school. He asks each group to discuss amongst themselves how they require their students to respect protected work.

The elementary teachers give the example of asking students to create a piece of artwork. The teacher then tells the students to line up all the artwork on the table. Randomly students pick their favorite - not their own - and put their name on it. She then asks the students how they feel about another student claiming their work. Even the youngest students say, 'That's mine!' So, the teacher explains that when they use other people's work they must give them credit.

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