internet research

I sometimes think wistfully of those hours spent in the public library when I was in junior high, supposedly writing a research paper and scrawling facts on piles of color-coded index cards, but really whispering with friends and giggling until the librarian turned a cold eye in our direction. Of course, research wasn’t the point of being at the library; being out on a school night with girlfriends – watching the boys swagger through the stacks (as they surreptitiously read Playboy tucked into reference books) was the important activity. Truthfully, I usually had to go back to the library on Sunday afternoon to do the real research!


But now … no such fun memories for Tweens when the work can be done at home. The key to good research is no longer the hours at the library or the number of index cards stowed in a shoe box; the key is using the Web and 21st Century tools effectively.


But what are the tools, and where do teachers start in training their students?


Let’s look at the “new” tools and how they apply:

  • Use search engines and Boolean logic. Narrow your topic by narrowing your Website search … Not “Deforestation”, but “Deforestation in Africa”, or “Wildlife and Deforestation in Africa”
  • No more borrowing information from encyclopedias and trying to pass it off as a primary source; go straight to the Library of Congress, the British Museum, or the Louvre Websites
  • Get second/third confirmation of facts by connecting from one Website with links to other primary sources (the triangle verification)
  • Avoid quotes from magazine articles or feature writers; shoot an email to an authority and get a first-person response. Better yet, arrange a video-Skype or MSN interview.
  • Forget index cards; use PowerPoint™
    • Create a template to organize information
    • Copy/paste facts and sources on slides
    • Use the “Notes” to paraphrase the information in your own words
    • Organize the flow of information with the slide sorter
    • Build an outline (but you have to have the right template)
    • Create a bibliography online


Where do teachers start? Download the free version of our professional development course Research in the 21st Century using MS PowerPoint 2007™ from the COMPUTER EXPLORERS Resource Center; teach yourself by following the Trainer’s Notes. Use our templates, handouts, key techniques. Follow the directions to do a sample research project, and then design one for your students.  Have fun and embrace the 21st Century!


And if you want to teach your students how to do 21st Century research, email COMPUTER EXPLORERS and we’ll send you our lesson plans and support materials (at no charge) to implement in your classroom. Once your students learn the fun of Internet research, they won’t be tempted to buy online papers any more!

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