Effective research strategies

Effective research strategies

At this point in our society, deliberate and explicit instruction regarding research and the curation of knowledge is integrating into our classrooms at all levels. Especially with the incorporation and adoption of digital citizenship components and technology standards (such as ISTE Student Standard 3). How can teachers effectively and efficiently incorporate this instruction to empower students to practice these habits, then, is the focus and emphasis.

Research conducted by Rheingold in “Net Smart” examines the nature of curating knowledge and filtering processes.  The anecdotes referenced are specific and offered examples of thought processes and actions to enable–and empower–individuals to become creative, reflective thinkers.  While dated (published 2012, 2014), the importance of learning how to search, gather, filter, curate, participate are essential factors in becoming an aware digital participant in communities (246-252). Breaking down the specific tendencies helps identify patterns of thought processes of fact-checkers which can be demonstrated, taught explicitly, scaffolded, and then practiced in a variety of methods and opportunities for students to internalize these complex processes. What is clear from the research is the importance for students to receive appropriate critical thinking strategies and realistic practice throughout all content areas, throughout all levels.

A separate study published by the Stanford History Education Group describes these internalized skills based on several observations of different types and levels of fact-checkers. The first is gathering purpose by “taking bearings,” to create a metaphorical compass for research (14 & 37). This analogy resonates with me and will be a powerful comparison for students who are growing up in a community that highly values outdoor experiences and excursions. Taking bearings also implies the simple journalistic who, what, when, where, why, how and purpose is a timeless tool that can scale with student development. The second and third skills are enduring critical, analytical thinking patterns that can maintain a strong focus (instead of easily distracted or deterred). The term the study coined is “fluttering” about online, which suggests a pattern of thought that can be improved upon by helping individuals recognize when, what, and why they are becoming distracted and the ability to solve this attention shift. The last skill the study emphasizes (which has been supported by other research) is lateral checking instead of vertically checking (28). This cross-referencing with multiple tabs open allows a reader to follow the patterns, information, and accuracy and is successful because “lateral reading… requires knowledge of sources, knowledge of how the Internet and searches are structured, and knowledge of strategies to make searching and navigating effective” (Wineberg and McGrew38). These three strategies provide general tips to help students improve their fact-checking without becoming bedraggled by a specific process or procedure. With the speed that technology is evolving and changing, I found it reassuring and reaffirming to learn the thinking skills are more important than the method, phrasing, or even the technology by which research and fact-checking occur.

In fact, an article published in Educational Technology and Society emphasizes providing students with basic steps to enter into complex, powerful, relevant collaboration to solve a problem (ISTE 3d). This study suggests that “triggering argumentation is very important and it was the strategy that maintained the ‘H’ groups to have a high-level of knowledge construction as compared to the other groups. As such, to ensure group functioning, educators could assist discussions to promote argumentation such as by asking questions or to provoke opinions during the discussions” (9-10). By creating a need for powerful collaboration and triggering argumentation, strong research skills are integrated into the process and part of the discussion and group consensus. According to Howard (1996), “by arguing, justifying, explaining and providing evidence, students are self-regulating and hence, they are communicating at a high level of cognitive engagement.

Group of students (college age) holding different types and colors of speech bubbles.
Helping students join into a dialogue regarding information accuracy and research practices.

But how?

My biggest conclusion over this week reflecting and researching this question is these skills are greatly increased by teachers utilizing the same skills mentioned above: participating in a collaborative environment that promotes a high level of discussion and cognitive engagement. By creating, establishing, and curating a professional network or learning community, teachers can then explore a variety of opportunities to provide their students. Even collaborating with teachers on campus demonstrates and emphasizes these practices.

Various questioning strategies can be utilized to encourage argumentative thought processing and thinking, such as Socratic questioning method and circular questioning. By asking various types or levels of questions, teachers are consistently demonstrating a reflective, analytical thought process for students. In addition, both methods can be helpful to teach students how to create their own questioning processes and practices. Involving students into this process to practice is a consideration when designing lessons and units.

More practical strategies are to curate opportunities to analyze and synthesize information (ISTE 3b&c). This can be done through Google a Day, which provides immediate feedback and suggestions for students to improve their searching by better understanding the process of search engines and algorithms. In content areas, pairings or groupings of articles can provide the practice of analyzing and interacting between sources, and provide a starting point for students to extend their research and analysis. A common practice I use in my classroom is to post QR codes of references around the classroom to prompt students to make their own connections and then find their own. In addition to gathering and printing articles, teachers can also gather resources digitally (ISTE 3c) to help students target their skills via Google’s Search Engine feature. This may be especially helpful for students to gradually build and extend their research skills in a controlled manner appropriate for the age level, content, or community. While I personally have had some exposure to digital annotation tools, I am not familiar with digital curations tools and the cross-referencing features are truly amazing.

Overall, the research and the practice unveiled this week and observed in the classroom implies that honest, sincere conversations with students regarding research practices and the process of developing analytical, critical thinking is the most powerful strategies teachers can utilize in their classrooms.

References & Resources

Caufleild, Mike. (2017). How “news literacy” gets the web wrong. Website. 2020. https://hapgood.us/2017/03/04/how-news-literacy-gets-the-web-wrong/

Chayko, Mary. (2017). Superconnected: the internet, digital media, & techno-social life. Melbourne: SAGE Publications.

ISTE Standards for Students. Retrieved from www.iste.org/standards/for-students

Kingsley, T., & Tancock, S. (2014). Internet inquiry. The Reading Teacher, 67(5), 389-399.

Rheingold, Howard. ( 2012). Net smart: how to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Shukor, N. A., Tasir, Z., Van der Meijden, H., & Harun, J. (2014). Exploring students’ knowledge construction strategies in computer-supported collaborative learning discussions using sequential analysis. Educational Technology & Society, 17(4), 216-228.

Stanford History Education Group “Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information” by Sam Wineburg & Sarah McGrew, 2017 Sep.

Vega, V., & Robb, M. B. (2019). The Common Sense census: Inside the 21st-century classroom. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/2019-educator-census-inside-the-21st-century-classroom_1.pdf


  1. Wow! Great post. I appreciate the information on Google a Day, I haven’t heard it before. Your last paragraph was very refreshing. I agree that with with many practical skill we teach the digital age student, an honest and open approach can be the most helpful.

  2. What a helpful article for educators to read when trying to incorporate effective research strategies in their classrooms. I will definitely refer your article to coworkers at the MS/HS level. I appreciated the three types of research outlined by the Stanford History Education Group and also loved your practical tips and resources at the end. However, my biggest take-away was encouraging discourse, collaboration, and argumentation in our classrooms. When learning becomes siloed for each student they miss the rich experience of learning from each other and defending their thinking with evidence. Learning in collaboration with others is much more engaging than simply turning in a list of resources and research to a teacher. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject!

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