To Search or Not to Search
Middle School Students Researching on the Web
Problems with Searching for Middle School Students
- Middle school students are just beginning to get a handle
on researching, They are beginning to be able to pull information form
well written, approved sources, but they have not typically had much experience
with evaluating what makes a good source of information.
- Searching can lead a student into areas that are inappropriate
for them and to sites that contain biased opinions masquerading as facts.
- When a middle school student attempts a search on a general
search engine, much time can be wasted.
- Most search engines produce results that are overwhelming
with too much information to sort through.
- Random searching perpetuates the myth: "If its on the
Internet it must be true.
Follow the Big 6 Skills Information Problem Solving Approach
The Big 6 Skills from Dr. Mike Eisenberg and Dr. Bob Berkowitz
Teach Students to Use Start Pages, Educational Search Engines, Online
Reference Sites and Safe General Search Engines
Create a "Start" page of selected links to direct students
to appropriate sites and post this page on the school network or on the Web.
Use Blackboard.com or Schoolnotes.com to post links. Alternatively, make a
list of topic-specific bookmarks for students. Example of an Astronomy Research
Start Page: http://www.lburkhart.com/middle/astron.htm
Begin students with Online Reference Web Sites for topics that
can be found in encyclopedias, dictionaries, maps or biographies. Have them
search multiple resources in this section.
Teach students to locate additional information using specialized educational
search engines that have links to web sites that have been reviewed as educationally
relevant. Make sure that the students try multiple educational search engines,
since they often contain different web sites.
Make student aware of what advertisements look like on web sites and establish
a policy of not wasting any time clicking on advertisements.
As a last resort, when the student is unable to find information as described
above, have them try student safe search engines. Caution students that they
will get a lot of sites that are trying to sell things or have no useful information,
so they should read descriptions and scrim through the lists of sites looking
for ones that look most promising. The links from these search engines are
not reviewed for educational content, but they are supposed to be kid-safe.
Four Steps to Locating Information on the Internet
Define and refine the research question
Narrow the topic to several specific questions
Keep refining research questions. It is easy to get off on a side track and
waste time on topics that are related, but don't really address the question
that you are researching
Graphic organizers and outlines are useful
Develop a list of key words for your research questions
Utilize Multiple sources - Don't forget print!!
Going on the Internet:
- First choice: Student Start Pages - content sites previewed
- Second Choice: Reference Start Page
- Third Choice: Student Search Start Page
Look first for good sources, don't just start taking notes from the first
thing that you find.
Check the source
of the information that you find:
- Who posted this information?
- Is this a reliable source?
- Is this a biased source?
- Is this site trying to sell you something?
Always confirm information found on this page with another source on or off
Look at Content
- Does the information on this page address my research question?
- easy to read?
- table of Contents?
Write down the Web address so you can credit the source information in your
Tips and Tricks:
1. For web sites that contain a large amount of text, use
the find in text command of the browser to locate key words and then read
that section of the text to find what you are looking for.
2. Use simple key words for searching educational Directories.
3. Always use more than one search engine or directory.
4. Use search tricks such as quote marks for phrases, * after root words,
+, -, AND, OR and NOT, when using search engines that recognize these.
5. Cut and Paste Web Addresses into word processor to save for your bibliography.
Type the name of the site and the date you viewed the site.
Consider Web Quests as an Alternative
Web Quests are great resources if you can find one that closely
matches your topic.
Usually the Web Quests present students with good research questions and then
provide appropriate Internet links to answer those questions.
Check Web Quests at:
back to Middle School / back
Linda J. Burkhart linda@Lburkhart.com
Updated: February, 2001