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March 10, 2022

Do your students give up too easily on projects demanding online research because there’s just “too much out there” to know where to begin? Simple tips and tricks from Y4Y’s new Click & Go on digital literacy can help them recognize that, with some basic principles and skills, the information avalanche contains a wealth of real treasure — once you learn how to find it.

We all remember with dread the assignment of a big research paper.

  • How will I choose a topic?
  • What information will my teacher want me to include?
  • How will I organize my information?
  • How will I get this giant paper written?!

Education has come a long way in guiding students through each of these steps, and your program can be a great resource to them during homework and tutoring time. To help with organization, check out Y4Y’s Goal Setting Activities, Games and Templates, and Research-Based Techniques and Practices for ideas. More writing guidance is available through Y4Y’s literacy course, including tools for Pre-Writing Activities, Revision Conference Planner, Writer’s Workshop, and Peer Editing Checklist. Tools like Guiding Content Creation and Presenting to Different Audiences can also help students with age-old questions like “What information will my teacher want me to include?”

But let’s take a step back and talk research! Students today face a whole new set of questions. They’re unlikely to step into a brick-and-mortar library and head over to a card catalog where nothing but reliable sources are conveniently organized by subject. Instead, they’re probably doing all of their research online. So, the questions they might be asking themselves are

  • How do I narrow down all of my “hits”?
  • Which sources are reliable?
  • Why can’t I use just the information that validates my ideas?
  • Who’s even going to know if I just copy and paste text?

Y4Y is here to help navigate many of these dilemmas of the information age too!

How do I narrow down all of my “hits”?

To begin, there are some simple tips for yielding smart lists of hits.

  • Orient students to internet research with Y4Y’s relevant terms around digital literacy.
  • Use more than one search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
  • Use several terms to narrow the search. For example, if a student is writing a paper on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, encourage them to not simply search on Dr. King’s name, but also on “Million Man March,” “civil rights,” “famous orators,” and “I have a dream.”
  • If they need to further narrow their search, add .org, .edu, and .gov to the list of terms.
  • Check out Y4Y’s Searching Safely podcast for tips on how to search thoroughly and safely. Have students take the Y4Y Youth Digital Literacy Self-Assessment to be sure of that safety.

Which sources are reliable?

After you’ve introduced students to the basics of finding information, consider these tips:

Why can’t I use just the information that validates my ideas?

Help your students understand that the best argued points are those that recognize the strengths of an opposing view and counter that view. 

Who’s even going to know if I just copy and paste text?

This might be a rhetorical question, but educators today have access to many resources to discover if a student has plagiarized someone else’s work. It’s OK to copy and paste if a student is properly citing a reference, so be sure to align with the school day on citation practices. It’s also possible that the project your student is engaged in isn’t meant to be a formally researched report, and there’s room for creative license. Help them have some fun with those projects! Just ask Andy Warhol: Some of the best art is born of imitation.