Finding Credible Sources for Kids To Do Research in 7 Steps

Inside: Tips and tricks for teaching credible sources for kids in an elementary setting.

Your students are ready to research. They have their devices, stacks of books, and they have writing skills. You’re ready to get started on your research unit! Easy, right? Not so fast!

Before your students get online or use their text sources, it’s time to make sure their sources are credible. This is not something that comes instinctively for new researchers, so it’s important to know how to teach elementary students source credibility.

Kids doing computer research- Finding Credible Sources For Kids To Do Research

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Teaching source credibility is not just about the website address.

When the internet was first becoming a common tool to use in classrooms, teachers would tell students to avoid .com addresses and stick with .gov or .edu URLs. 

Today, many .com websites also provide a wealth of information for research. Defaulting to .gov or .edu addresses will make your students miss out on educational sites like National Geographic for Kids. Of course, they will find a lot of credible info on educational extension sites, but it’s not a guarantee. Even .org and .edu sites can have information that is biased. 

There are much better ways to find credible sources. Using a kid-friendly search engine, such as Kid Rex or Kiddle, is a great way for students to seek out credible sources. Additionally, a full list of kid-friendly search engines can be found inside each of my research units or you can check out Common Sense Education which has lists of credible sources for kids.

Review facts v. opinions when teaching source credibility

When looking at websites, have your students check to see if the information is mostly facts or if the author includes a lot of opinions. Opinions may mean that the site is an advertisement, commercial, or editorial. This may not be the best site for research purposes, especially for expository writing.

Have your students avoid opinion-heavy sites in their research. Helping your students understand the difference between facts and opinions is the first place to start. Don’t assume they can identify and distinguish between the two before beginning your first research unit.

Check the copyright date.

As you teach source credibility, have your students check the copyright date. Websites should have an updated or copyright date, typically at the bottom of the page. Historical information on older sites may still be accurate, but even with sites with seemingly unchanging information, there may be new research on the subject.

For example, in my Solar System Research Unit, you’ll want to make sure students find websites that no longer identify Pluto as a planet.

This solar system research unit includes pages that will help your students find and cite credible sources using the internet or other informational text. Great for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th grades and upper elementary! Great for teaching source credibility. Perfect for learning about outer space. It is a fun solar system activity.

When it comes to books, copyright is also important. Finding the most up-to-date text will allow your students to find the newest research on the topics they are studying. Newer books also contain more text features, such as photos, sidebars, charts, and timelines. These are all important tools in comprehending text.

Watch out for typos, spelling, and grammar errors.

Professional websites with accurate information should be virtually error-free. A minor typo happens on even the best sites, but frequent errors indicate a site that may have information that is not credible.

Check the sources when teaching source credibility.

Google any search term, and Wikipedia will probably come up on the first page of results. Although Wikipedia may have some valuable information, it’s community created, and errors and misinformation can appear before moderators have a chance to update the site. The best way to use Wikipedia is to check for reliable sources at the bottom of the page. Go directly to those websites to find information on the topic of choice.

Watch out for advertisements.

When you teach your students about source credibility, tell them to watch out for advertisements. Sites that are trying to sell something are not the best for research purposes. The information provided may be biased in order to sell a product. If you notice frequent ads or pop-ups for other products, that may also be a sign to close the window and find a different source.

Teaching students how to find reliable sources is an important part of teaching research!

Teaching kids how to find and cite credible sources is the first step towards teaching them to successfully research a topic. These research skills can be taught to your students so they can find the most credible sources.

This author study unit is perfect for writing author biography reports! It is a great social studies unit for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th grades and upper elementary. Your kids will love this author study activity and how it helps them find credible sources to research about their author. It is a great research template for students to use for an author study project.

All of my science and social studies research units contain mini-lessons and worksheets to teach source credibility. Whether you’re studying US Presidents, dinosaurs, or states, these units are ready-to-go to help your students become researchers and show you how to teach elementary students source credibility. Check out my units below. You can see also see ALL of the units and save 30% with the Science and Social Studies Research Units Bundle! Lastly, you can also find all of my research units in my Teachers pay Teachers store. 

Following the tips outlined in this post, you will be able to teach finding credible sources for kids in your class! This is an important research skill to get your young learners started on the right track as they begin to research.

8 Responses

  1. This is a really great skill that is very beneficial. If students learn this critical skill of identifying credible sources, then in high school and college, they will have a much easier time with writing.

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