3 Steps To Teach Students To Do Research

Every year our grade level team would engage our students in a big research project to write a letter to one of their legislators about an upcoming bill in that year’s legislative session. I loved this project! Through it our students were able to have some cool experiences learning about the legislative process. 

When we started out, we scaffolded more on the writing of the letter and less on the research, leaving them to do most of the research on their own. It didn’t go well…Students were so overwhelmed and often didn’t even know where to begin with researching, so they didn’t. Instead of getting research-based facts in their letters, we got opinions, often misinformed. Over the years of doing this project, we learned many lessons about how to teach students to do research, and I want to share them with you. 

teach students to do research, a boy at the computer

Simply saying, “do your research” just doesn’t work. You need to explicitly teach research skills. I like to follow the I Do, We Do, You Do strategy to teach students to do research.

  • I Do- Model how to do research
  • We Do- Together practice research skills
  • You Do- Set them loose! (with guidance and check-ins, of course.)

Model, Model, Model

To start teaching students how to do research, model the process for them. I like to pick a similar topic to what my students are going to research, but not the exact same one so that they follow the process and not just copy the information. 

For everything you do, explain what you are doing, your thought process, why you are doing it.

If you are having your students do online research, show them how to use keywords on Google to find the information you want. I would also talk them through deciding on which websites to go to and then I would go over sourcing in more detail later.

If your students are doing book research take them to the library and have a lesson on how to find a book and how to use text features to  direct their research. 

Practice Research Skills Together

Once you have modeled for your students it is time to work through research skills together. This is a good time to practice the skills you just showed them, without the pressure of whatever research project you are going to have them do. 

Talk about text features together, define them, discuss what each one looks like, where to find it, and how they can use it to direct their research. You can turn this into a fun game using a classroom textbook. Challenge your students either individually or on teams to see who can find text features or other information the fastest.

Show them how to find a reliable source and how to check information by finding it in multiple reliable sources. Also, go over a checklist of things to look for in a source, such as: 

  • Facts vs Opinions
  • Copyright/last updated
  • Spelling/Grammatical Errors
  • Community Created Content
  • Advertising 

If this is one of the first times your students are doing a research project, I suggest giving them a list of good sources to go to . 

All of our Wife Teacher Mommy Research Units, include the following lessons for you to do together with your students:

  • Table of Contents & Index Lesson
  • Other Text Features
  • Using the Internet for Research
  • Finding Credible & Reliable Sources Online & Citing the Source

Hand over the reins

Now that you have set your students up for success by modeling and practicing together, it is time for them to work on their own. 

Give students a specific topic or question to research, this helps guide their research in one direction.

Encourage them to take notes as they research. Depending on the project, I like to provide them with a graphic organizer of some kind to help them make sure they are answering all the questions. 

From time to time, check in with your students. Read their notes and discuss how things are going. Then you can help answer any questions they may have and to guide them along.

You and your students will love to see the results. They will feel accomplished after completing their research project.

Ready to get started with a research project? We offer a variety of science and social studies research units in our Wife Teacher Mommy Shop.

All our Wife Teacher Mommy Research Units use a 5 Step Research Process, learn more about it in this blog post.

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