Research Skills in the Classroom

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Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.
Zora Neale Hurston

Most known for writing and researching race, slavery, folklore, and the African-American experience, Zora Neale Hurston was a Harlem Renaissance writer and American anthropologist. While many students characterize research as daunting and many teachers find research skills challenging to teach, it’s essential that students learn to engage in what Hurston Hurston calls “formalized curiosity.” Teachers must help students develop the necessary research skills that they’ll use well beyond the classroom.

Saturated with on-demand content, our students have more access to information than ever before. But access to technology and search engines is not enough for students to learn. Students need research skills to help them examine information to support evidence-based conclusions, leading to more profound learning experiences in the classroom. In their everyday lives, our students absorb ever-increasing amounts of information. What’s the first thing many of us do if we encounter a problem? We quickly pull out a mobile device and research the answer. Media and information literacy are critical 21st Century Skills that support our students’ research skills. Students must have the ability to search for information about a topic, evaluate the information, and share their findings in a meaningful and organized way. 

Good research, initiated by a robust question, requires the students to search for answers and information, supporting more profound learning experiences. 

Listed below are strategies and resources you can use to teach resource skills to your students. 

Research Skills and Resources

TeachersFirst has an entire collection of free research tools vetted by teachers.

The Big 6 (reviewed here), a six-stage model developed by Mike Eisenberg and Bob Berkowitz, helps students solve problems or make decisions by using information from research, 

The Crash Course Kids YouTube Channel (reviewed here) has a fantastic video on research skills for middle-level and high school students. The videos explain why students should learn strategies for evaluating information, fact-checking, and more. 

TeachersFirst also has an entire collection of free organizational tools for students to organize their research. An excellent tool to make concept maps to organize information is bubbl.us (reviewed here). 

Citing sources is an essential component of research. Creating works cited page or bibliography is time-consuming but necessary. EasyBib (reviewed here), a free citation generator, assists students with creating and organizing a work cited page. 

Research Project Ideas 

  • Famous Failures – Have students research a famous person that failed many times and persevered. This topic also supports a growth mindset. 
  • Author Research – Have your students research an author from history or contemporary times.
  • Genius Hour – Encourage students to explore topics of interest through genius hour projects based on Google’s 20% time. Learn more from John Spencer’s Genius Hour Archives
  • Arts & Culture – Ask students to analyze the impact a famous artist or musician had on the world.

Research skills and projects can provide experiences that allow students to make connections between learning and the real world. Experiences with research will provide students the opportunity not only to learn lifelong skills, but to continue to grow and learn throughout the process. What are your favorite strategies and activities to build research skills? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!  


About the author: Kevin Bower

Kevin Bower has 20 years of elementary teaching experience, is a certified reading specialist, and teaches instructional technology to pre-service and practicing teachers. He has presented nationally, had his teaching practices cited in various publications, and published a collaborative article on infusing technology into the balanced literacy classroom. Kevin’s research interests focus on using technology to best meet the needs of students with diverse abilities.


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