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Developing Research Skills

Acquiring the research skill to locate specific information online will go a long way towards a student's success in future undertakings.

The Paraffin Paradox

Steve Long looks at the Paraffin Paradox. Steve shows how to hide a sheet of aluminum foil between two blocks of paraffin, then uses it to teach how to make observations and do good scientific work. Students are not allowed to break open or otherwise damage the item. Why is the top half always brighter than the bottom half?

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Big6 is a six-stage model to integrate information search and use skills along with technology tools into a systematic process to find, use, apply, and evaluate information for specific needs and tasks.

The steps include...

  • Task Definition
  • Information Seeking Strategies
  • Locate Information and Access
  • Use of Information
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

Big6 provides a wide variety of free resources and includes special sections for grades K-6 and 7-12 with worksheets, games, and writing resources.

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Conducting Research

With so many information sources now at our fingertips, knowing where to start, sorting through it all and finding what we want can be overwhelming!

Perdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL) looks at how to integrate primary source methods, such as interviews and observations, with secondary source methods, such as books, journals, and the Internet. It includes information on evaluating research sources.

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Learning to research on the Web

Librarians have a weird sense of humor. This was the old joke: "The internet is like a library with no catalog where all the books get up and move themselves every night."

It has now been replaced with: "The internet is like a library with a thousand catalogs, none of which contains all the books and all of which classify the books in different categories – and the books still move around every night."

The problem now is not that of "finding anything" but finding a particular thing. This link gives older students some pointers to help them become effective internet researchers.

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The Avalon Project

The Avalon Project at Yale houses a huge databank of documents relevant to the fields of law, history, economics, politics, diplomacy and government. The collection is organized by topic and time period.

One use of a site like this is to have students select a document and explain it. Another is a creating a webquest spanning centuries, from The Athenian Constitution to The Antarctic Treaty of 1959.

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Routes International

Routes International offers access to information, schedules and maps for transportation services all over the world, from airlines and railroads to ferries and bus lines.

Have students identify the different ways to get between 2 cities, e.g. Los Angeles to New York or London to Tokyo.

The site includes links to transportation museums and heritage sites covering land, sear, air, rail, and space. Have students research how travel between city pairs has changes over time.

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Earth Sciences & Map Library

The Earth Sciences & Map Library at U.C. Berkeley is sufficiently comprehensive that is can be used as a test-bed for secondary students to learn research skills.

This library contains inventories for national wetlands, earthquake, climate, and weather. It features special projects such as terrain modeling and simulations, a research ship for drilling experiments (drilling in general-not oil), photography labs, and global ecosystems. Rare maps as well as street level maps can be viewed. A list of electronic publications in every sub-topic in this field is provided. From this site all of the other libraries at the University can be accessed---whatever students are tackling.

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