Student Strategies for Web-Based Researching

In an effort to be more practical, here is a list of strategies our 7th grade students created for what do if you don't understand something that you're reading on the web (some prodding was used to create these):

  1. Open a new tab in your web browser and dedicate it for "extra research." Students underscored the importance of using the "define:" operator as an important tool. This might sound trivial, but the fact that students admitted that they have to keep searching as opposed to lazily doing a single search, was worthy of putting on the list! Searching is NOT a "lazy man's" activity.
  2. Especially in Google Chrome, single right click on words and click the "Search Google for..." option. This was a shortcut to the above mentioned "New Tab" option.
  3. There was some good discussion with one class about how and when to follow hyperlinks. Good web authors will add hyperlinks as a way of providing extra or needed contextual information for their readers. We never did come to a general consensus on exactly WHEN is the best time to follow links (follow links in the context of the reading or wait till the end of the paragraph or article), but it was good to get them thinking about hypertext reading.
  4. As was mentioned above, students did identify the use of search operators (Google Advanced Search options), but few use them because they felt that they weren't effective. It seems that Google has been working hard to refine their search algorithms and page rank formulas to account for "question asking." While this isn't always the case, students felt that the advanced search features didn't get them any closer to what they needed than well thought out key words.
Context is everything for young researchers. Finding information about topics you already have prior knowledge of is relatively straight forward, but what do students do when they have no context? It is important for students to have identifiable strategies in their "tool box" when learning without a mentor in the room.

Any other strategies that we most certainly missed?

One other quick note, we did identify ways to cut down on moving adverts and clean up articles for reading by using the "print" feature of most news sites. However, most news sites are getting saavy to this trick, and have started adding advertisements to their print previews (those sneaky guys)! BUT if you go one step further on some sites and actually print the article to PDF, that did away all together with the ads.

image by Flickr user Jeffery Beall (CC BY-SA 2.0)