Importance of Research Skills in the Elementary School

Research. It’s something lots of us do on a daily basis without even realizing. We need to find the answer to a question we have and we, more often than not, head to the internet to find the answer. Sorting through the unneeded information and skipping straight to the part we need is a research skill we have perfected since childhood and we might not even realize we are doing it! That’s how important it is, that it becomes part of everyday life. This is why it is such an important skill to teach children as early as possible.

Of course, it’s not just the internet that can provide children with the answers they need to find. There are good old text books, leaflets, interviews, newspapers, family and friends, museums, etc. The sources are endless for starting out in research.

However, the internet is a massive part of everyone’s day to day life. We can often catch ourselves saying “oh I just need to Google something” or “why don’t you Google it”. When using Google however, it is important to learn how to use it to suit the needs of the research. We should encourage students to delve deeper than the first article generated (usually Wikipedia) and educate as to how not everything found on the internet is a reliable source. Wording search terms in a concise manner is another highly important skill and one that can be encouraged and developed by wording assignments in a non “Google friendly” manner.

Learning how to research fosters greater enjoyment for independent learning. If a child is finding the information themselves, they can become far more immersed in the subject matter and it aids a richer understanding of topics. The closer a child gets to secondary school the more independent learning they will be expected to do so it is crucial to a child’s ongoing success to master the basics of research as early as possible.

A great way to get a child hungry for research is to ask them to give a talk on the history of their favorite toy, sport or country. As it’s something that is of great interest to them already they will be excited to find out more and share it with others. Another idea is interviewing older family members on what toys, games or family traditions they had when they were the same age as the student. This not only provides a good basis for research but also for note taking and structuring information to present.

Researching isn’t about the regurgitation of pages and pages of information. As adults, we like to find the shortest way to get our answer in the most simplified way. This isn’t always clear to children when we first start teaching research skills! Children often think that the aim is to provide the answer, whether they understand it or not so it is important to not only impart those life changing research skills but it is equally, if not more so, important to differentiate between finding information and understanding information!