Teaching Students How to Research Off-line

5 min to read
A high school aged female student taking notes on a book she's researching

While the Internet provides a wealth of information, teaching students how to research online and also off-line is important so they learn how to find and analyze reputable sources. Here are the top reasons students should engage in research, where to find options for offline research, and guidelines for teaching students how to research.

Explore the World with Research

Teaching students how to research raises their awareness of the world and allows them to access pockets of knowledge that may interest them. For instance, a student who is assigned a research paper about sea creatures may become fascinated with how smart and clever octopuses are, and the student then may want to know more about marine biology. In this way, research opens new doors for students.

Benefits of Building Research Skills for Students

Research skills for students involve collecting evidence, using logic, and communicating their findings and conclusions. Research encourages students to practice their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills because it requires them to learn about a topic and then figure out how to communicate that information to a different audience.

Why Offline Research Is Important

With millions of available resources on the Internet, knowing how to do online research is undoubtedly important to a student’s educational success both throughout school and after graduating high school. However, there are many offline sources that can give students different perspectives on a topic, provide them with hands-on research experiences, and offer moments for students to deepen their research. 

Here are some offline resources students can explore:

An online student learning how to do online research and offline research

Expert Interviews on the Topic

Students can interview experts on a topic face-to-face, via phone, or through email. Experts are often excited to speak to students about their specialty, and can tailor the information to the student’s level of understanding. They can make the research feel personal and come alive for the student. Interviewing an expert also provides an opportunity for students to learn about the differences between primary and secondary sources.

In addition, if a student is passionate about a research topic, then an expert in the field may be open to the student shadowing them for a day or may be willing to be the student’s mentor.

Books, Magazines, and Scholarly Journals

While Google Scholar, Smithsonian Libraries, and other online libraries and databases provide a wealth of information, not all books, magazines, and scholarly journals are available online. So the only way for students to access information that may be interesting and helpful to their research could be by obtaining a physical copy of the text.

Local Public Libraries

Libraries offer numerous tools that can develop research skills for students. First, many libraries provide access to databases with thousands of sources that are not accessible to private individuals.

Second, libraries have physical sources, such as microfilms or digital microfilms, that are great for students who want to look at archived newspapers or images. They may also offer audiobooks and movies and even host events and workshops with content and guest speakers that could be applicable to a student’s research.

Last, librarians can be sources of knowledge and can teach students how to research online and off-line. For example, librarians can demonstrate valuable research skills for students that include using databases, finding physical sources in the library, and using other aspects of the library’s resources to aid students in their research tasks. A Learning Coach may want to make an appointment with a librarian for this type of hands-on learning.

An online student reading a book

How to Tell If a Source Is Reputable

A source being reputable means it is reliable, well reasoned, logical, and provides sound and sufficient evidence. The CRAAP test is integral in teaching students how to research and decide if a source is reputable. This test works for both online and offline sources, and its steps are the following:

Is It Current?

For many online and offline sources, this means when the text was published or last updated.

Is It Relevant?

Relevance refers to how relevant or applicable the source is to the student’s research.

Is the Publication and the Author an Authority?

Authority references the entity that published the source, the author, and how trustworthy and reputable the author is in their field.

Is the Information Accurate?

Accuracy is how well the source’s claims are supported by evidence. This includes how well the source is documented and cited. It can also refer to cross-refencing sources. For example, if an interview subject has a widely different perspective than several other reputable sources, then perhaps the interview subject isn’t fully accurate concerning the topic.

What Is the Purpose of the Article?

Purpose refers to bias behind a source. In other words, if there is a strong agenda behind the creation of a source, then that source may not present its argument and evidence truthfully, reliably, and accurately.

Purpose refers to bias behind a source. In other words, if there is a strong agenda behind the creation of a source, then that source may not present its argument and evidence truthfully, reliably, and accurately.

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