Sunday, 22 February 2015

One Strategy for Research Notes

When I went to elementary school, I learnt how to write research notes. There was all this bibliography stuff you had to write down for each book you took your notes from, you weren't allowed to copy the words directly from the book and you had to rewrite it all in your own words. My notes would be on multiple pieces of paper and I never could really find the piece of paper I wanted when it came to writing my reports. None of that has really changed, just where we keep track of our notes.

For most, it's no surprise we first turn to Google for our research. With all of the scholarly articles online, websites and ebooks, there isn't as much need to go into a library, dust off an old encyclopaedia and crack it open to the page you are looking for. Where we look for our materials has changed and so has how we record our notes.

For our current unit about ecosystems, where essentially my students were doing a massive research project to gather the information they needed to successfully create an online course for other students, it was evident from the start that research notes was most definitely going to be an important skill to teach.

After we had decided on lesson topics, the students brainstormed all of the questions they could think of initially in one Google Document.

From there, they created and linked a separate Google Doc for each topic. This would help them go back and build their levels based on the different topics selected. The students pasted their questions into the document. As they found information that fit a particular question, they were able to make notes on the topic. Often they chose to research by theme but at times students could jump from one page to the next easily without losing any of their notes. 

For their bibliography, they pasted the links into the bottom of each page. We talked a lot about what plagiarism was and how to avoid it by changing it into their own word right from the moment they create their research notes. As Year 5 students, I didn't have them create full bibliographies as they took down their research notes just yet but it was a start in the right direction. 
This of course is just one strategy that could help students organise their notes when researching for a project but by no means the only way. I had different groups record their notes using different methods but it was another tool to add to their repertoire. 

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