June 1

Research Skills Continued – Taking Great Notes

How to Take Great Notes for Our Research Project

You are going to watch a video that takes you step by step through the process of taking notes for research.

Use Your Own Words When You Take Notes

One key thing to remember however, is to never copy word for word from a website or book.

During our first research workshop I use the example of a research project I am doing on tigers.  So if this is what the website says:

The short notes on my page might look like this;

-Tigers have an orange coat with dark stripes
-Tigers weigh about 450 pounds
-It has claws as long as house keys
-It is the largest cat in the world

Notice how I didn’t just copy each sentence exactly as it was?  When you copy things exactly, that is called PLAGIARISM and it is a no-no.  We need to try to avoid copying word for word as much as we can.  The only exception is copying down a FACT.  Something that is a fact never changes.  So if it says a tiger weighs 450 pounds, that is what I need to copy down in my notes.  I can’t invent a new number!!

Putting it Together

Once you have a page of notes about your subject, you can start putting your information together in proper sentences and paragraphs without any fear of plagiarism because you wrote little notes in your own words.  Here is what some sentences based on my notes would look like.  Notice how it looks nothing like the paragraph I found online.

Tigers are the biggest cat in the world weighing in at 450 pounds.  They are orange with black stripes.  They also have claws as long as house keys.

Have fun researching your projects.  I can’t wait to read them!

September 18

Using Non-Fiction Books and Kids Search Engines for Research

Our grade 3s got a feel for what research is all about on Tuesday.  Research is defined by Merriam-Webster as;

1careful or diligent search
2studious inquiry or examination especially investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws
3the collecting of information about a particular subject

Our students were tasked to carefully and diligently search through our book resources for information about the insect of their choice using a Table of Contents and/or an Index page.  They took notes in their own words on the insect of their choice and kept track of their sources.

They were then asked to search their subject online using very specific keywords.  The proper use of keywords in online searching is an underrated skill.  It takes some forethought to clearly use keywords to create the perfect query and yield the best results.  A search on kiddle.co for ‘centipedes’ will not yield half as much useful information as the query ‘centipede facts.’

They tracked their information in a special graphic organizer.

It is important that we don’t overlook the importance of teaching children to use books to find information.  Learning to quickly scan a page and find pertinent information is a critical part of learning.  So many children wanted to jump straight to finding the information they needed online, but learning to use non-fiction books is where children should begin.  Once they can easily navigate a book, they will have the ability to quickly and efficiently scan websites in the same way.

We will be continuing to fine-tune these skills with all of their research projects this year and I look forward to seeing this class on a regular basis here in the library.

February 1

Practicing Proper Notetaking Skills

I met with students in grades 3 and 4 this week to practice the art of proper notetaking.  Something which can come so naturally for adults is really a skill that needs to be taught and practiced so that bad habits don’t form early.

I’ve heard many middle schoolers tell me that they cut and paste from various websites while taking notes and then put it all together for their final project.  That is a fast-track route to a zero for plagiarism!  Many are not aware that there is anything wrong with this method.  By starting with younger grades I am hoping to catch them before it starts.

We decided to use books for this exercise so that students could practice using the table of contents and indexes to find the information they were looking for.  They then had to write their notes in their own words and keep track of their sources using a bibliography template.


We also watched this helpful video about how to figure out what is and is not important to our research questions when researching.

Let me assure you that this wasn’t as boring of a workshop as it sounds. The grade 3s especially got into it and some chose to work over recess, which was wonderful.  They are all on the right track now!