How to Help Students Develop Research Skills?
Although often overlooked, the ability to conduct an effective research is an extremely important life skill. It not only helps students collect relevant information from the wealth of information available, but also to apply critical thinking skills to come to the right conclusion. Research skills go way beyond the student’s academic life and come in handy in making many decisions that life necessitates.
While on the face of it, given access to the internet, research may seem like a fairly simple task, it is far from that; especially because of the sheer volume of information available, as also an equal volume of fake news that is widespread. It is imperative, therefore, that students develop robust skills to be able to sift the right information.
What then are some of the things you can do to be able to foster relevant research skills in students? Here are some handy tips:
1. Develop Learners for Life
First things first, you need to encourage curiosity in students. It is when they have this insatiable appetite for knowledge that they will want to make the effort to dig deep. Not only will they read more, but they will also be open to listening to ideas and perspectives.
As adults, therefore, it is important that you encourage questions & help students enjoy the process of discovery. While it may seem very tempting to become that person who can supply them with the answers to all of their queries, it will work better if you equip students to be able to look for answers themselves. While this may seem like a time-consuming process, it will enable students to think for themselves. This ability will stand them in good stead not just in terms of academic projects but in the context of life, where they will need to take many thought-out decisions. Students who are in the habit of being spoon-fed answers, on the other hand, will find it far more difficult as they transition into adulthood & need to make tough choices. Autonomy, therefore, is one of the biggest gifts you can offer students.
2. Funnel Approach
Encourage young minds to start with a basic internet search so that they are oriented to the topic. That done, they can dive into the specifics! Following this approach will also take away the overwhelm that comes when the student is faced with a new topic that he doesn’t know much about.
3. Recognizing quality sources
It is imperative that students be told of the importance of looking at various sources. A preliminary Google Search is never enough & students need to be encouraged to look at library resources that can offer a wealth of information. Seeking help from librarians can go a long way as it can lead them to credible resources.
Importantly, students need to be able to recognize quality sources. This involves answering questions such as:
✔ Is the author an expert in the field?
✔ Could the author have any conflict of interest?
✔ How does the point of view of one particular source tie in with the other sources?
✔ Does my research feature multiple viewpoints and more?
4. Develop Critical Thinking Skills
It is important that after undertaking the necessary research, students are able to apply their critical thinking skills to be able to effectively address each of the following areas:
✔ Identify credible sources
✔ Distinguish between opinions & facts
✔ Analyze each line of argument
To do this, it is important that you ask them relevant questions that enable them to think critically. In fact, developing critical thinking skills is a muscle that students need to persistently flex & sharpen. It is important that the overall approach to education, therefore, be such that it helps build this critical life skill and research skill.
5. Organization is key
With the sheer amount of data available, it is extremely easy to get waylaid. Good organizational skills are therefore key. Students need to be encouraged to use tools such as index cards, bookmarks & more to be able to dig out the necessary information at the right time. The other thing to take note of is to maintain a bibliography as they go along. That way, students will also make sure that they have ascribed necessary credits.
6. Time Management
Given the sheer volume of information that is available on any subject, it is very easy to lose track of time. It is therefore important that students be taught to work within the timelines available for the project. Students need to be encouraged to create a plan & stick to it. Besides, they must be coached to keep a track of time-wasters & eliminate them as far as possible to be able to complete their research project effectively. Simple things like keeping their phone on focus mode while working can go a long way in ensuring that the pings from social media do not eat into precious work time.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice
In an era of instant gratification, it is important to impress upon students that practice is the one thing that will make them perfect. Each time that they conduct research they will learn the many nuances of identifying reliable sources, for example. Similarly, it is with a practice that they will be able to meet deadlines. Most importantly, it is once again practiced that will enable them to produce a research paper where they have ably supported their arguments & not hurriedly jumped to conclusions.
To Sum Up
Clearly defining the research question, choosing the right data sources, determining the research methods, and sticking to timelines are some of the steps involved in producing a valuable research paper. Importantly, students should make the necessary citations to give credit, wherever due. With enough practice, they will master this life skill, which will stand them in good stead throughout their life.
At Pragyanam, one of the best schools in Gurgaon, we take due care to ensure that children are equipped with the necessary critical thinking skills, that enable them to sift the right information and use it to reach a conclusion. The effort at Pragyanam is to raise curiosity in students & turn them into learners for life! With a Life Skills based curriculum, we sure prepare students for the road ahead. Little surprise then that Pragyanam school admissions are extremely coveted.