How to Help Your Child with a Research Project

There are six (6) basic steps that you, as a parent, can do to help your child when there is a research assignment. The Internet and access to free material has increased students feelings of self-control. This has resulted in almost removing parents from the research process. Parents can help their child's teachers by intruding into the research process. One way to intrude is to follow the following steps.

1) Ask if he or she has used any special databases that are available at school. Have they checked the "Web Path Plus Links" on the school library OPAC site?

2) Ask to help brainstorm potential research questions. Can the question pass the following five (5) tests?

  1. Does it inspire a reasonable reader to ask," How?" or "Why?" (It should)
  2. Would a reasonable reader respond with "So what?" or "Who Cares?" (They should not)
  3. Does it include general phrasing and/or sweeping words such as "all" or "none" or "every"? ( It should not)
  4. Does it lead the reader toward the subtopics of the paper? (It should)
  5. Can the basic idea be developed adequately to fulfill the required length of the paper or project? (It should)

3) Ask to look at your child's bibliography. Have they used the Internet exclusively? Have they ignored books? Of the web pages listed, how many are produced by universities, museums, and recognizable organizations? Do any of them have suspicious domain names such as Geocities, Ask or AOL members?

4) Look for research "holes." Kids don't know what they don't know! They may not recognize the best words to use in a search and they may not recognize the best documents in a result list when they see them. Suggest names, events, or keywords worth searching that might not be in your child's realm of knowledge.

5) Is your child in a search engine rut? All search engines are not the same. Try Google, Wisenut, and Blackle.

6) Did your child document ALL non-original ideas? If you proofread your child's work, can you hear his/her voice in the writing?

7) Don't allow your child to ignore the value of books and other print content. Two (2) pages from the Internet cannot compete with an in-depth biography.

From: Valenza, Joyce. "A Letter to Parents about the Internet." Library Media Connection. Nov./Dec. 2003: 30-31.