Research Sources

Research modules: Prior to completing any of these modules, the student should decide on a research question. As researching takes place, this research question may be revised to accommodate the available information, but the student must have a sense of what he/she would like to learn BEFORE valuable searching commences.

Module 1: Using search engines

  • Effective searches
  • Boolean logic

Goal: Explore effective search techniques
Performance Objectives: Students will practice searching using Boolean operators. Performance will be satisfactory if students use at least three different search engines and record their findings for each one.

Assignment: Via an electronic appearance with Paul Barron, the Director of Library and Archives for George C. Marshall Foundation, students will discover how Google works and how to use the advanced search feature. Using several different search engines and the advanced search capability, students will record their different results using an Excel spreadsheet.

Who was George Boole?

George Boole (1815-1864) was an English mathematician. His An Investigation into the Laws of Thought, on Which are founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities(published in 1854) approached logic in a new way by reducing it to a simple algebra, incorporating logic into mathematics. It began the algebra of logic called Boolean algebra which now finds application in computer construction, switching circuits, and online searching.

Test your Boolean logic

Click link to open resource.

Module 2: Notetaking
  • Summarizing
  • Paraphrasing
  • Directly Quoting
  • Note cards and source cards (MLA Format)

Goal: Record properly formatted research
Performance Objectives: Student will gather research on note cards and document resources on source cards. Performance will be satisfactory if the student gathers sufficient research and records it in the appropriate format.

Assignment: Student will view online materials that deal with how to gather and record research. Student will analyze information through the use of “worked examples” and demonstrate understanding of the research concepts as required through “fading” and “self-explanations.” (See Clark and Mayer, chapter 10)

Then, student will gather research. Student will read the research. Student will decide whether to use summarizing, paraphrasing, or directly quoting to record the research on a note card. Student will include a key word, the research, and a parenthetical citation on each note card. Student will complete a source card in proper MLA format for each source used. Student will turn in a minimum of 50 note cards and 5 sources (at least one from each of the following categories: database, print source, magazine [online or print])

How to create note cards

Paraphrase Craze -

Using Mimeo to Learn MLA Format
This is my lesson on MLA citation using Mimeo (a SmartBoard lookalike). Because you have to have the Mimeo software downloaded in order to be able to see my presentation (and that is not available unless Mimeo has been purchased by the school), I took screen shots of each slide and will explain the purpose of each.

This first slide is merely the title page that I would have projected on the screen as students entered the room.

This second slide alerts students to some of the rules of MLA formatting. Students come to the whiteboard and use the specialized pen to move a blue oval. Under the blue oval are things to remember when creating a citation. For instance, one “monster” is the importance of placing punctuation in specific places. Another “monster” is inverting the author’s name, while yet another is the MLA format of a date (day, month-abbreviated, year). The last two “monsters” deal with identifying a source as Web or Print and including only the city of publication, not the state.

Slide three allows students to see, at a glance, the type of information necessary to create an MLA citation for a book. Then, again using the specialized pen, a student can drag each part of the MLA citation into the appropriate order to create the citation. Notice that the punctuation is also provided so that they learn where that is placed as well. My plan is to have index cards with the same information so that students at the tables can also manipulate the information to create the citation while the student is working at the board (because only one student can comfortably work at the board at a time). Then they can all compare and discuss if there are differences in the way the information has been ordered.

Slide four does the same thing for online images. I purposely included this practice because students often think that they do not have to cite images. So, not only will this slide enable them to practice how to cite those images, but it will reinforce the necessity to do so.

The final slide demonstrates a resource that will make MLA citing so much easier. This slide walks them through the process of using this website by providing textual directions that appear beside the graphic screen shot (one of those principles) and then it provides a hyperlink to the EasyBib site so that, as a class, we can see how it works. The specialized pen provided with the Mimeo software works like a mouse click, allowing the user to click on anything she would click on if in front of a computer monitor.

Viola, students are expert MLA citation researchers (I hope).

Module 3: Recognizing Credible Sources
  • Address
  • Credentials
  • Last Updated
  • Links
  • Excessive graphics
  • Errors
  • Bias

Goal: Identify credible resources
Performance Objectives: Student will assess the credibility of websites. Performance will be satisfactory if student visits at least five websites and successfully determines credibility.

Credible or Not Credible?

You Decide

Look at the address first. Without looking at the site itself, try to determine if it is a credible site or not. What information were you looking for in the address to help you make that decision? Next, look at each site. Is it credible or not credible? What factors did you take into consideration to come to your conclusion?

Assignment: Student will proceed through a PowerPoint on web credibility, following the directions of the pedagogical agent and answering the various questions on web credibility. Student will review the web site evaluation handout of things to look for in order to determine credibility (address, credentials, updated date, links, excessive graphics, errors, and perspective). Student will visit the website to investigate web domain. Student will visit multiple select websites and determine, using a web credibility checklist (and/or interactive), whether a given site is credible or not.

Web Credibility PowerPoint

Web Site Evaluation

Below are some tips on how to evaluate an internet site for merit and usefulness. Because anyone can post a web site on any topic, regardless of accuracy or quality, it is important to be a critical reader of this material, especially when researching for class assignments.

• Address—The first thing to look at is where the site originates. Internet URL’s (addresses) generally have one of the following endings: .edu (educational institutions); .gov or .mil (U.S. governmental use); .com (commercial, for profit site); .net or .org (a professional, trade or business organization.) An organization (.org) may have a specific perspective guiding the information it posts on its site, while a private individual with only partial knowledge of a subject could publish a .com site. Look for the ~ symbol, which generally means the site was created by a private individual and should be carefully scrutinized. Remember that sites lacking credibility may still list valuable links to other sites, so they are sometimes worth a look.

• Credentials/e-mail—If an author lists his/her credentials; this is generally a good sign. Likewise, providing an e-mail address is sometimes a positive sign. Keep in mind that anyone can make a website, so choose resources with care. Check the “About Us” or Google the author’s name to verify credentials.

• Last Updated—Most web sites indicate when the site was last updated. Most good sites are regularly maintained although this may not be necessary in terms of historical information.

• Links—Links which do not work, or URL’s that have been changed, can both be warning signals.

• Excessive graphics—Sites that overuse graphics and take too long to load usually have only limited usefulness. Graphics should be simple and enhance a site rather than replace good, scholarly information.

• Errors—Sites with grammatical, factual, and typographical errors should be avoided.

• Perspective/Bias—Some sites are created with a particular perspective in mind. This, alone, does not disqualify them from educational use, but it is important that students be aware that they tend to present a single side of an issue. For instance, there is an excellent site on the Atomic Bomb project with an array of primary source materials; however, these have been selected to carefully lead the reader to conclude that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not justified. You may reach the same conclusion independently, but be sure to do additional research to assess the issue from other viewpoints.

Adapted from Spar Tech: The WSHS Faculty Technology Newsletter, Volume 1, Issue 1, 1998/Jennifer Beach & Tricia Kettler of Fairfax County Public Schools.

Testing a website -

Website Credibility Checklist

This completed checklist must accompany any assignment using a World Wide Web source.

1. How did you locate this website?
• Search engine used (Google, Yahoo, etc.):
• Search term used (key word):

• Total number of “hits” for this keyword:

2. Look at the URL for key information:
• What is the file extension?
.com (commercial, for profit site)
.net/.org (professional, trade or business organization)
.gov/.mil/.us (governmental site)
.edu (educational institution)
• Is it a personal page or a corporate site?
~ , %, users, members, or people generally means created by a private individual
corporate site

3. Did the site load quickly? Yes No

4. Explore the site:
• What is the name of the site?
• Does the content match the title? Yes No Why not?
• Is there an internal search engine for locating your topic quickly? YN
• Are there working links to other useful sites? Yes No
• On supporting pages, is there a link back to the home page? Yes No
• Do other experts consider this page reputable and link to it? (check link:all.or.part.of.url)  Yes: Example:
• Is the page current?
i. When was it published?
ii. When was it last updated?
iii. Could it be out-of-date in relationship to your topic? _
• Is information researched and sources credited in MLA format or does the site claim to be the exclusive source of information on this topic? (Circle one)
• Are graphics simple and enhancing or overused and excessive? (Circle one)
• Do most of the pictures supplement the content of the page? Yes No
• Is the source written on an appropriate level for you? Yes No
• Does the site have an eye appealing layout, including easy-to-read charts, tables, or other lists of important information? Yes No
• Does the site explain the criteria for deciding the content and the links?YN
• Does the content follow good rules of grammar, spelling and professional writing style? Yes No Examples:

• Is the site easy to navigate without distracting advertising banners and links getting in the way?YN

5. Does the author take credit for the site?
• Name and title:
• What organization is he/she affiliated with?

• Credentials (what gives him/her the authority to speak on this subject):

• Contact information (email address, mailing address):

• Check the domain ownership at

• Does the author admit any bias?
i. What is the author’s connection to the subject?
ii. Does he/she support one side or the other? _
iii. Is the site facts or opinion or a combination of both? (Circle one)
iv. Are balanced facts given? Yes No
v. Why was the page put on the Web?
1. Inform, facts, data
2. Explain
3. Persuade
4. Sell
5. Share/disclose
6. Other
vi. Is the site sponsored by an individual or company? (Circle one)

6. Is this a good site to use for your assignment?
• Why is the information worthwhile?
• How does it solve your research need? __
• Does this source seem to provide complete information? Yes No

BOTTOM LINE: Is the web page as good as (or better than) what you could find in journal articles or other published literature that is not on the free, general web? If the answer is no, use the databases. REMEMBER: Databases can usually be trusted because a scholarly or professional organization has evaluated every resource for validity before a user ever sees it.
P.S. “All information, whether in print or by byte, needs to be evaluated by readers for authority, appropriateness, and other personal criteria for value. If you find information that is "too good to be true", it probably is. Never use information that you cannot verify. Establishing and learning criteria to filter information you find on the Internet is a good beginning for becoming a critical consumer of information in all forms. "Cast a cold eye" (as Yeats wrote) on everything you read. Question it. Look for other sources that can authenticate or corroborate what you find. Learn to be skeptical and then learn to trust your instincts.”
© 1996 Elizabeth E. Kirk Sheridan Libraries 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218 (410)-516-8335
Barker, Joe. “The Best Stuff On The Web.” The Teaching Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2002.
Beach, Jennifer and Tricia Kettler. Spar Tech: The WSHS Faculty Technology Newsletter, Volume 1, Issue 1, 1998.
Behen, Linda D. Using Pop Culture to Teach Information Literacy: Methods to Engage a New Generation. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, 2006.
“Can your reporters spot a hoax on the web?” Virginia’s Press. August 17, 1998.
Roka, Les. “Navigating in a Web of deceit.” Quill Magazine. April 2000.
Schrock, Kathleen. “Critical Evaluation Of A Web Site Secondary School Level.” Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators., 1996-2006.

Webquest on Credibility -
Click link to open resource.

Now that you know everything there is to know about how to determine web credibility, it's time to teach someone else. Using, walk through a website and describe your thought process when assessing credibility. Your screencast should take the viewer through each of the criteria you would use to determine credibility. Your screencast should include audio of your thought process. Your final comment should be whether the site is credible or not based on the criteria you reviewed.

Module 4: Organizing Information

  • Outlining
  • Sorting note cards
  • Using Inspiration
Goal: Organize gathered research
Performance Objectives: Student will arrange research in outline format, using proper Roman numerals, numbers and letters. Performance will be satisfactory if an outline is completed in proper format.

Assignment: Student will sort note cards by subject and transfer research to outline format.

Module 5: Writing the research paper

  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Parenthetical Citations
  • Using Quotations
  • Works Cited Page
Goal: Write a documented research paper
Performance Objectives: Student will write a research paper using parenthetical citations, quotations and a works cited page without any plagiarism. Performance will be satisfactory the research paper meets all of these guidelines.

Assignment: Write a research paper with all of the appropriate documentation.

This PPT is to be used with handheld remotes.

*Course adapted from Cheryl Hession, SCPS, - authorstream