Tips to help your child research and filter information

As parents, the way we researched an assignment for high school has substantially changed to what it is today. We’d sift through piles of books at the library and use all of our loose change for photocopying. It’s likely many of us had our heads in our parent’s set of Encyclopedia Brittanicas, too.

Research is still an essential skill for students to have and develop, but today with the internet, there is so much more information at their fingertips. Because of this, it is essential that students have the ability to know what information is reputable and what is not when they carry out online research.

Having a massive number of information sources can be overwhelming, particularly for students who are new to research. Here are some research tips that might help your student succeed.

Teach them how to skim and scan

There’s no time to be reading chapter after chapter in every journal online and so being able to skim and scan the page quickly will help to more quickly determine if the information is a good fit.

Skim the page first and identify the title, the caption, headings and subheadings. Read the first and the last sentences of each paragraph. Once you’ve done this and feel that the article is suitable, scan it for the information you’re looking for. Scan the document for nouns and verbs that relate to the information you need. Keep an eye out for bolded words and lists.

Skimming and scanning is a skill that takes practice but can be very beneficial in high school and beyond.

Teach them how to assess content

Millions of articles are published on the internet each day; many based on fact, many well referenced and written by reputable and expert professionals in their field. On the other hand, there are equally as many articles claiming fact with no reference. Fake news abounds, too.

So how on earth does a young student determine the difference?  Here are a few steps you can teach your student:

Is it a brand, education or government website

Before Googling information on any topic, your first visit should be brand, education or government websites. Websites where you’re guaranteed reliable content like The State Library of Queensland, Australian Geographic, National Geographic, ABC or use Google Scholar.

Who wrote the article

It’s crucial to check the expert status of the person who is writing the article. If your child is doing an assignment to investigate current and emerging in-store ordering and database systems for retail, it wouldn’t be wise to use information from a dessert bar website that is written by their store assistant.

Authors should be experts on the topic, and their information validated on many websites.  Remember too; everyone can share their opinion on a subject and so it’s essential to determine whether it is opinion or fact. Often fact will be backed up with research.


It’s so easy for information to be cut and paste into an assignment these days; sadly it’s quite common. So how do we communicate the concept of plagiarism to our kids? Kids Health explains it very well:

The word plagiarism comes from a Latin word for kidnapping. You know that kidnapping is stealing a person. Well, plagiarism is stealing a person’s ideas or writing. You wouldn’t take someone’s lunch money or bike, right? Well, someone’s words and thoughts are personal property, too.

Avoiding plagiarism is simple. If there are a couple of great sentences that explain the point perfectly, all the student has to do is use the sentences in their assignment and include the name of the author and the website URL where the information came from.  It’s always a good idea to ask their teacher exactly how they’d like information referenced.

Where to find reliable information for assignments other than the internet

Of course, it’s easy to jump online and Google a search term, but don’t forget, there are plenty of high-quality information sources at your local library. Best of all everything is free with a library card, and you can research in air-conditioned comfort.

Sunshine Coast Libraries have books for assignments and research and online access to encyclopaedias including Brittanica Library (formerly Encyclopaedia Brittanica), World Book online and Webster world (full of Australian content).

In addition to reference material, Sunshine Coast Libraries also has a vast selection of magazines, books, music, films and audiobooks in their eLibrary. So if you’re looking for music scores or documentaries to complete an assignment, there’s loads of information here.

Research creates confident consumers of information and well developed critical thinking skills, skills that will take your children beyond high school, TAFE or University, right through to their lives as working adults.

To find your nearest library on the Sunshine Coast click HERE

This article is contributed by Sunshine Coast Libraries

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