Digital Research – Essential Skills

I had two experiences this week that brought home the message strongly visualized in the excellent graphic below by

In one class I visited students were conducting some independent research to review a topic. They were using each other, their textbooks, class notes and their laptops to clarify any concepts and terms that still seemed fuzzy. Over and over again I am shocked by how students go about searching. I frequently ask students what strategies they use when I’m visiting classes. Despite our best efforts to teach search strategies across the curriculum it seems some students never move beyond the default: ‘I just type my question into the search box. ‘ Then, from the seven million or so hits they get they simply pick from the first page that comes up. How do we support students to move beyond this threshold?!

The other situation was a conversation with librarians from another school. We were meeting to share how we are tackling the challenge of Creating a Culture of Citation. It was a rich discussion and again it highlighted the need for students to become much more competent at digital research including developing effective search strategies, in evaluating and validating sources, and citing sources appropriately.

As points out:

the instant gratification of the modern search engine certainly may pose some unhealthy research habits

Digital research skills are essential to master for life in the digital age. If we are serious about preparing students for life, then these skills need to be taught and reinforced across every discipline.

Digital Research Infographic



Creating a Culture of Citation

We are building a culture of citation – piece by piece. We created this infographic to try to visually organize how complex this topic is for students.

Step 1. The following set of recommendations were made by faculty after being considering a case study about how well we are preparing our students for the citation requirements they’ll encounter at college.

Their recommendations were to:
1. Reframe reason to cite beyond avoidance of the penalties of plagiarism. — “Love the idea of making positive reasons for citations – the breadcrumb trail, how do you want your work to be used/cited, learning more about an idea through citations, etc.”

“How do we help students understand the idea of integrity (in a larger context) and why it is an important character trait or value. Then hopefully they will find value or worth to do maintain academic integrity.”

2. Develop consistent standards — “Discussion between departments, develop consistency and then communication of standards to students as a group.”

3.Get input for how to deal with multimedia & different types of content from faculty with expertise in the field. — “Get recommendations for media from the departments who use those media most (ie: music for audio, visual arts for images, etc.)”

4. Communicate common standards — “We have to provide the citations for our own stuff if we are going to require it of our students.”

5. Clarify
definition of plagiarism for students and teachers

support tools for students and teachers

Step 2. Get by-in. Enlist Faculty Leaders and others to lead. (We’re currently at this point.)
Step 3. Set small achievable goals.

Citation dilemma

What’s up?

1. Observations (by admin) have indicated there are some gaps in how thoroughly students are citing sources

3. Confusion for students has increased because of the variety of different citation styles being required by different teachers

2. Confusion also may have increased due to a greater variety of assessment types now being used – ‘presentations & products’.

So lets address how citation should look in the different contexts. Provide clear examples (of each type of ‘product’), easy to use citation tools, and simplify the process so students can ‘get it right’ without feeling overwhelmed.