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Turn Students Into Strategic Researchers: Web Scavenger Hunts

These days, knowing how to efficiently and effectively research information online is a valuable skill for both students and professionals alike. Because the internet is so vast, learning the best methods teaching students how to navigate the sea of information is essential for preparing them for the research challenges of the 21st century. Below is a guide that will help teachers to instruct their students on effective and fun methods of hunting for information online in an efficient and responsible manner.

How Web Scavenger Hunts Can Turn Students Into Strategic Researchers

Despite the many valid criticisms Wikipedia receives from academics and researchers who feel that the open-source encyclopedia suffers from dubiously-researched content, the site can still act as a valuable research hub for students. That said, the site should not be used as a primary resource by students who are less experienced with researching, and is best used as a starting point for finding the best research material that pertains to the topic being researched.

The key to using Wikipedia effectively is to always question its content by double checking the sources used by those who edit the countless articles hosted by the site.

Checking sources and finding claims that have yet to be cited properly are great scavenger hunt ideas for teachers who want to instill best research practices in their students. Students should learn first and foremost that the most important part of any Wikipedia article is the References section, which lays out the various sources used throughout the article.

An excellent project idea for students might be to have them read 3-5 Wikipedia articles and create a list of sources used to verify claims in the article, as well as a second list of claims that need citations or a stronger source. This particular scavenger hunt idea should help students to critically consider the resources they use in their research and responsibly ensure that these resources are supported by proper citations and sources.

EducationWorld offers an excellent resource for teachers to assign their younger students fun and interesting internet scavenger hunts. Organized by topics that correspond with each month of the year, students can expect to learn foundational techniques for investigating fun educational topics online. Each topic, such as this one on the smallpox vaccine, provides a handout with several questions and a website that students can use to research their topic online.

Search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, can be excellent resources for students who want to research their topic quickly and efficiently. One caveat to using online search tools is that it can be difficult to structure a search query in a way that yields the best results. ClassZone hosts a useful scavenger hunt activity to help students familiarize themselves with searching the web effectively by asking them to answer various questions using search engines.

For more advanced students, teachers can devise scavenger hunts using more complex methods of utilizing search tools. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) offers a handy guide for both students and teachers on how to effectively use search engines for research purposes. Teachers who are in the process of educating their students on effective research can use this guide to teach techniques and ideas for finding the most relevant and informative sources online.

One of the major problems with having such a wealth of valuable information available for students to research online is the existence of plagiarism. Students are not as trained as their teachers or professors at spotting plagiarism and could end up using plagiarized sources for their research by mistake. Luckily, Boise State University offers an excellent scavenger hunt idea for teachers to help their students research and find out more about how to quickly and effectively spot plagiarism in online sources.

For more ideas on internet scavenger hunts and web quests, the University of Sioux Falls hosts an extensive listing of ideas, links and lesson plans for teachers to enhance their student’s online research capabilities. Aimed at primary and secondary school students, this informational hub offers dozens of scavenger hunt ideas that range from learning the ABCs to finding “treasure” online. The site also lists many valuable resources for teachers who are looking to more effectively incorporate webquests and scavenger hunts into their own lesson plans.

As people around the world become connected to the infinite store of information that is the World Wide Web, learning how to research responsibly and effectively online is a skill that is of the utmost importance. Not only can online research skills help students to learn and complete class assignments more efficiently, but having a strong educational background in online research is quickly becoming one of the most marketable skills for young professionals today. For teachers who want to teach better methods of researching online, the resources discussed above are great starting points for transforming your students into strategic researchers in no time!

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