Why good research skills matter – for learning and cyber safety!

In last month’s article, we broke down the skills necessary for effective essay writing. One of these areas – research and fact-checking – is one of the biggest problems for students in both primary and secondary school; yet it is an essential skill for essay writing in university and for almost any type of future work!


Good research at the student level involves:

  • The ability to both broadly read on a topic and then narrow down research as a writing plan is formulated
  • The ability to search key terms online to uncover accurate information
  • The ability to quickly scan and locate the best information for the project
  • Understanding how to discern a reputable source of information from a questionable one
  • Being able to locate and read a wide variety of sources (going beyond Wikipedia to a journal article, a discussion forum, a book review, a textbook or a work of fiction…)
  • The ability to sort the key points from the less important when reading
  • Successfully summarising information and extending it with original thought – not just copying chunks of text
  • Referencing correctly and understanding the need to acknowledge others’ work


Besides the obvious need for these skills in educational and work contexts, developing savvy researchers during childhood is important to protect your child from the sometimes risky online content they have access to every day. This includes looking in detail at children’s research process when accessing Google.


This story acts as a warning: One of our tutors once told of a young student who reported wanting to know about the wildlife in Lake Michigan. The little girl told our tutor she Googled ‘What’s at the bottom of Lake Michigan?’ We’re talking Chigago – you can imagine what kinds of images she found.


Life is no longer as simple as the old encyclopaedia days, but it does give us opportunities to teach children advanced research skills!

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