A Guide to Digital Research: Detailed, Authoritative and Free

The new school year is fast approaching (some of you may already be in full-swing)! For many librarians, the start of the school year means new students, teachers, materials… and sometimes less of a budget. One way to work around the frustrations of library budget cuts is to utilize free resources to your advantage.

If you have iTunes, you might want to think about downloading A Guide to Digital Research, a free resource packet compiled by Apple Distinguished Educators. While these educators are familiar with Apple technology, the resources available do not require purchase of any Apple device. In fact, the PDFs can be viewed in Adobe Acrobat. You will, however, need to download iTunes in order to access the information (it’s free).

Here are just some of the useful things you’ll find in the guide:

  • Wikipedia: The Launching Pad — Ah, yes. The elephant in many school classrooms and libraries. Bea Cantor, an instructional technology resource teacher in Virginia, says that we should use Wikipedia as a way for students to use their own inquisitiveness to find research topics. She writes how a student might use Wikipedia to help discover a specific topic relating to World War I and how it can, in fact, be a useful starting point.

  • A Guide to Google Scholar — Katie Kreuger, from the Marymount School of New York, discusses the basics of Google Scholar: how it works, the targeted audience ad how to use it. Additionally, she explains how different operators (title:, author:, etc.) can improve results in Google Scholar, and reviews all the details of its Advanced Search, too.

  • Web Site Evaluation — This is my favorite document in the packet. To start, it provides valid points as to why educators are skeptical of using web sites like Wikipedia—I appreciate the references to Stephen Colbert, the 2011 Tucson shooting, and other instances where major news outlets relied on user-generated sites for accurate information. Author Josh Mika, a library resource center director, also writes that even Wikipedia admits it’s not an appropriate place to end the research process, but is a good starting point. The document reviews in detail different criteria of evaluation (author, purpose, currency, source and applicability), as well as questions to ask during the evaluation.

  • Other resources in the guide include a web site evaluation checklist, designing creative research projects, formulating a thesis statement as well as video tutorials on Diigo and, yes, EasyBib. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Apple Distinguished Educators include it in their guide, so thanks!

If you’re looking for a refresher on how to introduce and teach digital research to your students this year, A Guide to Digital Research is a useful place to start. You may find exercises you can use in your classroom instruction, or to have students complete on their own.

Emily Gover is the in-house librarian for EasyBib. Last week she was nearly 10,000 ft. above sea level while traveling through Colorado (and was also amazed by the Boulder Public Library, too!). You can find her on Twitter, @Emily_EasyBib, or posting news you can use at the EasyBib Librarians Facebook page.

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