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Volume 23, Number 5
September/October 2007

Internet Research 101

How to help middle school students avoid getting tangled up in the Web


Evanston, Ill., eighth-grade humanities teacher Claudia Garrison has seen it all: the paper citing “Michael” (as in Michael Jackson) as a source for infant mortality statistics; the paper whose different fonts unwittingly revealed where material had been cut and pasted from the Web; and the paper whose expert opinion came from a blog.

Fast and convenient, the World Wide Web has become an unparalleled informational resource. It surpasses the card catalogue as the main entry point for students embarking on papers and projects. However, it poses particular problems for beginning researchers. Students need to learn new skills to find the information they need, evaluate it appropriately, and distinguish between others’ work—properly credited—and their own.

The dramatic rise in plagiarism—whether intentional or unintentional—indicates the urgent need to train students in good Internet research skills. As many as one-third of college papers written today are marred by “significant plagiarism,” according to, an online plagiarism-checking service. But developing appropriate Internet skills goes far beyond preventing plagiarism—and needs to begin well before college.

Most experts say Internet research skills should be taught in middle school. Techno-savvy but naïve, nearly all middle school students today have been Googling for years, according to Kathleen Schrock, a former librarian and technology administrator for Cape Cod’s Nauset Public Schools and creator of "Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators," an award-winning online compilation of curriculum-enhancement websites.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

R. Beach. A Web-Linked Guide to Resources and Activities. New York: Teachers College Press, 2007.

Best of History Web Sites.

“Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators.”

J. Keane. Internet-Based Student Research: Creating to Learn with a Step-by-Step Approach, Grades 5-12. Worthington, OH: Linworth Publishing, 2006.

Lake Michigan Whale Watching.

D. Whittier. “Cyberethics in the Googling Age.” Boston University School of Education Journal of Education 187, no. 2 (2006): 1-77.