School is back in session and that means that students are working on research assignments. It should be easy, right – just search the Internet? Except, as we all know, EVERYTHING is on the Internet: the good, the bad, and the far-too-much. An important part of research assignments is not just finding information, but selecting the best information for your purposes.
Libraries have been a trusted source for guidance in research for a long time. BCFL has tools for each step of a student research assignment. Here are some chosen just for middle grade students!
Choosing a Topic: Your research will go better if you have a topic that interests you with lots of supporting information. Use the Gale Topic Finder to help define your subject and find multiple references.
Finding Reliable e-Resources:
- Hoopla and cloudLibrary – both of BCFL’s digital lending platforms for e-books and e-audiobooks include middle grade nonfiction titles.
- Resource Portals: Power Kids and Power Library/Power Teens include databases of magazine, books, news articles, and (for older students) academic journals. Topics covered include art, business, environmental studies, history, literature, science, social studies, and technology. Your search results will show you the date published, the length of article, and the reading level. (Pro tip – be sure to choose “Full Text Document” in your search request to make sure you get the full document, not just a citation). To make reading easier, you can adjust font size, apply text-to-speech technology, or use a language translation tool.
- Chat with a Librarian – This service of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Library Development allows BCFL users to get one-on-one help in real time. Librarians from libraries throughout Pennsylvania will answer questions and help you with your research.
Finding Pictures and Illustrations:
Do you need images for multi-media presentations? You can access digitized library collections from across the state in PA Photos and Documents. Power Library also links to a database of photographs and graphics from the Associated Press. These are great for current events assignments. Careful searching will bring up images from older events. Please check for copyright restrictions on the images you use.
Finding Print Sources:
BCFL’s online catalog is very easy to use. And did you know that if you click on Power Search you can make your inquiry more specific?
- Once you have found a book that seems appropriate, use the catalog to help you find more books on the same topic. Click on the book title, and then click on the “Catalog Record” tab to see a list of subject terms associated with the book.
- Brainstorm a list of keywords on your topic – the more you search, the more resources you will have!
Creating Your bibliography: If your teacher asks you to use sources in various formats, library collections can be particularly useful!
- BCFL’s catalog lists print and e-books, as well as videos.
- Power Library databases from the Gale educational publishing company will provides links to magazines, journal articles, and short videos.
- Gale search results will even give you the bibliographic citation in the correct format (most middle school assignments use the MLA format).
Whether you are researching online or in print, make sure that your sources are reliable! Ask yourself these questions:
- How current is the source? Check the date when it was published or updated.
- Who is the information intended for? Does it seem to be an appropriate level for your project? An overly simple resource might leave out important information. One that is too complex might be difficult to understand.
- What is the author’s background? Who is the publisher? What is the purpose of the publication? Does the purpose influence what the author says?
- Does the source seem to be objective? What is the author’s tone?
- Where did the authors get their facts? Do they list their sources?
- Is the information well presented? Are there spelling and grammar errors?
- Can you find similar information in other resources?
— Mary Catherine B., District Youth Services Consultant