Tag Archives: online research skills

Cite the Source

Why Cite the Source?

In any research assignment, students need to learn the essential skill of how to cite the source. They must list where they found the information. Cite sources to:
cite the source

  • acknowledge the original author
  • allow others to look up additional details
  • avoid plagiarism by giving credit to the work of others
  • show readers that there is trustworthy and credible data on the subject

A citation should include as much information as possible including author’s name, date published, web page title or publisher, and the web address.

There are many citation styles used to format the source. The most popular are APA and MLA. Each style has rules about where to put the information and type of punctuation to use. It can get confusing because the style rules change.

Not all web pages will list the information or put it in the same place. Students will often need to use their detective skills to find all the details.

Tips for finding the date on a web page:

  • Search for date written or date updated at the top or bottom of the article.
  • Look for a copyright date at the bottom of a web page.
  • You may not find month or day. Leave out the information not listed.

Tips for finding the author on a web page:

  • The author might be a person or an organization.
  • Look for a logo as it may show the organization name.
  • Refer to the bottom of the web page to see if there is contact information.

Sample Citations using APA Style

Web Page Article with Author
Author, A. (Year, Month Day) Article Title. Retrieved from http://www.website.com/article/

Web Page with No Author
Article Title. (Year, Month Day). Retrieved from http://www.noauthor.com/article/

Web Page with No Date
Author, A. (n.d.) Article Title. Retrieved from http://www.websitenodate.com/article/

Web Page that May Change or Move
Author, A. (Year, Month Day). Article Title. Retrieved Month Day, Year, from http://www.websitechange.com/article/

Use an Online Citation Maker

In a previous post, I expressed regret over Google’s decision to remove the cite function in the new Explore Tool in G Suite. Until this useful feature returns or if you are using other apps, try an online citation generator as a great alternative. To use one, you select the resource type and enter in the URL. Using an online form, missing information is then manually entered. With the click of one button, the citation is created. Try it!

Citation Machine

Research Sources – Know the Difference

research sourcesResearch projects are an integral component of curriculum. Students select an area of inquiry and then they explore to investigate the topic. As educators, we focus on helping students to develop competent research strategies and prepare them for success. Students should recognize authentic, trustworthy sources. They should also be aware of the different types of resources: primary, secondary, and tertiary sources of information. And, searching these sources in a logical order promotes a systematic, proficient, and comprehensive understanding.

In TechnoBiography, students are guided through the research process. They begin by looking at sample biographies, then brainstorm, complete a planning organizer, and finally investigate all three different types of sources of online data – primary, secondary, and tertiary – in a structured order.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Primary Sources
Primary sources of information are original artifacts, documents, research sourcesrecordings, or other sources of information about a topic. They offer first hand, original evidence. For students studying a biography, here are some examples of primary sources:

What did the person say or write?

  • speech or transcript
  • journal article
  • diary entry
  • letter or email
  • notebook
  • postcard
  • interview
  • personal blog
  • telegram
  • autobiography
  • social media post by person
  • video testimonial
What documents relate to life events?

  • birth certificate
  • marriage license
  • school report card or diploma
  • contract or agreement
  • membership card
  • act or treaty
  • warrant
  • passport or citizenship certificate
  • driver’s license
  • property deed
  • baptism certificate
  • will
What did the person make?

  • book or poem
  • artwork
  • song sheet
  • play
  • manuscript
  • invention
  • architecture
What did the person do?

  • photograph
  • video footage of live event
  • audio recording of live event
  • newspaper article of live event
  • eyewitness account of live event
  • medieval tapestry
  • experiment results
What awards of recognition were given?

  • trophy or plaque
  • medal or prize
  • certificate of recognition
What items did the person own?

  • vehicle
  • clothing or jewelry
  • instrument

Primary Source Tips:

  1. Timing Matters: A primary source is created at the time of the event or shortly after.
  2. No Judgement: A primary source is raw data and has not been interpreted by someone else.
  3. Verify Authenticity: Check the source of the artifact. It should be posted by a reliable source such as a museum, reputable organization, or official fan club.
  4. Copy of Original: A primary source is often one-of-a-kind or rare. Since there is a limited number, the artifact can be the actual item, digital copy, or exact replica.

Secondary Sources
Secondary sources of information research sourcesare created after an event has occurred or by someone who did not experience or participate in the event first-hand. In the case of a biography, the information was written or recorded by someone else about the person. Secondary sources often include opinions about the event or person so they have value in analyzing its importance or significance.

  • biography
  • newspaper editorial
  • magazine story
  • movie of historical event
  • documentary
  • review
  • non-fiction book
  • expert commentary
  • social media post by others
  • fan website
Secondary Source Tips:

  1. Find Trustworthy Sources: Use secondary sources from universities, government agencies, historical societies, organizations, museums, biography TV networks, or official fan pages. Avoid sources where the author or creator is unknown.
  2. Consider the Perspective: The creator has a purpose for making the secondary source. These reasons may cause them to hide facts, distort events, or draw false conclusions. Look for sources that are objective and unbiased.
  3. Check References: A secondary source will often list books, websites, or other sources of information. Use them to research.

Tertiary Sources
Tertiary sources of information offer broad research sourcesintroductory overviews of a topic gathered from a variety of sources. They have usually been contributed to by a number of authors and reviewed to ensure accuracy. Examples are encyclopedias or dictionaries. Like secondary sources, they may contain an interpretation or evaluation in addition to facts.

Order is Important in Research

When conducting a research project, knowing the different types of sources of information is essential. But the resources should be used in a logical order too. Start with a basic outline, then move on to find out the importance of the topic, and finally explore the original evidence:

  1. Begin with tertiary sources to get a general summary from a variety of sources.
  2. Search secondary sources to gain a deeper understanding and discover other viewpoints and perspectives on the topic.
  3. Then examine primary sources to view first-hand, original artifacts or evidence. Study the raw data to draw your own conclusions.

Research Skills for Students: Primary and Secondary Sources

Teach Your Students to Become Perceptive Researchers

One of my previous blogs recognized the Teach research skillscomplexity of teaching students foundational research skills. As educators, we struggle with teaching all of the steps of the inquiry process as well as keeping the students engaged in learning these essential skills. TechnoResearch is a new Google Apps for Education project by TechnoKids Inc. that systematically teaches information management strategies. In this project, students create a unique fun fact card as they build research skills.

Learning to distinguish between primary and secondary sources of information is an important research skill. If students are working on an inquiry project, it’s worthwhile to spend the time to ensure they understand how to recognize the type of online source they are using. Try the following activity to teach not only the difference between primary and secondary material online, but have students actively engaged in determining the benefits and shortcomings of each type.


Why Consider the Source?
Anyone can put anything on the Internet. Be critical! Just because it is on the Internet does not make it true. Instead, ask good questions to decide if the information is trustworthy.

  • How does the person know these details? Were they present at the event or scene?
  • Where did the person learn the details? Was it from an eyewitness or book?
  • Does the person list sources of information? Are these sources of information reliable?
  • Are conclusions based on a single piece of evidence or multiple sources?
  • Are the interpretation of facts neutral or are they slanted to support an opinion?
  • What does the person gain from sharing the information?

What is a Primary Source of Information?
A primary source is first hand. It is information from an actual event or original person’s actions or words. Primary sources include:

research data autobiography video testimonial
speech legal document eyewitness account
diary entry news footage of an event letter or postcard
interview original artwork social media post
email or test message meeting transcript performance
photograph chat log census statistics

What is a Secondary Source of Information?
A secondary source is second hand. It is information based on another person’s interpretation of an actual event or original person’s actions or words. Secondary sources include:

newspaper editorial biography non-fiction book
newspaper story documentary expert commentary
movie of historical event review summary report

Research using Primary and Secondary Sources of Information

    A primary source of information is from the original person or event.
    A secondary source of information can be a person’s opinion of the primary source.

    1. Form an opinion of a popular musician.
      a. Use a primary source to watch a performance such as a music video or concert.
      Did you like the performance?
      b. Use a secondary source to find a review of the musician’s concert or latest album.
      Do you agree with the reviewer’s opinion?
      c. Why is it a good idea to form your own opinion using a primary source instead of simply taking someone else’s opinion?
    2. Teach research skills

    3. There are many quotes on the Internet. A quote is the exact words written or spoken by someone. Discover what a famous person such as an athlete, politician, actor, musician, or historical figure said.
      a. Use a primary source to find a quote. Search the Internet for a video of an interview, testimonial, or speech. Write a quote from the footage.
      b. Use a secondary source to find a quote. Search the Internet for a web page or image that has a quote. Write down the quote.
      c. Why is a quote from a primary source more reliable?
    4. Teach research skills

    5. A news report can be a primary or secondary source of information. It depends how the facts are reported. Research a current event.
      a. Use a primary source to learn about a current event. Search the Internet for a video of the actual event, interview with an eyewitness, photograph of the scene, or social media post of an attendee on location. What source of information did you use? Why is it a first-hand account?
      b. Use a secondary source to learn about a current event. Search the Internet for an opinion article, e-book, expert commentary, or summary report. What source of information did you use? Why is it a second-hand account?
      c. How does a secondary source of information help you to understand a current event?
    6. Teach research skills

    7. Your teacher assigns you to create a research report on Asteroids. Why would this be a secondary source of information?
    8. Learn Research Skills

    9. List a benefit to using primary sources of information.
      Possible answer: A primary source of information is a first-hand account. You know it is true. You can form your own opinion.
    10. Learn Research Skills

    11. List a benefit to using secondary sources of information.
      Possible answer: A secondary source of information helps you learn background information. It can be a concise summary of the material. It helps you to see different viewpoints. You can save time when researching. The information may be in language that is easier to understand.

Teach Online Research Skills AND Engage Students!

Teach research skills

Although young people today are savvy Internet users, often their skills are restricted to social media and video and photo sharing sites. Their research skills may be limited to a Google search and clicking on one of the first sites that appear.

Now, more than ever, a wealth of information is instantly available to students through their smartphones, tablets, and digital devices. But research skills are complex. The inquiry process involves critical and strategic thinking, skimming and scanning techniques, and evaluation of sources. Then information must be reworded and summarized, sources must be cited, and the results must be presented in a clear and appealing presentation. Learning an essential research process that can be applied throughout their academic years is critical for today’s students.


TechnoResearch is an all new project just released by TechnoKids Inc. that systematically teaches research strategies. Students not only learn foundational research skills, but they are also highly engaged as they create a fun fact card using Google Docs to showcase their knowledge. As they investigate a topic of their choice, students are guided through the research process:

  • Study samples – For inspiration and to gain an understanding of the research project, a collection of completed fun fact cards is surveyed.
  • Ask questions – Use the Research tool and Wikipedia to narrow the focus.
  • Create an outline – Organize ideas using headings.
  • Learn search strategies – Find multiple sources, assess if they are trustworthy and reliable, and learn how and why to cite the source.
  • Paraphrase and rewrite – Summarize and rephrase information to avoid plagiarism. Consider the reading level of the audience.
  • Build Word Processing Skills – Learn formatting techniques and add images to make a unique one page fun fact card.
Teach Research Skills

Using TechnoResearch, students learn skills to create a fun fact card on any topic.

The TechnoResearch technology project includes five additional, optional extension activities to challenge students further and build research skills. The goal of this project is to teach strategies that are transferable to any research project.