Writing a Research Report for Kids is Child's Play with these Tools
Best Research Websites for Topics, Ideas, Search Engines & Samples
These research sites for student papers and reports offer kid-friendly search engines, examples, formats, and guidance to ease the writing process. They provide primary sources, tips on structuring the report, and ideas for choosing a topic. Most of them are designed especially for kids and teenagers, and my students have found them tremendously useful.
There is more to a kid's research project than looking up the biography of George Washington on Google or Wikipedia. Don't get me wrong. I don't know if I could survive without Google. And Wikipedia can be helpful for a general overview of a topic. But it is still hit-and-miss to find quality research resources on Google, especially for younger students with a limited vocabulary. (How many research articles have you "translated" for your elementary-age child?) And teachers do not consider Wikipedia to be an authoritative source, because most entries can be added or changed by anyone.
The search engines and research tools described below are ones I've used as a teacher and parent with my kids, in the classroom and at home. And parents, this is definitely for you too. Of course... you know your child's term paper or research paper is YOUR research project too!
How to Do Research
Plan your Research Paper
Writing a research report is a step-by-step process. And the folks at Kentucky Virtual Library (KYVL) help kids to navigate it with their How to Do Research interactive. It's is a great tool for parents, students and teachers of grades K-8 (and some high school students too).
KYVL takes you through planning, searching for information, techniques for taking notes, sifting through the information, selecting the format for, and creating the report. Although the online research is centered on Kentucky Virtual Library resources, this entire process is easily adapted to the use of resources in any school, city or state.
Research Paper Guides, Examples and Models
- Write Source - Student Models
Write Sources does an outstanding job of providing models and samples for all kinds of writing, and for research writing from grades 1-12.
- Writing Workshop Home
Step-by-step activity guide to writing a research paper for grades 3-5. Includes accompanying lesson plans for teachers.
- Write a Winning Research Report | Parents | Scholastic.com
Guide for parents of students in grades 6-8 on planning and writing a research report.
- Research Starter | Scholastic.com
Activity with research starter questions and research info for several social studies, biography, and science topics.
- Writing Tips | TIME For Kids
The writers of Time for Kids magazine offer their six-step process to writing a research paper. These tips work best for students in grades 5-12.
- Information Literacy - University of Idaho
Self-paced learning modules helpful to high school, grades 9-12, and college students. Excellent guidance on searching for and evaluating information for use in research papers.
Search engine for kids written by librarians
Have you had this experience? Your 4th grader has to write a paper on what the different branches of government do. You find lots of information online, but you have to translate it for your child because she doesn't understand what she's reading.
KidsClick! can be a big help. Think of it as the children's and teen's sections of your public library. Librarians have put together research sources that are kid-friendly. The search results include the reading level so your child can select ones he/she can more easily read.
You'll also see that the KidsClick! main page has subjects arranged as they would be in a library. At the bottom of the page, you'll find a link to see the page as it would look through a librarian's eyes. All of the subjects and sub-headings turn into the Dewey Decimal number system as you would see it on the library shelves. My students had an "Aha!" moment when all those numbers finally made sense.
Search Engine and Research Tool
Awesome Library is another student-friendly search engine. As the name implies, this site is also maintained by librarians. This award-winning search engine advertises that they have more than 35,000 resources available, the top five percent in education.
In addition to the search feature, there are dozens of categories to browse through for kids, teens, parents, teachers, librarians and college students.
Encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus, almanac and more
Fact Monster, from Pearson Education's Information Please, is an award-winning often-reviewed site for kids. It offers some good tools for doing research on a variety of topics. These tools include an encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus and almanac.
You can find info on the world, the U.S., people, science, math and money. Fact Monster's resources include a Homework Center with more excellent info and study guides.
Fact Monster has some other excellent research paper tools. The Citing Fact Monster page provides helpful guidance about citing resources from their website. Another helpful page is their Plagiarism page. It explains what can be considered plagiarism, with examples, and what is considered common knowledge. The page also has links to their Homework Center pages on writing papers, footnotes and endnotes, and writing a bibliography. Love that!
Search Engine and Writing Guides for Kids and Teens
Internet Public LIbrary 2 is a merger of the Internet Public Library and the Librarians' Internet Index. In addition to its extensive authoritative search engine database, it has links on online newspapers and magazines around the world. If you need assistance with your papers, ask the IPL2 librarian, or browse through their frequently asked questions.
IPL2 has separate sections for kids and teens. The Kids Section has resources targeted to students in grade 3-8 . The Teens Section has an A+ Research & Writing Guide with step-by-step instructions to help high school and college students put a paper together.
Library of Congress
American History Primary Sources
Wow! If you're doing research for a paper on some aspect of American history or government, PLEASE look at the Library of Congress website. For social studies research, it's hard to beat the sheer volume of sources available on the LOC.
They have more than 138 million artifacts, people! LOC's information includes digital documents, photographs and webcasts, many of them primary sources. Much of this material can be reproduced for educational purposes, but be sure to read the Rights and Restrictions Information.
The reading level of the material is suitable for kids in grades 6-12, but younger students can make use of the archived photos and documents. They came in very handy for my fifth-grade daughter's presentation on Susan B. Anthony and the women's suffrage movement.
CIA World Factbook
Brief facts on all of the countries in the world
If what you need is fast, accurate facts about a country, take a look at the CIA World Factbook. Here you'll find brief facts about all of the countries of the world. The information provided is at the country level only. There is no information at the state or provincial level of a country.
Now for the facts, which the CIA updates frequently: each country's flag and map; an introduction which may include a brief history; geographic features, climate and resources; demographic information about the population and ethnic groups; government and political structure; and details on the economy, communication, transportation and military; along with any transnational issues. And they fit all of that on one web page per country -- amazing!
Social Studies and Humanities for K-8 students
Another site I have frequently used for research with my elementary age students is MrDonn.org. If your 3rd grader needs to write about the customs, food and culture of Iroquois Indians, for example, this is THE place to find it! Mr. Donn has information on most social studies topics in grades K-8 and the site has won numerous awards.
While the site lacks a search tool, information is easy to access using the major subject headings. There's also a section on Language Arts with guidance for writing reports and essays.
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus for Kids
We make frequent use of the thesaurus, dictionary and rhyming dictionary at Word Central. This Merriam-Webster site is designed specifically for the K-12 crowd. The dictionary has a speaker icon that lets you hear the word pronounced correctly. All of the components give you links to the other ones when you look up a word so your kid has plenty of options to find the right word for his paper.
By the way, I love that rhyming dictionary. Kids writing poetry or songs will love it too! There are also lots of word games on the site.
Dictionary and Reverse Dictionary
Another dictionary we frequently use is OneLook. Nothing fancy, just a great workhorse of a dictionary with synonym help.
You plug in the word. OneLook displays quick definitions, as well as the results of dozens of online dictionaries. A nice feature is the reverse dictionary. You type a short definition, such as "barrel maker". The reverse dictionary search returns possible words to fit the definition, ranked in order of the closest match. So kids can use the reverse dictionary as a kind of thesaurus as well.
BibMe Bibliography Maker
Simple tool for creating bibliography citations
OK, let's admit it. The bibliography is the ugly underbelly of research writing. It's grunt work. But there's a simple online tool for making this task easier. BibMe is an automated bibliography generator.
There are options for several formats, including Modern Language Association (MLA), which is the type of citation commonly used in K-12 term papers and research papers. You pick the type of source (book, magazine, website, journal, newspaper, film, etc.). Use the auto-fill mode and conduct a search on your source. Once selected, the entries will be automatically filled in for you. Or select manual entry mode and a form asks for the vital information. You submit it, and voila! You copy and paste or download the citation into your bibliography. Or use the option to download and save your bibliography. Those options require free registration.