Internet Research

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Students will be able to develop a search strategy and identify keywords to become more effective online researchers.

Big Idea

Internet research can be invaluable, if you know how to do it.

Note To Teachers

Due to the ubiquitous nature of the internet in our lives, students tend to believe that they already know how everything there is to know about performing searches online. However, when asked to perform a search of information on an unfamiliar topic, they tend to become overwhelmed by the vast amount of information available to them and have a difficult time distinguishing from reliable and unreliable sources. 

Learning to search effectively and efficiently is a skill woven throughout the ELA Common Core standards, and specifically addressed in the Anchor Standards for College and Career Readiness for Writing, including:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

I use the three lessons in the Internet Research unit to teach the strategies explicitly, and the skills are evaluated every time my students use the internet for research.


5 minutes

In order to set the stage for the lesson, and to have students understand the importance of precisely worded descriptions, I start the lesson by telling the students that we are going to play a quick game. The object of the game is to describe an object to the class without using its name, and have the class guess what it is.

I ask for three volunteers to come up. Each of the volunteers is shown a different item. The items are anything I have on hand (a pen, a pencil, pliers, scissors, a tape dispenser, etc.).

Once the class has guessed, I ask "How is this activity similar to doing internet research?" followed by, "Why would scientists need to use the internet?"

Finally, I tell the students that over the next few days they will be honing their internet research skills to help them become more effective researchers. These are skills that they will use not only in the science class, but in all their classes.

How Search Works

10 minutes

I tell the students that before we move on to doing actual searches, it is important to understand how a search engine works, and present the video "How Search Works".

While presenting the video I pause several times to discuss what is being said:

  • 0:26 seconds, right after Mr. Cutts states, "At least as much of it as we can find" and ask "What does this mean?" (Google searches its own catalog/index of the web. Other engines have different indexes, which is why they might provide different search results).
  • 0.58 seconds, right after "cheetah running speed". I write the keywords on the board and ask, "Why do you think Mr. Cutts didn't type the question itself?" and "How was this similar to the activity we did at the beginning of the class?"
  • 1:54 seconds, right after "and send you back your search results". I again ask, "Based on what Mr. Cutts just said about how the search engine finds your results, how do you think typing the original question would have affected your search results?"
  • 2:35 seconds, right after "at the top we see ads". I ask, "How does understanding your search results help you become better internet researchers?


Understanding how search engines work might not seem very important at first glance. Their use has become so ubiquitous that students don't even think about it. However, once they realize that, like phone books, they include only the portion of the web that that particular search engine has indexed, and that it will search for all the words they include in the query, they understand why it is useful to figure out key words in advance and/or to use more than one search engine.

How to Find Anything Online

30 minutes

I tell the students that now that they know how a search engine works, it is time to figure out just how to perform an effective search (Practice 8: Obtain, evaluate and communicate information), and present the video "Find Anything Online"

I then ask the students to think for a moment and jot down shortcuts they have already discovered or know about that might help the class perform better searches. After a couple of minutes of think/jot down time, I have the students share them with their tables before opening the floor for a whole class share.

While the students are talking about their tricks, I open up a document on my drive that I display to the class. Once we reconvene, I tell the students that they will be helping me compile a list of internet search tricks that we can all access, and together we develop the document. I like presenting the lesson this way since I always end up learning something new from the kids and am able to insert things like -use key words- and -find synonyms- without sounding lecture-like.

Once we complete our list, I tell the students that they will be practicing their internet search skills by going on an answer scavenger hunt, and pass out the worksheet. I tell the students that each of them will work individually and should not share the actual answers or URLs. However they are allowed to share suggestions, keywords or strategies with each other, and will gain XP (participation points) if they do.  

If a student finishes early, I direct him/her to GoogleaDay, so they can keep practicing.


10 minutes

As I bring this lesson to a close, I ask the students to take a look at the kinds of questions that they can answer using the internet. The discussion that follows revolves around:

  • Once they knew the answer, could they transform the question into a "bubble the answer" question? (Yes)
  • What similarities do they notice? (They are all factual questions.)



I also project the To Web, Or Not To Web slideshow, and we discuss how internet searching can be beneficial and/or detrimental to their projects.

Finally, I ask the students to identify one thing they learned and turn it in as an exit ticket.

Student Work