Whether your child decides to work for a corporation or chart his own entrepreneurial course, he will need a variety of “soft skills” outside of those quantifiable academic skills he graduates with. One of those valuable skills is the ability to learn anything for himself. Here are a few ideas that can help us mentor our student toward becoming an independent researcher:
Encourage an interest.
Everyone is interested in something. A student will be far more motivated to research something he is interested in than something contrived. Our role is to provide time and resources, and to feed those interests as they show themselves.
Invest in a good set of encyclopedias.
Encyclopedias provide a simple foundation to any type of research. You can check used-book stores or library sales for used sets at a good price.
If a set of encyclopedias is outside of your budget, there is help online. Considered one of the most scholarly encyclopedias published, the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica is available free online. Topics are covered in much more depth than we are used to seeing in an standard encyclopedia today. The bibliographies at the end of articles are also helpful for continuing research.
Help your child find an organizing tool for keeping notes, summaries, timelines, and any other fruit his research yields. His work can be organized in a variety of formats from Microsoft OneNote or OpenOffice, to a simple notebook. (OneNote is now available at no cost for certain operating systems. See resources below.)
Check multiple sources.
Don’t assume the first source of information consulted provides a complete picture of a topic. Encourage your child to consult more than one source.
What differences does he find between them?
What is his opinion of the opposing views?
Read … and discuss.
Incorporate hands-on resources where appropriate.
Science research usually requires experimentation and observation. Field guides, tools, kits, and other hands-on helps can encourage interest and learning.
The most common and easiest way to have your child document his research is simply to have him write a summary paper. Other ideas include taking photos of projects, demonstrating a concept, or giving a speech (or final oral narration). If the student has kept a notebook, most of the work will already be done.
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Microsoft OneNote is now available at no cost, depending on your operating system. You’ll also find other organizing tools here.