Launchpad - Conducting Research - Grades 4-12

Launchpad - Conducting Research - Grades 4-12 (PDF)

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Conducting Research (4-12)


Knowing how to conduct research is an important skill for students. Many school assignments and projects require students to find and use information they find online, in books or periodicals, or from other sources. But in our modern world, there is often too much information to sort through–and much of it is not trustworthy. Knowing how to find good sources of information is a skill that will serve students well throughout their time in school and their lives. 

Research can take many forms. The traditional image of it is “looking something up” on the Internet or in a library. But some assignments, or tasks in project-based learning, might call for other types of research: interviewing someone, consulting with a subject-matter expert, talking with stakeholders in an issue or end-users of a product, or surveying people. Those kinds of sources of information are generally trustworthy, or at least their biases and limitations are easy to spot. 

However, sources such as websites, and sometimes even books and periodicals, can be less reliable than they might first appear to be. In our modern age of fake news and social media, we often receive information from family, friends, or various online sources that may sound persuasive but are not really trustworthy. Students need to be sure the information they gain through research is accurate. They need to consider the source and its biases, and factor this in when they draw conclusions or take action based on the information. 


  1. Research can take the form of: 
    1. Finding information online or in books 
    2. Interviewing experts 
    3. Surveying people about a topic 
    4. * All of the above 
  2. Why is conducting research challenging for today’s students? 
    1. Much of the information they get on social media may not be trustworthy
    2. They are not taught how to find books in a library 
    3. The reading level of the material they find is too high 
    4. * All of the above 


TITLE: Finding Quality Online Sources of Information 

GRADES: 4-12 

TIME: 30-40 minutes 

PURPOSE: This activity teaches students how to evaluate a source of information they encounter when conducting research, to determine its quality and trustworthiness. 


This activity can be used as a standalone lesson or at the beginning of a project or assignments that require research. The “RADAR” framework can then become part of a student’s go-to toolkit, to be used every time they conduct research. 


1. As a “hook” to engage students, ask them about information they have gotten on social media or texts. Can they trust it to be the truth? Have they ever gotten articles, videos, or images that claim to be true but are really fake? How do they know whether information can be trusted? Some students may say they often believe things sent by friends or relatives, and some may say they do not trust very much of anything they get. 

2. Explain that, when students do a school assignment or a project that requires research, they have to be able to trust the sources of information they find online. It has to be “trustworthy.” Otherwise, the conclusions they draw or the decisions they make might be wrong. 

3. Introduce students to the “RADAR” framework for evaluating sources. It is used by many college libraries. The following chart is adapted from one provided by the University of Utah and based on an article by Jane Mandalios. Discuss the “Questions to ask yourself” with the class to be sure students understand the framework. 


What it means

Questions to ask yourself
Rationale The purpose of the information being provided

1. Why did the author create this? How was it paid for - was there a sponsor or advertising? 

2. Are different points of view given? 

3. Does the author leave out facts or data that might disprove their claim? 

4. Does the author use strong emotional language? Are there other emotional clues such as all caps or emojis?

Authority Who created orpublished the information.

1. What are the author’s credentials – their qualifications or background? Are they with a well-known educational institution or organization?

2. Can you find information about the author that confirms their identity?

3. Do other articles, books, or sources cite (list) the author?

4. Is the publisher of the information reputable? Is the organization or person it came from legitimate?

5. Does it seem to be a joke or satire, or is it serious?

Date When the information was created.

1. When was the information published or last updated?

2. Have newer articles been published on your topic?

3. Is your topic in an area that changes rapidly, like technology or science?

4. Is the information obsolete (old & outdated)?

Accuracy Whether the information is true or false.

1. Is anything stated that you know to be false? Do other, reputable (trustworthy) sources say the same thing?

2. Was the information reviewed by an editor or fact-checked?

3. Are there citations and references? Do links work and do they appear to be trustworthy?

4. What is the “domain” of the website? Is it a .com, .org, .gov, or .edu? Or does it have a suspicious domain initial at the end?

Relevance Whether the information is useful to you.

1. Does the information answer your questions about your topic?

2. Is the information too technical/complex or too simple for you to use?

3. Who is the intended audience?

4. Does the source add something new to your knowledge of the topic?

4. Have students practice using the RADAR framework. If they already are doing some research, they can check websites they might want to use. Or, find some websites you think are appropriate; find 2-3 and be sure to include at least one that is not trustworthy. You could divide students up into pairs and have them look at only one of the RADAR categories. 

5. Allow 15-20 minutes for students to evaluate the website(s) using the RADAR questions. Then have a class discussion about what they found. You could chart the students’ findings, and/or create a class list of tips to remember when doing research. 


  • The teacher should preview the activity by finding a variety of online sources of information and trying out the “RADAR” framework themselves. 

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