This is an excerpt from a book that I have been working on for the last fifteen months. I’m getting close to finishing it.
Our students have become accustomed to entering a search into Google as soon as they are confronted by a question to which they don’t have an answer on the tips of their tongues. However, if they’re forced to take a few minutes before they search, they often find that they already know the answer. This is why a pre-search checklist should include listing what you already know about a topic. This list can be generated from memory or from notebooks (physical and digital). Not only does this process refresh students’ memories, it also saves time in the long-run because they aren’t spending time searching for information that they already have.
The additional benefit of having students list what they already know about a topic before searching is that it can help them more quickly determine if a resource they find during their research does or does not have value to them. For example, let’s say we have a student who is researching the differing motivations for independence of colonists in the north and south. If that student has already created a list of ten basic causes of the American Revolution and then lands on a webpage that is essentially a primer on the American Revolution, that student doesn’t need to spend more than a minute on the page to determine that nothing new is going to be revealed to him through the page he has just landed on.
Creating a list of the terms that another person might use to describe the same research topic is the final task to complete on the pre-search checklist. Creating this list can break students out of their own little circles of