3 Research Skills for Elementary School Students

The development of research skills begins in late elementary school and will benefit your child throughout their education. While the projects will be on a smaller scale at this age, they’re still helpful to instill an understanding of academic research and to build a strong foundation for future projects. Additionally, research skills will benefit your child outside of the specific project, giving them skills that are transferable to other subjects and academic habits. Research skills for elementary school students include locating sources, evaluating gathered information, and recording key details.  

Hoping to instill research skills early in your student’s schooling? Keep reading to learn three research skills for elementary school students—particularly those in 4th or 5th grade.

Elementary school research skill #1: locating sources

The research process can be overwhelming when students first begin to learn it. When looking for sources, it may seem difficult to know where to start, especially with the abundance of resources available online. Having strategies to narrow down what you’re searching for is key, as it helps your child to focus their efforts and understand that they don’t have to consider every result they come across. Strategies to focus searches can include:

  • Developing a research question to base searches off of

  • Noting specific keywords to guide your child’s searches

Remind your child that one good source often connects to another, so have your child examine that source for leads. For example, are there links or cited texts that they could also pursue? Are there new keywords they’ve come across? Depending on what your child’s teacher has in mind, they might also provide trips to the library to search for sources. If this is the case, encourage your student to utilize the research strategies listed above.  

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Elementary school research skill #2: evaluating information

With the wealth of information available on the internet, it’s important to critically evaluate each source. Developing a critical outlook will help your child both inside and outside the classroom, as well as help them to create a stronger final project. Have a discussion with your child about what makes a strong source. For example, explain that the URL ending—such as .org, .edu, or .gov—can often help to determine the reliability of the source. Encourage your student to ask questions such as:

  • Are opinion sections clearly labeled?

  • Are citations missing or lacking?

Have a conversation with your child about how to look for these things when reviewing each source. Teaching them how to pinpoint reliable sources will be much more helpful in learning research skills as opposed to simply directing them toward the sources they should use.

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Elementary school research skill #3: recording and organizing information

Taking information from sources in a productive way is fundamental in prepping for the next stage—creating a piece of writing, presentation, or other project out of the research. This particular skill also mirrors and builds on ways in which your child can organize information in other classes. There are many strategies that can work for this, such as annotating a text directly, keeping an organized notebook, and taking notes down on flashcards. Consider keeping an alphabetical chart or index, for which your child can label a group of recorded notes or quotes with a key term, and log it into an alphabetical system. Don’t forget to record sources, so that it won’t be a rush at the very end to locate where your child found a specific statistic or fact.

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Research projects are an excellent way for students to become more independent thinkers and to develop more agency in their studies. These strategies can work in tandem or may overlap with what your child’s teacher has planned in the classroom, so keeping on top of classwork will help you support your child in the best way possible.


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