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Expand Your Research Vocabulary

Does your child have a research report due? Here are key terms he should know.

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Cognitive Skills

How can your child use these reference documents and methods of research to make a lasting impression? Chances are, his teacher will be happy that he knows what fact checking is, and the teacher will be way happier if he actually does fact check all his information. Make sense? Either way, the definitions below are quite useful for any researcher:

  • Almanac A publication of useful and interesting facts like the world's most spoken language (Mandarin Chinese, not English) or how many steps it takes to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower (1,792).
  • Archives Historical documents, public records, institutional files, or other materials that have been preserved in some sort of organized fashion. A library's special collection is a fine place to look at archives of, say, President John Adams' letters to the First Lady, his wife Abigail. Archives may also be available on the web.
  • Bibliography Also known as the "Works Cited" page, this goes at the end of any report. It lists, in alphabetical order, all the sources your child used to find his fantastic information. The widely recognized format citation, issued by MLA, is easy to follow. For example, if the author of this article were to ever write a book on one of her favorite subjects, the citation would probably go a little something like this: Pitterman, Cara E. I Love Derek Jeter and Other Analysis on Why the Yankees Are the Best Baseball Team Ever. Shortstop Publishing, Inc.: New York, NY. 1996. Pg. 2–35. In other words, the order goes: author (last name, first name, middle initial); title of the book; publishing house; location of publication; year of publication; and page numbers from which the information was collected. Don't forget to remind your child to add a hanging indentation from the second line down!
  • Biographical Dictionary Okay, your child probably knows what a dictionary is. But a biographical dictionary is a pretty splendid resource because it gives short profiles on famous people like inventors, presidents, rock stars, writers, and comedians. If your child gets stuck at the beginning and is not sure whom he wants to research, this is a super place to start.
  • Boolean Operator When searching for information on the Web or through a computerized library catalog, words like AND, OR, NOT, or EXCEPT can limit or expand your keywords search. The public library or school librarian can help your child use these smooth operators to find connections between keywords and his research topic.
  • Caption An explanatory sentence that goes beneath (or above, whichever way your child prefers) a picture, diagram, or photograph he uses as an illustration within a research paper. Knowing how to construct an informative caption will tell your child’s teacher details that she wouldn't necessary derive just from looking at the visual, like the place or date it was taken (if it's a photo), who or what is in it (if it's a picture), or dimensions (if it's a diagram of a structure).
  • Dewey Decimal System Melvil Dewey, was the man! In 1876, Mr. Dewey came up this crazy idea that books should be sorted by subject and assigned numbers so that librarians could easily access what they were looking for. Can you imagine walking into your library today and waiting for hours as your child’s librarian hunts down the specific title you want? Mr. Dewey, we thank you.

Here's a quick guide to the numbers in the Dewey Decimal System:

000–099 is General Information, like reference books.

100–199 is Philosophy and Psychology. Kids can go there when pondering the meaning of life.

200–299 is Religion. Is your child curious about the history of the Christian church? Your child can locate a timeline here.

300–399 is Social Sciences, which includes mostly books about human relationships. For instance, your child can find facts about education in this section.

400–499 is Language. Is that Italian translation on the tip of your child’s tongue? This is where the definition lives.

500–599 is Natural Science and Math. Stretch skyward as your child gets the astronomy book off the shelf.

600–699 is Technology. Does your child want to know how Coca-Cola was made? Check out the "beverage" technology section.

700–799 is Arts. Your child can boogie down to the aisle that has books about dancing.

800–899 is Literature. Does your child feel clueless about what Ural-Altaic or Paleosiberian Lit is? Don't worry; they're both here for you to help him discover.

900–999 is Geography and History. Kids can trek to the edge of the world and back — all in one library aisle.

  • Fact Checking All researchers should hand in a paper confident that the information is accurate, and the best way to do so is for her to check her facts. If your child reads Elizabeth Cady Stanton's diary entry dated Tuesday, July 19, 1848, about the euphoria she felt as she opened the first Women's Rights Convention, she should check the World Almanac to make sure it really was July 19 and not June.
  • Keywords Using keywords is evidence that your child has mastered the art of researching because these are the words that help her find resources related to her topic at the library or on the Internet. When your child’s teacher asks her how she found so many relevant books filled with significant information, she can casually mention that she spent some time brainstorming keywords for her topic at the library before she went searching for sources. Your child’s teacher will marvel at the practicality of her research methods.
  • Microfilm Basically, the non-scientific definition is that microfilm is a reduced-scale version of printed material, like a newspaper, on a filmstrip that's easier to store because it's less bulky and less prone to aging. It's enlarged on screen for reading ease. Microfilm is really useful if your child wants to find the front-page newspaper headlines from May 24, 1977. It’s even possible to go back way further in time than that, to the early 1900s. Show your child how far back in history she can go!
  • Plagiarism Plainly stated, plagiarism is literary theft. Stealing another person's words and pretending those words are your own is a serious offense, and teachers will punish a student who commits plagiarism. To learn more about proper quotation, how to correctly cite sources, and the boundaries separating intentional and unintentional copying, check out facts about plagiarism.
  • Primary Source Items, such as letters, official documents, photographs, statistical records, interviews, and manuscripts from the actual time your child is studying are considered primary sources. These lend a little something extra to her research. Your child can find primary sources in an archive. It’s also possible to find them in museums and reproduced on the Web.
  • Search Engine A Search Engine is an Internet site, like Yahoo! or Google, that lets your child surf the Web by typing in keywords and leading her to pertinent Web sites. Encourage her to be choosy about the sites she uses — she should not settle for the first Web site on the list. She can't always trust the information just because it's widely viewed, so tell her to check her facts. Quick side note: if your child has time before she starts researching, try putting her name into the Google search engine and see how many hits come up. Seeing her own name on the Web, whether it's actually her or not, is seriously fun.

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