Tips for Teaching Research Skills in a ChatGPT World

As an English teacher and school librarian, I am passionate about teaching students how to access information, evaluate their information, and correctly source their information when researching.  However, with the advent of ChatGPT and other AI platforms, it becomes more important to guide students each step of the way to ensure that the work is produced by your students and not a robot!

Here are five of my top tips for helping students write a research paper or complete a research project and avoid any robot-written submissions.

The first step in a research project is to develop a focus or main research question.  I want students to ask a question that cannot be answered by a simple online search or does not require deeper thinking.  To help my students develop a deep thinking question, I teach them to think of questions requiring them to evaluate and synthesize the information they read.  Rather than searching for facts and quick answers, they must use more profound thinking questions.  

I teach students the four different types of questions that they can ask and encourage them to work toward Evaluative Questions.  The main focus of their research project /essay/assignment should be an EVALUATE QUESTION.  

Like everything else... this is a required step in their research process, and I require students to sit down with me and discuss their plans and how they will find the answer to their questions.

FACTUAL QUESTIONS (lowest level)
 - Who is the Prime Minister of Canada?
 - What did soldiers wear during WWI?

- Who should be the Prime Minister of Canada?
What could the soldiers have worn to better serve them in WW1?

- Why does Canada elect a new Prime Minister every four years?
- How did the soldiers combat lice in their uniforms in WW1?

- How could you be the Prime Minister of Canada?
- How will soldiers’ uniforms change in the future?

For more help with generating questions and working towards higher-level thinking, check out my complete Research & Inquiry Resource.

The second step in the research process is to brainstorm - prior knowledge, what they wonder, what they need to know, and where they can find the answers. Too often, my students want to jump right into their research without a clear idea of what they want.  Students must put their brainstorming down on paper, too - writing it all out helps them generate more ideas. 

This is a crucial step to avoid AI-generated work.  I REQUIRE students to submit all steps of their research project as we work through it.  I must see their planning pages before they can move on to the next step in their research.  I will only assess, or grade work turned in with evidence of their planning and research.

A helpful step in the planning process is generating a list of keywords related to their topic.  Brainstorming keywords will help students narrow their focus and result in better search returns when they are online.  Many websites offer free downloads of search tips on Google. (Search, "Google search tips.")  

I encourage you to enlist the help of your school librarian with sources.  A big part of my job as the school librarian is to match teachers and students with the appropriate resources! You may be surprised by what your school librarian has access to, or knowledge of that could be helpful for your project.  I encourage all students/teachers to use print resources as a starting place. Depending on the topic, there may be better places to look than print resources, but if it works, it is where I like to start.  Tell your school librarian beforehand if your students are working on a specific topic or subject.  I often order new books that specifically target an upcoming project or look for articles online ahead of time that students might need.  

I am lucky to work in a district that supports purchasing online databases like EBSCO and GALE. Please find out if your district has access, as they are valuable sources of information for our students.  Designed for students, they are user-friendly, have appropriate resources, and eliminate the extra results that appear on a regular internet search.

Another helpful tip is to collect and list websites that students may find helpful in their research.  If you have your own library website, you can have a list of hyperlinks for students to use as a starting point.

Once students have their topics, have developed their research questions, and have found some great resources, I have them take notes as they research.  Too often, students want to copy information online into a "patchwork of snippets" to create an essay or project.  Students have been told to "put things in their own words," so they copy, paste, and then change a few words.  In their mind, they have put it into their own words.  Teaching students to look for the key idea in what they are reading and then put it into their own words in notes will reduce the amount of "cut and paste" you see in a project.  I make the process part of the assessment, so I have a note-taking rubric I use with students.  

My note-taking graphic organizers and a rubric are in my complete 

I require all research notes to be turned in with their assignment, and their notes MUST MATCH what they've written.  I have caught students on more than one occasion submitting notes and planning pages that don't match/correlate with what they turned in. 

Lastly, I must teach my students how to cite their sources correctly. I use MLA with students and teach them how to do in-text citations and a Works Cited page.  This process can be the most frustrating to teach as it is the step students struggle with the most.  I encourage students to keep track of their sources as they work.  Too often, students panic at the end of their project to look back for the books, online sites, and research databases they use.  

Again, this is crucial in ensuring students complete the work independently.  
No citations = no assessment!

Here are a few helpful resources from the ladies of the Secondary English Coffee Shop that you can use to help students with citations and MLA format:

To read how I incorporate Research & Inquiry into Novel Study, check out this blog post!

Also, be sure to check out more research ideas from the ladies of the 
Secondary English Coffee Shop!

Teaching Research Online - Blog post from Room 213
Research Paper Topics - Blog post from The Daring English Teacher
Conspiracy Theory Research Project - The Classroom Sparrow

Happy Researching!

Back to Top