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Finding Credible Sources

I was always into history; however, I never realized how much learning about one’s past really affects a person. As a teacher, I’ve found ways to connect history to my ELA lessons. Even when I am watching a show, I research ways to connect with my students. One day, my cousin sent me a request to be added to the Genealogy site to connect our families. What started as a "look" ended up being fourteen hours of research, connections, looking through photographs, more research, and learning about my ancestors.

Because there were several (actually many) different variations of dates, names, and even spellings, I wasn't sure if I had the right information. While I know that it is almost impossible to have all the exact information (due to immigration, lost documents, and even unknown dates), I just couldn’t imagine the different information available for the same person.

This got me thinking. If a name can be incorrect by one letter and the birth or death year is off by a day or year, then how credible really is my information? I was always told that my grandparents' wedding anniversary was May 3, 1941. However, after researching, there were several documents that stated that their wedding was on April 9, 1941. I called my mom to see if she had the correct date; however, without the wedding certificate, there was no actual proof of the date of their wedding. For many years, I’ve known my grandparents' wedding date. But it took less than one day to wonder if that was the correct date after all.

This is the same with high school students (or even adults for that matter). No one really spends the time to research the smallest piece of information. Many will assume that it is true and leave it at that. Researching takes some time, and, believe me, I know with fourteen hours of continuous research on my ancestors. Now the question comes up, why don't a lot of people know how to research the information they are looking for?

What many do not realize is that a tiny piece of information can change a lot, especially when relating to history. What we tend to do is type in a word, possibly a phrase, to search on the Internet. More likely than not, the first page that comes up is not what people want.

By researching anything, I am bound to find a lot of differences (and hopefully similarities) with information. If I wanted to look up when the United States entered World War II, I am sure I will find consistent information. But if I wanted to look up when the war started, I might find some discrepancies with the information based on when it actually started or when the US entered the war or was the first concentration camp was the actual start of the war. With this in mind, research is not about opening up a tablet, computer, or smartphone to search for a topic. Because we all know that we cannot believe what we always read.

Research is highly important, especially in the digital age. The problem is that we do not teach it that way. My students know and understand that research is just as important as writing a paper. If they are not using credible sources, accurate information, or continuing their research beyond the first few sites, then the paper does not meet the standards. If the research is completed right, the paper should take less time to write.

We cannot always accept what is said, read, or listened to as true without verifying the information. Otherwise, who is to say what is right and who is wrong. But it is NOT about who is wrong, it's about knowing the truth behind the words.

We must challenge ourselves and our students to focus on research skills as part of their learning. Because if we don't, then no one will. Where will they be then?

About the Author

Twitter: @Mrs_Koppers

Kristen Koppers is a National Board Certified Teacher in English. She is a blogger, presenter, self-published author, and high school educator as well as an adjunct professor at a local junior college. She has been teaching for twenty years and is currently teaching high school English in Illinois holding a Master of Arts degree in English and a Master of Arts degree in Education Administration. Kristen is the author of Differentiated Instruction in the Teacher Profession (2019) and The Perfect Puppy (2020). She shares her ideas of how to use Differentiated Instruction inside the classroom. As an educator, it is important to find innovative ways to meet the needs of students. Kristen is often on Twitter (@Mrs_Koppers) participating in chats and collaborating with other educators. #DITeaching #ThePerfectPuppyEdu (

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