High school dives into several subjects in depth. However, schools in many countries worldwide don't have courses specifically for skills like research, writing, close reading, citing, and analyzing resources. These skills are extremely important in and after college and often have to be learned from scratch once students go to college or engage in other research projects after school.
Why is it Important in High School?
Research is a core life skill. I learnt about research in depth only in my second year at university, but I had to do research for other courses before my research methods courses.
Several people in my class would have deeply benefited if they had been taught about research methods and skills related to writing effective academic papers back in high school instead of doing research and writing papers while learning how to do these things properly. While at a lower level, research appears to be a fairly straightforward activity of searching for keywords on Google and then using verified internet sources for information, there's more to it.
How are Research and Writing skills Used?
Research is actually a complex and systematic process and is only the first step of a lengthy journey of writing an essay or creating a presentation based on the research findings, writing a balanced argument with evidence, knowing what and what not to use from all the information available on the internet and effectively citing all primary and secondary sources. In college, especially in subjects like the social sciences, research and writing academic papers are an integral part of the grading system.
For example, as a psychology student, the end product of most of my courses is generally a research essay, and I am required to conduct a small-scale study towards the end of my degree and produce an academic paper on my studies. It's taking me longer than I'd like to do my research because I only learned how to do effective research in a professional way once I got to college.
Not only is research used for academic purposes, but it is also useful for internships, jobs, and any personal projects that you'd like to pursue. Showing that you have good research skills is extremely important for some employers. Writing skills are equally essential for writing reports, blogs, business content, and even articles like this one.
Writing with the help of external sources involves identifying the important aspects of a text, interpreting these aspects in the context of your topic, paraphrasing them, and integrating them into your write-up. Once again, this is also a tedious and systematic process that needs separate attention and a large amount of practice to master.
How can Schools Incorporate Writing and Research Skills?
I think having writing and research skills classes should be a part of the regular class schedule, like other subjects. It should be mandatory, with an assigned number of hours per week.
These classes can be flexible since students can be allowed to choose their own research topics to write a well-rounded academic essay on, and can work on their research as and when they are taught the basics of the process. A rough timeline could include an introduction, different types of research methods, identifying which internet sources are reliable, writing a good academic report, and accurately citing sources.
What Should be Covered?
1. Introduction to Research Methods: This would cover what research actually is, and include case studies of different kinds of research that can be studied to understand the overall procedure.
2. Identifying Topics of Interest: The topic that you end up doing research on should be streamlined and specific. Generally, you identify a broad area of interest and narrow it down until you have something to work with. This can be a confusing process since topics can be incredibly vast, which is why the help of teachers is critical in doing this, especially for the first time.
3. Types of Research Methods: This would include things like primary and secondary research, objective and subjective research, qualitative and quantitative data, participant research such as interviews, non-participant research such as observation, and other methods like questionnaires. At this stage, students will explore which method works best for their research topic. Areas of research bias should also be explored to ensure that the research is bias-free.
4. Data Analysis: Once raw data has been collected through research methods, how is it analyzed? It is important to select the data that is actually relevant to the research topic, since a research essay has to be informative and straightforward. Depending on the type of data, different softwares can be used to analyze it.
5. Internet sources: The internet is a vast space, and everything on it is not important. It is important to understand how much of it is reliable and should be a part of your research.
6. Citations: This process should be happening from the beginning and edited as and when sources are added and eliminated. There are different citation styles, like MLA, APA, and Harvard.
Choosing one for your work is essential, after which the entire essay will be formatted in it along with the references at the end. This does not have to be done manually, there are online citation engines that ease this process.
7. Writing the Essay: Once again, this should happen from the beginning, with more information being added to it as and when the research progresses. An essay framework or structure would be helpful in making sure the report includes everything that it requires.
8. Plagiarism and Ethics: The essay should be run through several plagiarism checks, and throughout the procedure, it should be ensured that all data has been collected ethically. Ethical standards should be an important part of the curriculum, which includes topics like the consent of participants, means of obtaining information, security of participants, and more.
9. Check and Re-Check: Keep going back to your draft multiple times. Get feedback from your instructor and peers and constantly make revisions. The perspectives of different readers will help make sure your essay covers everything it should and includes anything you missed but someone else pointed out for you.
10. Editing and Proofreading: The last step would be to proofread the essay to make sure all the information provided is relevant and important and leads towards a conclusion that includes an answer to the research question or an explanation regarding why determining an answer is beyond the scope of existing research.
While it seems like a lot, learning these skills is vital for future projects in and outside college. They can also be applied in other areas. For example, writing skills can be used in other classes to produce well-written assignments.
Doing this at a high school level will be extremely helpful in all areas, as it also develops traits like patience, collaboration, and perseverance. Research is an important part of innovation and development, and in the age of globalization, these things are integrated into everything, so learning how to do research effectively is beneficial, no matter where you end up going.