Fact-Checking Research Class for Teens in Huntsville

Thinking back on it, the two of us have been writing research papers for the last eighteen years, through grade school, college, and into our professional lives. In middle school we each remember being assigned a topic and then spending a week of classes in the school library learning how to find books, using Alabama Virtual Library, and being stopped by a very limiting filter on general internet searches.

Since writing that first research paper, college databases, Wikipedia, and graduate degrees have changed how we do research, and taught us the traps and pitfalls we should avoid in our writing. Knowing how important it is for students to build these skills led us to implementing an introductory ‘How to do Research’ class at the Downtown Huntsville Library.

Over the last year of working together on library tours for teens, we have realized the lack of information available to students about databases, how to do a smart internet search, and what a realistic source is. The classes started this February with a group of twenty homeschool students. These awesome students helped us improve the class while hopefully gaining some valuable information along the way. We had another class in April for homeschoolers and now we are offering two sessions this summer for any student – public, private, or homeschool – in fifth grade and up.

What’s in This Research Class?

Week One: We break down research papers on the most basic level. We discuss how to start on a paper topic and do research with printed materials, such as books and periodicals, and how you can find such books in the library’s catalog and on the library’s shelves.


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Week Two: We cover database research, focusing on the ton of great resources the state of Alabama provides for free(!) to students. We break down a few of the best databases and discuss which to use for different types of papers.

Week Three: We cover general internet searching and how to spot fake news. There are a lot of options that appear in internet searches and we give students quick ways to spot a good source just from the URL and the front page appearance, and how best to avoid bad sources.

Week Four: We move to the actual writing of the paper, how to arrange it all in MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian formats. For this we use some of our own writings to demonstrate how that paper should look once everything is together. In discussing each format, we talk about what type of class you would use the format and the pros and cons of each.


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Overall, it is a lot of information to cover in just four hours spread out over a month! Classes are limited to twenty students each in our Technology Training Center.

How to Sign Up

For this summer we will have two full courses for students in 5th grade and up:

If you have any questions you can call the Youth Services Department at 256-532-5949 or email jhendon@hmcpl.org or jcornelius@hmcpl.org


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ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Julia Hendon has been working in the library for the past 12 years and is currently the Head of Youth Services at the Downtown Huntsville Branch of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library. She’s enthusiastic about teen literature, Harry Potter, and acting goofy in programs for children and teens.

Jake Cornelius has been working in the library for the past 7 years and is currently the Head of the Information & Business Center at the Downtown Huntsville Branch of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library. He WILL talk to you about Godzilla movies. There is no escape.

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