From Search to Research: Developing Critical Thinking Through Web Research Skills
In spite of these dramatic changes, the goal of collecting information and making it
available to the public remains the same from ancient times to the present: to provide
people with the quality sources they need to understand the world and to reflect carefully
on existing beliefs and opinions. In other words, the goal of information repositories,
digital or otherwise, is to support research, by providing access to the information
necessary to foster the development of critical thinking. As our ability to gather and
store information evolves, however, our skills in finding and analyzing information must
also evolve. Today we need new critical thinking skills to help us be wise consumers of
the data available to us.
Critical thinking is more than a buzz phrase; it’s the ultimate goal of all education.
In How We Think (1910), John Dewey defines critical thinking as “reflective thought”
rather than routine thought; it’s the process of “active, persistent, and careful consideration”
of the credibility and conclusions of supposed knowledge or information. That’s
basically what we mean by research, which is defined as “careful or diligent search,
studious inquiry or examination, especially investigation or experimentation aimed at
the discovery and interpretation of facts and revision of accepted theories” (Merriam-
Webster Dictionary). As teachers, we don’t simply pour facts into empty vessels; we
nurture minds to become adept at this kind of critical interaction with information.
In 1605, Sir Francis Bacon, the father of scientific thinking, outlined the habits of minds
skilled in research. Such minds are (paraphrased):
“Nimble and versatile” enough to see relationships among things, in addition to subtle distinctions between them.
Patient enough to doubt and ask questions.
Fond of reflecting.
Slow to assert and ready to consider multiple points of view.
Careful to support their points of view and to formulate an argument with reasons
A slave neither to passing trends nor to established traditions but capable of judging
the credibility of sources and making independent judgments about information.
Alert to all deception.