Common Sense


Research and Citation Tools for Students

Students are always needing to effectively gather, study, and cite sources for their essays and projects. As teachers know, the internet has made this process both more fruitful and more complicated. The Wild West of the web requires students to think more critically about sources and more effectively organize all the different kinds of things they find -- both digital and physical. These picks will show students how to go beyond Google to find credible, usable scholarly resources, and then to unpack and use these sources to fuel awesome essays and projects. To this end, on this list you'll find top-rated tools for not just collecting sources but annotating and citing them.

Continue reading

Top Picks


PrintPrint list


Easily accessible, kid-friendly database for the littlest researchers

Bottom line: Delightful, safe introduction to the world of research, databases, and reporting, with interesting articles and helpful teacher supports.


Rich collaboration and discussion site engages students and teachers

Bottom line: It's a versatile discussion platform for teaching, peer reviewing, and fostering active reading, and offers much more than traditional word processors.


Substantial all-in-one tool scaffolds the research and writing process

Bottom line: This smart, intuitive system supports students in every step of the writing process.

Digital Public Library of America

Impressive online collection of historic and cultural artifacts

Bottom line: This epic database of history and culture is a labor of love that all students can benefit from.


Personalized tool fosters exploration, teacher-led meaningful learning

Bottom line: A great portal for supplementing classroom instruction; supports independent and personalized learning.


Quality search tool with curated resources and links to credible sites

Bottom line: FindingDulcinea helps kids quickly find credible websites for study and schoolwork, but it doesn't offer opportunities to build or apply learning.


Search engine with filtered results leaves room for critical thinking

Bottom line: SweetSearch supplies valid, reputable websites that can help kids learn about a variety of topics.

Britannica School

More interactive support and instruction than Wikipedia -- for a price

Bottom line: Over 140,000 credible and up-to-date articles are presented with social media savvy; the research here is engaging and accessible.

Browser extensions add layer of annotation and discussion to the web

Bottom line: Free, user-friendly tool opens up the web to in-context annotation and discussion.

Imagine Easy Academy

Versatile site helps integrate literacy skills into the curriculum

Bottom line: Detailed lessons make information literacy accessible; it's a great resource for teaching research-based units.


No noodlin’, just serious research with this comprehensive resource

Bottom line: NoodleTools gives kids smart, specific assistance where they need it the most -- with citations, paraphrasing, and organization, though the details may overwhelm.


Social bookmarking encourages discovery, collaboration, and sharing

Bottom line: With a Diigo educator account, teachers and students have a safe space to organize, customize, and share Web content while learning about a variety of subjects.


Helpful citation and writing resource for instant bibliographies

Bottom line: EasyBib takes the pain out of citing sources and gives students and teachers a comprehensive place to organize all research paper-related activity.


Chrome extension helps organize web-based research

Bottom line: For Chrome users and mostly digital classrooms, this is a fairly intuitive tool that'll help students wrangle their research.


Browser extension helpful for annotation and research organization

Bottom line: A solid -- with room to grow -- annotation and research tool; serious users will need to pay for premium.

Google Scholar

Academic search engine, an excellent source for credible research info

Bottom line: This smart tool can help teens locate credible material for paper and report writing, general research, and other school projects.

Purdue Online Writing Lab

Quality resources for literary teens, but won't motivate reluctant writers

Bottom line: Use this site as a robust resource for all aspects of the writing process, but don't expect an online community or interactivity.

Get tips for using these tools in the classroom

See related resources