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.

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Top Picks


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Easily accessible, kid-friendly database for the littlest researchers

Bottom line: Delightful, safe introduction to the world of research, databases, and reporting, with interesting content and stellar supports.

Library of Congress

Dig into famed library's collection of research goodies

Bottom line: The Library of Congress delivers the best of America's past and present, and with teacher support it could be a reliable research resource for students.


Rich collaboration and close-reading tool invites deep, easy-to-assess discussions

Bottom line: Versatile, free discussion platform for teaching, peer review, assessment, and fostering active reading.

PebbleGo Next

Safe nonfiction database develops students' research skills

Bottom line: Student-centric research site gives kids a just-right amount of information to build foundational research skills.

Smithsonian Open Access

Stellar museum-based resources available for exploration and use

Bottom line: This high-quality collection of museum resources -- ranging from artifacts to full-blown exhibits -- provides unlimited exploration for students, reliable primary sources for teachers.

Digital Public Library of America

Organized digital library features piles of useful primary resources

Bottom line: DPLA is at the top of the list of high-grade, online primary source collections if teachers make effective use of what's on offer.


Track progress, differentiate instruction with vast content library

Bottom line: Though it's not perfect, it's a great portal for supplementing classroom instruction and supporting personalized learning.


Fewer clicks and less clutter equal a new go-to site for citing sources

Bottom line: An intuitive site that takes the stress out of citing sources, but students will still need instruction to tweak auto-generated citations.


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.

AllSides for Schools

Civics site offers building blocks for meaningful dialogue

Bottom line: This site meaningfully promotes dialogue rather than argument, and collects a lot of resources you might normally have to curate yourself.

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 extension adds layer of annotation and discussion to the web

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


Expansive research tool uniquely melds learning and productivity

Bottom line: While the complex, old-school design isn't ideal, NoodleTools gives students specific assistance where they need it the most -- with citations, paraphrasing, elaboration, and organization.


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 works great for citing sources and generating bibliographies, but other tools such as a grammar checker are limited.


Simple, efficient research tool lacks features for group projects

Bottom line: When paired with strategic teacher guidance, the simple user interface and effective research-gathering capabilities make this a useful but incomplete option.


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.

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