The Doodle as a Research Tool

Use the doodle, make the doodle.

Over 20 years ago I recall a notebook in a physical science class.  It was Mrs. Brown’s class, and I sat next to Sharon.  The thing that makes this notebook stand out over all of the notebooks I have ever owned is that in addition to scattered notes on forces and magnets, Sharon and I used it to communicate through doodles.

Every margin, every scrap of space was covered.  We solved world problems and made lunch plans.  Illustrated jokes and designed homes.  We laughed, and the notebook is still one of the most indelible impressions of my high school education.

The doodle serves a cognitive purpose that is often overlooked in education, it creates in the mind of the doodler a meditative state.  That state makes the mind more open and ready to absorb and process new information and informational connections.  In short, through doodling you can actually improve cognition and metacognition.  According to a study published in 2009 in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, subjects given a doodling task while listening to a dull phone message had a 29% improved recall compared to their non-doodling counterparts. According to  Professor Jackie Andrade, Ph.D., of the School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, “this study suggests that in everyday life doodling may be something we do because it helps to keep us on track with a boring task, rather than being an unnecessary distraction that we should try to resist doing.”

Enter Google

Google has taken the doodle and added another way in which it can be educationally valuable.  On many days, Google changes their logo to reflect a timely topic.  These alternate logo doodles are sometimes artful, sometimes interactive.  And my favorite thing about them is that they create a micro-research project in quick order.

Today for example is Feb 29,2012.

Gioachino Rossini 220 Birthday/Leap Day

The Doodle is hoverable for a quick snapshot of what it represents and also clickable, which takes you to a series of pages related to the topic furnished by the google search engine.  Teacher’s looking for a quick research topic selection?  Here’s a tip.  Google archives the doodles.  Send your students to the google doodle archive and ask them to select from the options there.  Want to focus on discoveries, no problem the archive is powered by Google search, so add the word discovery.  Want to focus on a specific date or country?  It can do that too.   Just be careful, too much specificity and you may miss what you are looking for as the search is limited to the text caption/hovertext of the doodles.

Students as Doodler’s

Flipping the concept, if you want students to find the research themselves here is an alternate research assignment design.  Have students select a topic and create  a webliography of entries with valuable information.  Then have them identify key dates related to their research or create a timeline.  Finally, have them create a doodle accompanied by a statement justifying why this doodle should be used by doodle on a specific date and what it should link to.

Google hosts a contest for exactly this type of doodling and student work selected can earn valuable scholarships.  So you can take it to the next level, or keep this as a home grown assignment.  Contest info is at

Doodle On!

doodle from the notebook


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