Word Detective: A guide for parents

Word Detective is our nationwide citizen science project for children. Lots of children have already taken part in our quiz, as these photos show. With your help, we hope many more children will take part. We need 1000s of Word Detectives to help us answer important questions about how children learn to read. Follow our how to guide and you can complete the quiz in 10 easy steps. And there are prizes to be won!

Word Detective is a fun word game for children aged 5-16 years. It is completed over the internet and takes just a few minutes to participate. We are investigating how children learn to read. At the end of this project, we hope to learn which words children of different ages know.

It is simple to do, making it perfect to do at home. Children have enjoyed participating and contributing to science. To carry out the quiz with your child, please follow our 10 step guide shown below, or download it here. Keep going to the end to receive a certificate, like the Word Detectives on the right!

Why not combine the quiz with a language and literacy activity provided by Oxford University Press? Links are at the bottom of this page.



We have 10 x £20 Amazon vouchers up for grabs! Post a picture of your child’s certificate on Twitter, Facebook or Instragram with #ReadOxford for a chance to win (make sure you set your post to public so that we can see it; you don’t need to include your child in the photo if you prefer not to).

Alternatively, email the picture to us at: worddetective@psy.ox.ac.uk

We look forward to receiving them!









Our 10-step guide to completing Word Detective at home

Step 1. Log onto the computer and make sure it is connected to the internet. Then, open an internet browser (preferably Google Chrome).

(It is possible that your internet settings will block access to our secure quiz. If you cannot access the quiz, or the animations are not working properly, please add these secure links to your trusted sites: research.sc, infuze.co.uk)

Step 2. Type https://tinyurl.com/ReadOxford-Detective into the URL bar and hit enter

(click on any of the images in the guide to open the quiz in a separate tab)

Step 3: Scroll down and click on ‘Word Detective’ 

Step 4: The quiz will open in a separate tab. Click ‘start’ to begin!

Step 5: Next, there are a few questions about age and language use. Please note that no identifiable information is collected or recorded – responses are completely anonymous. Make sure your child ticks the box at the bottom which indicates you are happy for them to take part (circled in red).

Then click ‘next’

Step 6: Here is the welcome screen. Our quiz contains animations with sound – please click on the button in the bottom left (circled) if you’d like to turn these off.

Then, click ‘next’

Step 7: Here is the instruction screen. The rules are simple: click ‘yes’ if you think the word is real, and ‘no’ if you think it’s made-up.

Step 8: This is what the quiz looks like. Use your mouse to click on ‘yes’ or ‘no’

Step 9: There is a break screen half way through the quiz. Once you are ready to carry on – click ‘continue’

Step 10: The end! Your child will be presented with a certificate (this can also be printed off). Click on ‘finish quiz’ once you are done!


Language and literacy activities provided by Oxford University Press and Oxford Owl:

Matching Words 7+                          Word Game 5+

Spotting Synonyms 7+                     Spotting Synonyms 5+

Exciting Writing                                 Putting Things in Order 5+


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