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Information Literacy Program: Using inappropriate sources

What causes the problem?

  • Inability to distinguish between different types of sources 
  • Lack of understanding of what is considered authoritative for the context 
  • Focus on surface features rather than the content 
  • Lack of motivation  
  • Lack of awareness of their own biases 
  • Lack of subject knowledge or understanding of research methodology 
  • Revert to Google searches due to poor database skills 

Low stakes learning activities 

  • Have students practice choosing good sources from a restricted list and discuss as a class. 
  • Have students create an annotated bibliography for their assignment that includes a description of why each source is authoritative.
  • Discuss of what evidence and authority look like in the discipline.
  • Create an online research community for students to share sources and critique and comment on their authority.
  • Take a good example of research-based writing in the discipline, and have students discuss the types of sources that were used, and why and how they were used.
  • Compare research methods between different scholarly sources and have the class determine which might be more authoritative.
  • Compare sources used for pieces of information from different genres (scholarly article versus blog article) and discuss why each genre might prefer different types of sources. 
  • Have students practice recognizing poor argumentation in popular media sources. 
  • Compare various articles’ citation trails in Web of Science and discuss whether article impact is a viable method of determining authority. 
  • With a list of topics that will require various kinds of authoritative sources, have students discuss who might have authority on the subject. Have them connect that to possible sources. 

Assignment design tweaks 

  • Suggest appropriate databases or methods for recognizing authoritative sources in your assignment sheet.
  • Include a line in your rubric on the use of credible sources with varying perspectives.
  • Set a deadline ahead of the final project for a review of their source lists.

Librarian support services 

  • Librarian-led instruction session that could cover the following: comparing different levels and types of authority, discussing personal biases, strategies for choosing sources, search skills for good sources, distinguishing between different types of sources 
  • Custom course guide with links to recommended databases and advice on finding good sources for the project 
  • Help with any of the low stakes learning activities 
  • One-on-one help for students