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Information Literacy Faculty Toolkit: Evaluating


Evaluating information is when students determine the usefulness of individual resources - their relevance to the topic being researched; whether they are scholarly or popular; and where this information is situated within the discourse on the topic at hand.

Student Struggles

Students struggle with:

  • Understanding displinary publishing patterns -- the different purposes and values that journal articles, books, blogs, websites, and reference materials have in different disciplines.
  • Understanding sources -- students lack disciplinary knowledge and background to know how to evaluate quality, authority, and accuracy of sources within a particular community of knowledge
  • Determining what kind of information they need to complete assignments, and how to evaluate sources in terms of suitability for a given purpose.

How Instructors Can Help

Many students do not yet have the skills and/or knowledge to differentiate scholarly sources from popular ones, or even primary sources from secondary ones. Consider providing class time for students to examine examples and practice differentiating and critiquing the different types of sources they are expected to use (primary/secondary; scholarly/popular/empirical; etc).

Lead a discussion emphasizing that just because an article fits the basic criteria for scholarship doesn’t make it equal to all other scholarly works.

Instead of requiring the exclusive use of scholarly articles for research assignments as a means of improving the quality of your students' research, assign activities that encourage them to demonstrate an awareness of the importance of critically evaluating all information sources, and an ability to define authority for themselves, in specific contexts.

Assignment Ideas

Journal Club

* Students read and critically evaluate individual articles in depth and have a group discussion about the article.

Scholar's Biography

* Students trace the research agenda of a scholar, including biographical information, presentations, papers, social media and web presence, and the reaction of the scholarly community to the work.

Comparing Attributes of Different Formats

* Students find two sources in different formats on the same topic and compare and contrast the information found in those sources. (ex. book reviews in newspapers and academic journals; health information for consumers, practitioners and researchers; academic articles from different disciplines).

Science in the Media

* Students examine media portrayals of science and evaluate the nature and quality of evidence presented.

Exploring Scholarly Literature

* Students compare and contrast different types of scholarly articles (empirical articles, review articles, etc.).