CPCC Library logo

Evaluating Sources

According to Bloom's Taxonomy, evaluation is the most difficult skill to master, after synthesis and creation. Our students often struggle with the cognitive load it takes to critically think and make decisions. This is especially apparent when writing/creating is their primary goal, and research a means to an end. Even when students know how to evaluate sources for quality, they're uninterested.

We have found the best way to enforce good source selection is to require students to use the CPCC Databases for part of their grade.  

Reliable AND Unreliable Sources Activity

Title: Google Activity
Contact librarian: Mark Coltrain
Amount of Time: 30 minutes

Description: Ask students to find examples of both reliable and unreliable websites on their chosen topic.

"Using Google (or your favorite web-based search engine), find one example of a *RELIABLE* website and one example of an *UNRELIABLE* source related to your topic." Also let the student know: You’re more than welcome to use Google Scholar but if you do, any articles you find MUST be full-text. You cannot use Wikipedia as your unreliable example.

Record the students' sites using a shared Google Sheet, or by having them email their sites to the instructor.

Evaluating Different types of Sources Activity

Title: Evaluating Different types of Sources
Contact librarian: Abby Rovner
Amount of Time: about 20-25 minutes​

Supplies Needed: Give students a screenshot of a website and the printed information/article, a sample book from the shelves, and sample articles from our databases.

Description: Looking at different types of Sources and evaluating the relevancy and quality of the sources, by answering questions on a worksheet.

Low-tech version available?: The low-tech version is to provide them with a packet of sources to evaluate. The high-tech version would have them finding their own sources online, from a given topic and question (takes more time?).

Questions to ask:

  1. Did anyone find an example of a relevant source that was not college level? Why is it relevant but not college level?
  2. Did anyone find an example of a college level source that didn’t fit the topic or research question? Why?
  3. How can you tell if the author is an expert? What are you looking for? What does it say about them?
  4. Why is the date important?
  5. What can you learn from the References/citations/embedded links? How can you use them?

Topics used:

Psychiatric Drugs – Psychiatric drugs are dangerous, ineffectual, and overprescribed. 
Video Games Learning – Video games are a useful tool in education.
Teen Cyberbullying ­– Cyberbullying by teens is a growing concern with few remedies. 
Forensic anthropologists – Forensic anthropologists are useful in combatting crime. 
America’s Housing Crisis – The cause of thousands of foreclosures is due to unethical banks.

The Information Timeline Activity

Amount of Time: 60 minutes

Supplies Needed: index cards, handout, computer access
Citation: Burkhardt, J.M., MacDonald, M. C., & Rathemacher, A.J.  (2010).  Teaching Information Literacy: 50 Standards-Based Exercises for College Students, 2nd ed (pp. 34-35).  Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.  

Description: The goal of this activity is to illustrate kinds of information found during, just after, and long after a significant event.  Students will provide identification and location of different sources of information about the same event.  Pass out index cards with topics for students to work on in pairs or small groups.  Students must find the earliest citation for a newspaper article, magazine article, scholarly journal article, and a book.  

Text from Handout: You will work in twos or threes.  You will be given an index card with a brief description of an event and the date of this event.  Working together, find the earliest citation to the information about the event in a newspaper, magazine, a scholarly journal, and a book.  Write the complete citations on the worksheet.  Then think about the questions below and be ready to discuss them.

What kind of publication was the first to supply information about the event?
What kind of publication took the longest to supply information about the event?
What kind of publication would you consider to be the most reliable and authoritative in supplying this information?  Why?

ACRL Info Lit Standard:  1.2, 2

Thoughts: Adapt for modern age information sources. Twitter and Youtube are often the earliest sources of breaking news. How does that affect this exercise, traditional media, and CRAAP?

Comparing Scholarly and Popular Articles Activity

Title: Scholarly v. Popular – Tattoos

Time: 15-20 minutes

Target Level: ENG 111

Have students work together in pairs.

Open the two articles worksheet (notice articles are unsourced). Look at the popular article (newspaper), then look at the scholarly journal (study), both about the same topic.

  • What differences do you notice?
  • What is credible? Scholarly?
  • What keywords can be used to find the same articles again?
  • What keywords can be used to explore related topics?

Give students a third article at the end of class, or during the next class session, and have them evaluate it the same way. They should be able to articulate the quality of the information and how it could be used.

Spring 2015
Summer 2015

I have used this exercise frequently, following the guidelines in Tattoo Exercise.doc. Works well to get class talking to me and each other. Teachers like it too. It is a really concrete way to describe differences between sources AND to validate them.

- Christy