Exercise: Evaluating Sources

In my last post, I bemoaned the Methods Silo Effect and how we should not assume that students are proficient at all the skills required to write a research paper without practice or guidance.  I also promised to post some exercises to help students develop these skills.  Here is the first, on evaluating sources, adapted from an exercise presented by the facilitators of the workshop on “Making it Blend: Integrating and Assessing Research Skills,” offered at the Webster Global Citizenship Program Summer Collaboratory last week.  Feel free to adapt as needed, but as always, if you use it, please report back here on how it went.

Evaluating Sources Assignment

Goal: Give students practice in analyzing sources of evidence.


  •  Locate three publications that discuss [insert topic/literature of interest here]

These publications must include one each of the following:

1.  A government publication

2. Popular press or newspaper source

3. Peer-reviewed academic journal article

  • Write a full citation for each source in [insert preferred style here, APA/MLA, etc].
  • Answer the following questions about each source:
  1. Who is the author?
  2. What are the authors credentials?
  3. How might their affiliation or identity influence the content of this publication?
  4. Who is the intended audience for this work? How do you know?
  5. What is the purpose of this publication? (inform? educate? persuade? soapbox?)
  6. Is this a primary or secondary source?
  7. Is this a good source of information for a research paper on this topic? Why or why not?


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