Source Credibility

Attachments: 

For this activity in source credibility, students work in pairs or groups to evaluate two or three sources.

**Students need to have laptops with them for this lesson.

At the beginning of class, we discuss what criteria can be used to determine a source’s credibility, such as: author’s credentials, bias, use of facts, citation of sources, etc. As this is a topic that most students have learned about in high school, I can typically rely on class discussion to get a good list of criteria on the board.

After discussion, I ask students to break into pairs or small groups. Each of them downloads the PDF that I have uploaded to Blackboard; this PDF contains three articles, along with a small author bio and Wikipedia’s description of the website or news source from which the article came. For each article, I have students work together to answer the following questions:

1.      What are the author’s credentials? What authority do they have that would make them a knowledgeable, reliable source?
2.      Is the author likely to have a bias? Why or why not?
3.      Do they present facts for their arguments or not? Give an example of an argument with or without supporting facts.
4.      Does the author clearly cite his or her sources? Give an example of a fact with or without a source provided.
5.      Based on your answers to the above questions, would you use this source in a paper on the topic?

I have only tried doing this activity with students in pairs, but in the future, I would like to have students work in larger groups: I got a wide range of responses for each of the questions (and many good reasons for those opinions), and I think that larger groups would facilitate a good discussion.

Another possible change to this activity: rather than giving students the author bio and source description from Wikipedia, as long as they have their computers with them, you might ask them to look up this information on their own, so they have to figure out as a group how to determine if the author or news source is credible.

I’ve attached the PDF of the articles and supporting materials I used for class this past semester to provide an example. As they are fairly topical (VP debates), you would probably want to find two or three of your own.

Course Name: 
WRD 110
Assignment Type: 
Classroom Activity
Group Activity
Assignment Length: 
One Class Period
Primary Pedagogical Focus: 
Research
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