Scenario: Engl 202. Students have submitted a short essay; they are preparing proposals, including an annotated bibliography. You would like them to have a more confident sense of how to independently evaluate the reliability and suitability of a source (beyond just relying on its being "peer reviewed").

Things we discussed:
  • Encouraging students to start their inquiry projects in the popular realm, but then understand how to move into the academic realm (using bibliographies, develop a working knowledge, etc.)
  • Considering expertise and time spent on a question (is the opinion you form off the cuff equal to someone who has spent decades in the field? If you break your leg, do you go to see a doctor or see what your next door neighbor has to say?)
  • Evaluating sources by modeling careful annotations
  • Utilizing the CRAAP Test, particularly for online sources (Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose).

Lesson Plan: (for 2-3 classes depending length)
  • As an introduction to the activity at the end of class one: Ask students what they have expertise in and ask them to reflect on what it feels like when they encounter ignorance within that field.
  • As homework on a discussion board: Then ask them to move online and identify a story that they think is suspicious in its claims ('fake news' stories that abound on social media), and ask them to research in order to fact-check this story and/or have them use the CRAAP test to evaluate the validity and expertise of the article.
  • During class two: Lastly, have a class discussion (using their stories as texts) about what our responsibility is to confront misinformation, both online and in our writing.
  • As a follow up activity: Have students read an article on confirmation bias (The Oatmeal has a simple comic that starts with "You're not going to believe this...") and have them reflect on what it feels like to confront our own biases or have dissonance created with our core beliefs as a way of flipping the moral responsibility question that we explored with online sources discussed previously (and creating empathy within a discussion).