PRIMO Site of the Month: December 2019


Evaluating Sources

Creator: Rachel H. Suppok

Institution: Dickinson College – Waidner-Spahr Library

Interviewee: Rachel H. Suppok
Interviewer: Marcela Y. Isuster

Description of Project (provided by creators): This short, interactive tutorial teaches students how to evaluate the quality of sources in the context of a particular research topic. It combines visual instruction, narration with closed captions, and interactive quizzes to help students learn at their own pace. This tutorial can be used in a flipped classroom, or it can be used to review material learned in class to complete homework and research assignments.

Q: This tutorial is extremely helpful. How did the idea for it come about?

A: This tutorial started as an assignment for a class on instructional technology that I was taking in my MLIS program. We had to build an online tutorial on a topic of our choosing. I knew that the Waidner-Spahr Library, where I work, had been wanting to create a tutorial on source evaluation for a long time. I decided to use this topic for my class assignment with an eye toward possibly adding it to Dickinson’s tutorial offerings.

Q: How did you decide which content to include? Was it mapped to the ACRL framework in any way?

A: One of the primary goals of this tutorial was to emphasize the importance of context when evaluating sources. Rather than labeling sources as good or bad, the tutorial aims to teach students how to select the most appropriate sources in a given context. This emphasis came in part from the Framework, specifically that “Authority is constructed and contextual.” Additionally, the iterative nature of research was a theme of the tutorial, which is in line with the Framework as well. The tutorial is intended to be appropriate for first-year students from a diverse array of backgrounds in any course of study.

Q: Speaking of which, the tutorial is also quite interdisciplinary. How did you ensure that the tutorial was useful and relevant to a variety of students in different disciplines?

A: As I previously mentioned, the tutorial is designed to be introductory and applicable for any student at Dickinson, so I made sure to include examples of sources from a variety of disciplines throughout the tutorial. The tutorial encourages students to ask five questions when evaluating a source: who, when, where, why, and what. These questions can be applied to any discipline and type of source, including books, scholarly articles, newspaper articles, tweets, audio-visual media, diary entries—anything.

Q: The tutorial includes a few assessment exercises. Do you collect data from these, and, if so, what have they shown you?

A: We do not collect data from the tutorial exercises unless a faculty member requests that information when the tutorial is used as part of a class session. We are more interested in having students understand why a question’s answer is what it is than in them choosing the correct response the first time. An explanation of the correct answer follows each question. We do keep track of how many times the tutorial is accessed.

Q: Can you tell us about the technology used for the tutorial? What made you choose it?

 A: When drafting the tutorial, I was debating between using LibWizard and Adobe Captivate to make the tutorial. Both are programs that the Waidner-Spahr Library staff already had access to, and both allow the creation of interactive tutorials. LibWizard did have advantages for collecting data if we had wanted to do that, but ultimately, the increased freedom and ability for narration and animation in Captivate led me to choose it instead. Including narration was important because providing the content both visually and aurally means the tutorial is more accessible.

Q: Let’s talk about the users. How is this tutorial used across campus? Have you received any feedback?

A: Several librarians have assigned the tutorial for students to watch before attending a library session for their first-year seminars. Because the tutorial was released in 2019, we have not been able to evaluate it yet. However, statistics gathered during the current semester show that it has been accessed more times than any of our other tutorials. Anecdotally, several faculty members have mentioned that they think it is a very effective tutorial.

Q: With issues like fake news and misinformation becoming more and more prevalent, how do you see the need for these kinds of tutorials evolving?

A: While the term “fake news” was only coined in the last few years, it has been around in some form forever; certain people have always manipulated information to portray themselves or other parties in a negative or positive light. However, awareness of “fake news” has increased, and technology has allowed for its increase as well. I think that this increased awareness has some benefits, including possibly making people more willing to take steps to improve their information literacy. While technology can aid in the spread of fake news, it also allows us to create tutorials like this and provides access to many other tools that can help people evaluate sources.

Q: You have a B.S. in Neuroscience. How do you feel that background informed the design of this tutorial?

A: In general, I think that my science background helped to build my own critical thinking skills, which are a very important part of being a librarian and providing any sort of information literacy instruction. Additionally, the psychology classes I took during my undergrad have helped me to better understand learning and instructional design theories.

Q: You are currently in the process of getting your MLIS. How has this experience shaped you as a future librarian?

A: It showed me that I get a good bit of enjoyment and satisfaction out of making online learning objects like this one. While building the tutorial, I was compelled to consider accessibility and universal design for learning, and those are things that we should be considering in almost every aspect of librarianship.