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EN 121: Library Modules (Erica Salmonson and Garrett Traylor): Week #9: Evaluation


Hi everyone,

This week, we will be covering how to evaluate sources and why doing so is important.  I will be making an appearance in class with a short lesson and to check in about the ongoing annotated bibliography assignment, so there is no video for this week.

Learning to properly evaluate sources for yourself is an important counterpoint to the endless skepticism that can get people trapped into conspiracy theory thinking.  While the peer review process that we learned about in Week #5 helps to screen materials in an academic context, it is still important to apply evaluation skills to scholarly sources, and especially important to apply to popular sources such as news and social media.  This lesson will help to build a foundation for you to evaluate what you find on the Internet and teach you how to do a basic fact check.  

In a time when elected public officials brazenly lie and foment rhetoric about fake news, it is more important than ever before to be able to discern truth from fiction.  Amanda Taub of the New York Times writes that "the fake-news phenomenon is not the result of personal failings.  And it is not limited to one end of the political spectrum.  Rather, Americans’ deep bias against the political party they oppose is so strong that it acts as a kind of partisan prism for facts, refracting a different reality to Republicans than to Democrats.  Partisan refraction has fueled the rise of fake news, according to researchers who study the phenomenon.  But the repercussions go far beyond stories shared on Facebook and Reddit, affecting Americans’ faith in government — and the government’s ability to function."  Once you are aware of the problem and know what to look for, you are no longer a part of the problem  you can be part of the solution toward building a more equitable, truth-based society.

As you consider this week's lesson, ask yourselves: Where do you get your news?  How often do you check more than one source for your news?  


You will learn how to: 

  • Evaluate sources to be used in academic research projects and in informal or social contexts (e.g. checking the news, social media, chatting with your friends, etc.). 
  • Narrow down your sources for your annotated bibliography. 
  • Write annotations for your annotated bibliography. 

What is required this week:

  • Read the handouts on this page.
  • Cut your 15 sources down to six (2 books, 2 scholarly articles, 2 web sources). Once you have decided on your six best sources, add an additional two sentences to each annotation.  Reach out if you need help! 
    • Note that at this point these will still only be partial annotations  you will be expanding your annotations for the final version of the assignment, and also creating full MLA 8 citations for your 6 sources as your assignment next week.  Due to this week's assignment overlapping with next week's, feedback will only be given upon request.

Annotated bibliographies due soon (April 9th at 10:00 AM). 

Due to the circumstances of the semester, keep in mind that I will be accepting late work for the various parts of this assignment.  There is, however, still a Friday, April 9th at 10:00 AM deadline for the final version of the annotated bibliography (this is extended from April 6th as per the original syllabus due to that deadline falling right after the Easter Holiday).  Any final annotated bibliography turned in after April 9th will be subject to point reductions up to a full letter grade as per the Engagement section of the rubric in the Library Annotated Bibliography Assignment.  I am also willing to grant extensions to those in need, so if you know you are running into an issue or have some other emergency, contact me in advance and we can talk about an extension.  An extension means that I will accept your final annotated bibliography past the April 9th deadline without it being subject to the letter grade penalty.  I’m not interested in making your life harder; I’m here to teach you how to use library resources and to succeed at research, so communicate your problems to me and we can figure out how to fix them.  But you must email me in advance and by in advance, I mean before 4:00 PM on Wednesday, March 31st (before the Easter Holiday).  No extension requests will be granted after 4:00 PM on Wednesday, March 31st, unless it is an absolute and true emergency.  This is still a few weeks out, so please do contact me if you have any questions.

So to recap: The new due date for the final annotated bibliography assignment is Friday, April 9th at 10:00 AM.  No email before 4:00 PM on Wednesday, March 31st means no extension.  No extension means that annotated bibliographies turned in past the new due date will be subject to up to a full letter grade reduction, though the work will still be accepted.

Evaluating Sources

So you've been finding all kinds of resources throughout the semester now what?  Use these guides to help you reflect on how to narrow down your sources and choose only the best that will support your topic.  The "Evaluating Sources" handout will cover doing basic fact checks for scholarly sources and other resources that you might find out in the world (particularly web sources which you should always have a critical mindset about).

Other helpful resources for evaluating sources for bias and factualness are:

Recommended (optional) listening:

Recommended (optional) reading:

Annotation Requirements

Your annotations must meet the standards listed in the Library Annotated Bibliography Assignment (this is the same document found on the "Week #2: Introduction" tab above):

The assignment document also includes a sample annotated bibliography which may be a useful reference as you write your own annotations.  Your final annotated bibliography should ultimately look like that sample annotated bibliography (you will get more information about how to complete the citations themselves next week).  For more advanced (and optional) tips about writing annotated bibliographies, you might also review the "Writing an Annotated Bibliography" handout also included below.

Remember, your final annotated bibliography can be created in the same Google Doc that we have been using throughout the semester.

Contact Me

Garrett Traylor
 -- Reference & Cataloging Librarian

Office Phone: 217.245.3207

Office: Schewe Library 205
Student Hours: 6:30PM-8:30PM Mondays, 8:30AM-NOON Tuesdays-Fridays
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