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Faculty Toolkit: Language for Required Resources


Information Literacy Terminology

Left: Commonly used terms to describe library research paired with the percentage of students who understood the term (based on a sample of 773 college students).


Taken from: Schaub, G., Cadena, C., Bravender, P., & Kierkus, C. (2016). The Language of Information Literacy: Do Students Understand?. College & Research Libraries, crl16-896.

Defining the research requirement

Clarity of the assignment in regard to Library sources

  • Clearly describe the acceptable types of sources in writing.
    • Requiring one or multiple "library resource(s)" can be one way to prompt students to go beyond Google. 
    • For more detailed resources, clearly explain the type of resources that you require. Terminology like "scholarly resource," "credible resource," "web source," and "academic resource" can be interpreted in a variety of ways.
  • The terms "peer reviewed" and "scholarly journal" are not interchangeable. In assignments be sure to use them correctly.
  • If you provide a list of sources be sure to give complete titles.

Use of Correct Terminology

  • UW Library Search - this is our library catalog used to find books, media and articles in UW and beyond 
  • Library databases - refers to any database listed on our A-Z database list.
    • For subject-specific research, consider guiding students to their subject guide, or suggest a database by name.
  • Course reserves -  Print resources that are held in the library for a particular class, at the instructor's request. 
  • Scholarly articles - are written by scholars or professionals who are experts in their fields.
  • Peer-reviewed articles - is an extra process which some (but not all) scholarly articles go through. Peer-review involves an article being evaluated by others in their field before publication. While the "refereed" process can be slightly different, the term is often used as a synonym for "peer-review".
  • Subject Librarian - librarian assigned to work with that subject or class
  • Class Guide - webpages created by a librarian for the class with resources specific to assignments
  • Research Guide - webpages created by librarians with recommend resources based on subjects

What is a "credible resource"?

While credibility is contextual--meaning credibility will vary depending upon the intended purpose and need for the resource--there are still some guiding resources in the box below that you can use when talking with students about how to evaluate resources. 

Tools for evaluating resources

The CRAAP Test helps you to evaluate the information that you find.  Different criteria will be more or less useful depending on your need.    

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information or will older sources also work?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author / publisher / source / sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the source?  (More info about URLs and Internet Domains)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information?  Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade?
  • Do the authors / sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Developed by: Sarah Blakeslee of the University of California at Chico's Meriam Library.

The SMART Test is particularly helpful when evaluating news stories.  Determine if your news source is SMART before believe what is reported.    

Source: For you to evaluate a source, you have to know who or what the source is.

  • Where does the story come from?
  • Is the person reporting the story an eyewitness to the story?
  • Did the person get the story from others?  From eyewitnesses?  From officials?
  • Trace the source down.  If the source is unclear, be skeptical about the story.

Motive: Why do they say so?  

  • Sources often have a special interest or particular point of view that may cause them to slant information to suit their beliefs or causes.  
  • Biased sources can be accurate, but you need to check them carefully.
  • Get all sides to a story.  

Authority: Assess the source.

  • How good is the source?  Eyewitnesses can be wrong.  
  • Was the witness in a good position?
  • If the source isn't an eyewitness, make sure it is a source you can rus -- e.g. an expert on the subject, a newspaper with good fact checking.
  • Be wary of any source that is repeating hearsay and rumors.

Review: Go over the story carefully.  

  • Does it make sense? 
  • Is it logically consistent?  
  • Are there any notable errors in facts or conclusions?  
  • Make a list of questionable facts.  Develop questions about the story.

Two-source test: Double check everything if possible.

  • Talk to a second party or tune in to other newscasts to see if they are also reporting the same story.  
  • Research the subject in journal articles and newspapers, by interviewing others, and search online.  
  • Does your two-source test confirm or contradict the story?

The BEAM method is focuses on intended use, rather than identifying the type of document. 

  • Background: using a source to provide general information to explain the topic. For example, the use of a Wikipedia page on the Pledge of Allegiance to explain the relevant court cases and changes the Pledge has undergone.
  • Exhibit: using a source as evidence or examples to analyze. For a literature paper, this would be a poem you are analyzing. For a history paper, a historical document you are analyzing. For a sociology paper, it might be the data from a study.
  • Argument: using a source to engage its argument. For example, you might use an editorial from the New York Times on the value of higher education to refute in your own paper.
  • Method: using a source’s way of analyzing an issue to apply to your own issue. For example, you might use a study’s methods, definitions, or conclusions on gentrification in Chicago to apply to your own neighborhood in New York City.

Developed by: Bizup, Joseph. “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing.” Rhetoric Review 27.1 (2008): 72-86. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 4 February 2014.