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Online Learning for Information Literacy: Evaluate Sources

A collection of online tutorials, videos, class exercises, and assessments for developing students' information literacy.

Evaluate Sources

Help your students with...

  • Critically examining information from various sources in order to evaluate accuracy, authority, currency, and point of view
  • Identifying usefulness and relevancy of information sources for an assignment or purpose
  • Recognizing a scholarly, peer-reviewed article and identify its key components

Think/Pair/Share Exercise: Evaluate Sources 

This exercise moves beyond a “good/bad” binary or checklist approach to evaluating sources and instead asks students to consider the source in the context of its creation and the context of their need/use. Provide students with links to two or three sources based upon a topic you are covering in class.  These should be a range of sources -- including a scholarly source, a popular source, a blog post or tweet, etc. Working in pairs, have students identify the source type and consider the usefulness for the purposes of the class project (paper, presentation, etc.) using the questions below to guide their reflection.  During the debrief, students should report back their findings and how they think a source may provide useful for the given purpose.  The instructor may need to clarify what a peer-reviewed source is, how a tweet could be used as a primary source, etc.     

Questions for activity:

  • How does it support your research question?
    • What do you know now that you didn’t know before reading it?
    • What does the source argue or demonstrate that none of your other sources do? 
    • What parts of your research question does it not help answer?
  • What makes it reliable?
    • What did you feel when reading it?
    • Have other people cited or referenced it?
    • How might someone dismiss it?
  • Who wrote it and why?
    • What qualifies the author(s) to write about the topic?
    • How can you find more information about the author(s)?
    • Who is the intended audience?
  • Where was it published?
    • Who had to approve or review it before it could be published?
    • Do you normally need a subscription to read it? If so, who is paying that subscription?
    • Who can’t afford to pay to read it?


Class Exercise: Jigsaw Source Evaluation

A jigsaw activity is a cooperative learning technique in which students are depend upon each other to learn material. This exercise could be modified to work either in person or asynchronously online. Divide students into small groups. Provide each group with a single source. Although each group will have its own source, they should all be related to a single research topic, similar to ones your students may select for projects/papers. Ask the group to apply SIFT to the source and consider if the sources are credible. Why or why not? Is it something you might use in your academic writing?

Students can report on their individual groups' decision. The class should discuss the overall findings and identify what the next steps would be if they had gathered this collection of sources. What sources would be worth digging into more deeply? If some sources were unreliable, how and where could they do their search again, knowing what they know now? Are there certain things they would look for?

If you're short on time or have a small class, you could ask for students to apply SIFT to a single source.


Class Exercise: Social Media

Rather than providing sources for your students, introduce them to SIFT and ask them to apply it to a news or social issue article found on their own social media feeds. This could be completed as an assignment in Moodle.

Class discussion could include what they found in general from their social media feeds. Were there articles that were misleading or entirely inaccurate? Were they surprised by what they learned in the process? Were there things they thought were true that weren't? They should be prepared to share the article in class.

Video: Finding the Research Article among the Impostors

Once I've clicked the "peer reviewed" button in a database, what else do I need to be aware of before choosing an article? What are the differences between review articles, book reviews, editorial pieces, and research articles?

Length: 4 minutes

Created by North Carolina State University Libraries. This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license.

How do I use this?: Link directly to the YouTube video at

Video: Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

How are scholarly, academic articles structured? How does it differ from a popular magazine article? How can knowing the common structure of scholarly articles help to make sense of the authors' arguments and research process?

Length: 5 minutes

Created by NC State University Libraries. This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.

How do I use this?  Link directly to Vimeo video:

Video: Evaluating Sources for Credibility

What does it mean for a source to be credible? Why is it important to use these sources? How can you tell if a source is credible?

Length: 3 minutes

Created by NC State University Libraries. This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.

How do I use this?  Link directly to YouTube video:

Video Playlist: Evaluating Online Sources (SIFT with Mike Caulfield for

Mike Caulfield has identified 4 strategies for evaluating the credibility of online resources and reading critically. Caulfield's SIFT acronym (Stop. Pause and ask yourself; Investigate the source; Find trusted coverage; and Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context) is designed to give students a short list of 4 things to do when reading online. 

Length: Playlist of 4 videos (each 2-4 mins.) can be used separately or together.

Supplementary Materials: Andrea Baer and Daniel Kipnis at Rowan University have developed a detailed guide on evaluating online information using SIFT, including evaluation exercises and more detail on evaluating images and media.

Created by with support from CIVIX, the Canadian Journalism Foundation, and the Charitable Giving Fund of Tides Foundation.

How do I use this?  Link directly to YouTube playlist or single videos:

Video: "Beware Online Filter Bubbles" by Eli Pariser

Video: "Beware Online Filter Bubbles" by Eli Pariser

This video introduces the concept of filter bubbles and the ways social media and internet search tools influence the information we encounter. This talk was originally recorded in 2011, but many of the concepts still apply to the ways we interact with information online.

Length: 9 minutes

TED Talk delivered by Eli Parsier.

How do I use this?: Link directly to the YouTube video: