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Online Learning for Information Literacy: Recognize Source Types

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

Recognize Source Types

Help your students with...

  • Distinguishing among types of sources (e.g., books, journal articles, primary/secondary, scholarly/popular, etc.)
  • Describing the scholarly peer review process and how it impacts scholarly research
  • Understanding that sources may be perceived and valued differently based on their format and how they're created/distributed
These are examples of how the the video or tutorial could be assigned and integrated into a class discussion. Timing is helpful here. If students have received an assignment, this is a great moment to look at the different types of sources you can use in academic writing and how to use them. If students have topics, have them apply their new skills to their own topic. If they don’t have topics yet, use an issue from a class reading.

Class Exercise - Integrating Peer Reviewed and Other Sources

If students have a working topic idea, ask them to bring one of the sources they’re considering using for their paper/project. In class, put students into small groups. Watch the Peer Review in 3 minutes video. In their groups, ask the students to identify if they have a peer reviewed source or something else. Have them try to identify "the something else." Is it news, opinion, blog post, book/book chapter? Report back to the class. Discuss the characteristics of peer reviewed sources. Ideally, students will have a range of source types. Discuss how they can be used effectively alongside peer-reviewed sources (if they’re able to use more than scholarly articles) to support their argument.

If students don’t yet have topics, ask them identify one source related to a course reading or lecture and use that for the exercise.


Class Exercise - What is Peer Review?

Before class assign students to watch the Peer Review in 3 Minutes video or the online Peer Review Tutorial (contact if you want to receive your students’ responses). When they come to class, provide examples of the types of sources students may use for an assignment — news, opinion essay, encyclopedia article, scholarly article, government data/website, or even social media. In small groups, give students one of the sources and ask them to identify what it is and consider the pros/cons to using it as a source. Report out as a class and develop a larger pro/con list. Issues of currency of the information, possible bias, or the value of data and scholarly articles may come up.


Share Your Own Experience

In all exercises, it’s helpful to share your own experience with the peer review process. What does that look like in your discipline? How long does it take? What are reviewers looking for in your work? How is that similar to the feedback you provide on their own assignments? Does your discipline use single-blind or double-blind review? Because an article went through peer review, should we trust all the claims it makes?

Video: Peer Review in 3 Minutes

How do articles get peer reviewed? What role does peer review play in scholarly research and publication?

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:

Tutorial: Peer Review

What are the stages of peer review? How does the process compare for popular press articles? How can you limit database results to peer reviewed articles only?

Length: 5–10 minutes

tutorial slide showing difference between review process for popular and scholarly articles

Created by Musselman Library, Gettysburg College. Unless indicated otherwise, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

How do I use this?: Add tutorial link in Moodle: To receive students' responses to tutorial questions, email to have your class added.

Video: Distinguishing Among Source Types

What are the differences among different types of sources--from scholarly and popular books to scholarly articles? How can I identify them within a library database or catalog? 

Length: 5 minutes

Created by Musselman Library, Gettysburg College This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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

Video: Grey Literature

This video introduces the concept of grey literature (e.g., conference proceedings, government reports, think tank briefs, etc.) and explains how they can help complement research that incorporates traditional scholarly sources.

Length: 3 minutes

This video was developed by Western University Libraries and is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA international license.

How do I use this?: Link directly to the YouTube video or the Western University Libraries website.