Not so many years ago, print resources were generally deemed more authoritative and credible than digital resources. Scholarly books, monographs, and journals found in your academic library had more than likely been thoroughly researched, vetted, and peer-reviewed. On the other hand, you might understandably call into question the veracity of a self-published article that appeared on an anonymous website.
Even just a few years later, things look quite different. A growing number of researchers publish their work in peer-reviewed open-access online archives; many trustworthy news outlets have moved to web-only formats; and a great deal of passionate, intelligent, and informed discussion takes place in research blogs managed by respected scholars and institutions. Given these and other examples, it’s not quite as easy to say that a print resource necessarily has more authority, credibility, or relevance than a thoughtfully and carefully produced Web 2.0 resource, which would be, by its very nature, only available online.
With these changes, it’s also become slightly more challenging to delineate what is an “acceptable” source for a student research project and what is not. As a result, students may ask you which resources “count” for their project, or how those resources should be categorized or cited. (“Is Wikipedia a credible source?” “If I find a news article online, but the print version is available in the school library, does it count as ‘print’ or ‘online’? “Is the material in this self-published book reliable or not?”)
During the recorded virtual workshop “Rhetorically Evaluating Sources,” Shelley Rodrigo and Susan Miller-Cochran, authors of The Wadsworth Guide to Research, Second Edition, present a process that helps students evaluate the resources they encounter during the research process. They discuss source evaluation in terms of source type, and they also offer strategies that students can use to evaluate those sources in relation to the needs of their projects.
How do you guide students toward resources that are appropriate to your research assignments? Share your guidelines below.