Defining Credible Sources For Research

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SWBAT define and analyze credible sources.

Big Idea

Google may not be your best friend.

Warm-Up: Analyzing School Sources

10 minutes

Activating prior knowledge is a great way for students to be engaged in a lesson. I keep this in mind as I present this warm-up activity on defining credible sources in a school setting. This allows students to think about what they already know so they can apply it to the overall objective of the lesson of defining credible sources.

I have the Defining Credible Sources Smart Notebook File (here is Defining Credible Sources PDF File if needed) up on the Smartboard as students enter the room. The first slide serves as an overview for students to understand what today's lesson will be up. I tell students that the two questions, how do we define a credible source and how do we determine the accuracy of sources, will guide our thinking today. I also remind students that the skill they will be learning today will assist them with research, both for their paper and for the rest of their education. This is a skill I try to pinpoint directly as many students are quick to use Google to find sources. They do not always spend the time, or have the understanding, of how to determine whether the information the find is credible or not. 

The next step of the lesson has students activating their prior knowledge of what they know of a school society. I take students through the next three slides. I have students in groups imagine that a family is deciding whether or not send their children to the school my students attend. This family has compiled a list of sources to go to for information about the school. It is up to my students to decide whether or not this list will be good places for the family to go to.

In groups I have students decide which group, students, parents, graduates, administration, or teachers, would be the most reliable source of information and why. Students then determine the rest of the order. This allows the students to debate and to defend their choices. They have to use prior knowledge in order to make these judgement calls. With time permitting, students determine which questions each group should be asked.

When each group is complete, we create a graph, slide number 5, of all the data we have compiled based on the ranking of each group. When this data is entered I ask students to make an observation based on all the data.

  • Is the class as a whole in agreement?
  • Are there any outliers?
  • What can we say about the sources of information?

This is a great visual to students to see in order to start making judgement calls on reliable sources. We have a discussion as to what we can say about these sources.

Guided Practice: Defining A Credible Source

20 minutes

Students spend this part of the lesson making their own meaning of a credible sources with guidance from myself. It is important that students work on building their own meanings in order to internalize them. They are able to use their own ideas and this helps them as they begin to apply such concepts.

I refer back to the Defining Credible Sources Smart Notebook File (here is the Defining Credible Sources PDF File if needed) and resume with the question How can use this idea of accuracy when conducing our research? A simple question like this serves as a transition from the warm-up activity into the major part of the lesson where students will begin thinking about credible sources as it applies to research they will be doing for their own paper. 

I start by having students define what a credible source is in their notebooks. This time is very brief and only takes a minute or two. I then ask for volunteers and we begin create a class definition that I write on the Smartboard. I start with one student and then we revise if necessary. I make sure I have a general definition of a credible source in case students are not able to verbalize this on their own.

Once that is complete, I have students look at four different web-sites that use Frank Sinatra as source material. The web-addresses are available on the Smartboard and I linked them on my web-site for easier access. As students are looking at each web-site, I have them view them with a certain goal in mind. I tell students to look at the four web-sites in order to revise their original definition of a credible source. Doing this allows students to see the big objective in context and they can begin working on internalize what a credible source is. Students look at these web-sites in their groups in order to bounce ideas off of each other. This helps students who may not be able to come up with the ideas on their own. They can hear the ideas of other students and see them in practice. Students will find that different web-sites focus on different content and present that content in different ways. My goal is that students will be able to analyze these web-sites based on their differences in content, style, and format.

The next step is to revise our class definition. I refer back to the presentation on the Smartboard and we discuss how we can revise our class definition. Throughout this conversation it is important to bring ideas such as accuracy of information, author, and documentation. If students are not able to bring this up in class, I begin to push students in that direction by pulling the web-sites on the Smartboard and analyzing them as a class.

Independent Practice: Determining Credible Sources

10 minutes

Students then are able to spend time to find credible sources for their own research project. It is important that students spend time practicing these skills so I can make sure students are able to master this on their own. It is great that they understand what a credible source, but having them being able to find them on their own and make educated decisions as they evaluate web-content is a different story.

I release students so they can do the work of finding a credible source on their own. Students have their own technology and we have the iPads that students can use. Students are instructed to begin using the internet to find credible sources for their research project.

As students are doing this independent work, there are different ways to scaffold for different learners. For higher-level students I handout copies of Criteria To Evaluate The Credibility of WWW Resources Web-site. This resource lists different questions that I point students to as they are looking up information. The questions go in-depth at times but gives students concrete questions they can ask as they are trying to determining the credibility of the web-sites they are looking at. I give students who need more support the Credible vs. Non-Credible Sources Questions handouts. This accomplishes the same goal as the other hand-out but it breaks it down in a more manageable task. There are fewer questions but they are more concise. I encourage students to answer these questions for multiple web-sites. They can refer back to their answers to determine which web-site, of the ones they reviewed, would be the most credible source.

Making An Action Plan For Research

3 minutes

To wrap-up, I have students take ownership of their work by creating a plan of action. This research paper that they are working on has many different steps and is rather intensive in that aspect. Students have completed various parts but I want to give students time to think about what they need to do next.

I instruct students to take out their assignment pads. I have them write down what their next step is. Since students are on different steps their responses will vary. Some students are able to continue this work and other students need to work on finding biographies, which is the first major step of the project. I check-in with students to see what their next step and help them determine if this is the right step for them or not. Some students may need steps broken down even more than just getting a biography or finding a web-site.

It's important to anticipate what students will need help on once they make their plan of action. Here you can see the common plans that come up at this point in the research process: Plans Of Action. This list is exactly what would be expected during this stage in the research. While this project is independent and I want them to make these decisions on their own, sometimes students need help once they make plans of action. I have no problem circulating around the classroom to make sure their plans are feasible, realistic, and appropriate. If students are too far behind then intervention needs to occur.