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Newspapers, Magazines, & Journals… Oh my!

October 22, 2020

In my last blog post, I shared a tutorial I was creating for a PSY 101 course to complete. Since this was the first time I created a tutorial for students I’ve been really scrutinizing the student’s answers to see if I can determine any way to improve any future tutorials I created.

One of the sections in my tutorial was focused on introducing the concept of popular and scholarly sources. There’s a YouTube video from the John M. Pfau Library at Cal State San Bernardino that I often use to introduce this concept: One of the questions I asked was, “Put the following sources in the order they would be produced after an event occurs: Books, Journal articles, social media posts, magazine articles, newspaper articles”. I expected this question would garner a high percentage of correct responses, however my expectations were wrong!

A high percentage of student got the opposite ends of the spectrum correct: placing social media posts first and then books last. However, there seemed to be almost no rhyme or reason to how they ranked the 3 types of articles. Thinking more about this result I thought about how frequently I ask students in synchronous classrooms if they have ever subscribed to or seen print newspapers or magazines. I’m always somewhat surprised at how few can answer yes to this question.

I can’t decide what to do with this realization. Do I spend more time trying to explain the difference between these types of publications if students don’t have any idea of what they are or what they look like. Or do I spend more time hammering home how to evaluate your article, no matter what publication it comes from? I’m leaning towards the second option. If a student can make a case for why an article from the New York Times is a credible and relevant source for their research do I really care if they know the New York Times is a newspaper?

I also see value in them understanding the purpose of each type of source which you cannot use as a criteria for evaluating if you don’t know what type of source something is.

I’m torn. Has anyone else been grappling with this concept? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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