Evaluating Sources for Research
How do you know if a source is trustworthy and credible? Help students find out with this research strategies lesson plan! Designed for a sixth-grade curriculum, this lesson provides learners with essential guidance and practice in assessing the credibility of sources. Students will use a checklist with guiding questions to explore examples and non-examples of quality resources for research.
Students will be able to effectively determine the quality of sources for research based on a source's relevance, accuracy, bias, and reliability.
- Ask students to brainstorm a list of resources they would turn to if they needed to learn about a specific topic. Ideas like websites, encyclopedias, and library books may be mentioned.
- Ask students if they think all resources are equally valid. How do they know?
- Tell students that today they are going to learn how to evaluate various sources to determine if they are high quality and useful for research.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(10 minutes)
- Display the Evaluating Sources Checklist.
- Briefly explain each of the key terms from the checklist:
- Relevance means the information is important and related to your reading purpose or research question.
- Accuracy means the facts are true and able to be verified.
- Bias is when a source shows a preference for a certain viewpoint or opinion.
- Reliability means the information comes from a trustworthy and knowledgeable source.
- Present an example research question, such as "How do coral reefs support the health of the oceans?" or "What were some effects of the invention of the printing press?"
- Model using the checklist with one teacher-selected resource related to the research topic that is not high quality. Think aloud as you go through the source, referring back to the checklist. If possible, underline or highlight sections in the resource that are red flags.
- Next, model using the checklist with a teacher-selected resource related to the research topic that is high quality. Again, think aloud as you look through the source, and underline or highlight sections that help you know this is a high-quality resource.
- Tell students that evaluating sources is a complex skill. There will be some high-quality, credible sources that don’t check all of these boxes, and that's okay. On the other hand, there may be some less credible sources that check many of these boxes. When researching, students should use their best judgment and always seek out multiple sources for information.
Guided Practice(10 minutes)
- Distribute the Evaluating Sources Checklist to each student.
- Students should work in pairs. Display two more research sources related to the research topic, or distribute a copy of both of the sources to each pair of students.
- Instruct students to work with their partner to use the checklist and evaluate the two sample resources. They should note specific sections in each resource that are clues to the relevance, accuracy, bias, and reliability of each source.
- While students are discussing, check in on student pairs and offer assistance as needed.
- After 5–7 minutes of partner discussions, have students share out their findings.
- Remind students to give evidence for their findings and to respond to and elaborate on classmates' comments. For example:
- (Source) is ____ because ____.
- I agree with ____ because ____.
- In addition to what ____ said ____.
Independent working time(15 minutes)
- Give each student a research topic or have them continue working on the research question used in the lesson.
- Send students off to find one high quality resource and one low quality resource for the assigned research topic. These can include print or digital sources.
- Once they have located a high-quality and a low-quality source, students should take notes and be prepared to share their findings with the class.
- Allow students to use the same research topic that you modeled in the first part of the lesson.
- Use strategic partnering during the guided practice so that students who need more support can work with students who are more advanced.
- Provide a smaller range of research materials for students to choose from during the independent practice.
- Give students a unique research topic that is related to another part of the curriculum (science, social studies, etc.)
- Have students select three sources on the same topic, and then compare and contrast the information provided in each resource using the Compare and Contrast Information From Different Sources worksheet.
- If there is time, have students present their findings to the class. They should give clear evidence to explain their evaluations, using the key terms from the checklist.
- Evaluate student understanding as they present their resources and evidence.
Review and closing(10 minutes)
- Ask students to turn and talk with a neighbor about one aspect of a source that they can look at to determine if a resource is relevant, accurate, reliable, and unbiased. Students might mention author or publisher information, date of publication, links or citations to or from the source, or the website ending (.gov, .edu, .org, etc.).
- Tell students that they should keep the checklist to use as a guide whenever they are researching.