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Information Literacy Habits of Mind (HOMs) Toolkit

Evaluation and Metacognition

Context: This activity is best suited for a teaching strategy focused on evaluating sources and articulating evaluation criteria.

Assessment: This activity provides opportunities for discussion, which can be used as formative assessment ensuring students understand the concepts. The final 5-minute paper could provide summative assessment if its collected by the librarian at the end of class.

Time: 30 minutes

This set of activities gets students thinking about the links between evaluating interpersonal rumor, online news sources, and academic/scholarly sources. Students circle the room writing on large sticky pads and at the end of the activity have the opportunity to reflect on their own thinking by writing their own strategies for evaluation. Optional: use the 5W source evaluation handout for a portion of the activity.

Student-Generated Evaluation Criteria

Context: This activity is best suited for learning outcomes related to source evaluation. Some librarians find it useful to use this exercise after a teaching strategy related to database searching.

Assessment: This activity results in a student-generated list of evaluation criteria. These lists can be used to formatively assess students' learning of the concept. If the lists are collected by the librarian, they can be used to do a summative assessment.

Time: 30 minutes

In this exercise, students will practice coming up with a search strategy, finding articles in a search database, and evaluating sources based on a  list of criteria that they create.

This exercise is good to engage your students in thinking about evaluation, and it allows them to put their evaluation in practice with articles they have found on a database.

Distinguishing Source Types

Context: This activity is best suited as part of a teaching strategy introducing students to various types of sources and how they are used.

Assessment: This activity generates opportunities for formative assessment while students share out their process. A librarian can use these share-outs to assess if students are understanding the concepts.

Time: 20 minutes

This activity asks students to evaluate the sources based on the questions here or questions appropriate to the source types/course. Have students report back about the sources they evaluated. This activity ideally helps students differentiate between sources in their "natural habitats", database records, webpages, catalog records and think about source differences

Evaluating sources with Who What Where

Context: This activity is best suited for lessons with learning outcomes related to examining reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, and bias.

Assessment: This activity results in a worksheet or discussion where students identify strategies for evaluating information. The resulting worksheet or discussion can be used for formative assessment to ensure students understand the concept.

Time: 15 minutes

This worksheet gives students the opportunity to work through evaluating an article using the classic Who What Where set of questions. The associated teaching module gives suggestions for using the worksheet in class.

Alternative worksheets for source evaluation

Fact Checking on the Web

Context: This is an entire lesson plan for learning outcome(s) about news or web-based information evaluation.

Assessment: This lesson plan has several strategies for assessing student learning, including discussions and a final activity.

Time: 75 minutes

This is a lesson plan that can be used when you want students to evaluate sources - especially news and web-based sources.

75 minutes, active learning

Citations for sample article searching:

Gilman, J., Kuster, J., Lee, S., Lee, M., Kim, B., Makris, N., . . . Breiter, H. (2014). Cannabis use is quantitatively associated with nucleus accumbens and amygdala abnormalities in young adult recreational users. The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 34(16), 5529-38. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4745-13.2014

McCoy, T. (April 16 2014). Even casually smoking marijuana can change your brain, study says. Washington Post.

Course guide resources

Types of Periodicals*




research projects, methodology, and theory

personalities, news, and general interest articles

industry trends, new products or techniques, and organizational news

written for a specialized audience

written for general audience

written for a specialized audience

articles by subject experts

articles by journalists and generalists

articles by those knowledgeable in the field

authors from academic institutions

authors are staff or freelance writers

articles written by contributing authors

highly focused topics geared towards researchers and professionals

more generalized topics geared towards nonprofessionals

topics geared towards members of a specific business, industry or organization

primary research or literature review

secondary sources

primary and secondary sources

peer-reviewed (usually)

edited but not peer-reviewed

editorial review

include bibliographies

no bibliographies

may have short bibliographies

many have dull covers

glossy, eye-catching covers

often glossy paper

few or no advertisements

heavy advertisements

moderate advertisements – all or most are trade related

Journal of Food Science

Urban Studies

Journal of Applied Psychology

Journal of Extension


New York

Psychology Today


Chilton’s Food Engineering

Public Management

APA Monitor

Advertising Age


* Periodical is a generic term used for popular magazines, trade or professional journals, and scholarly journals. They are materials that are published at regular intervals (monthly, quarterly, daily, etc.).


  • Copyright date/last update date
  • Up-to-date terminology and facts

Note:  The currency standard will differ depending on the discipline.


  • Qualifications or credentials of the author, editor, contributors
  • Is the material primary or secondary?
  • Publisher’s quality/purpose? (Do they publish reputable material?) 
  • Are submissions peer reviewed?


  • What kind of information is the source intended to convey?
  • What topics are covered? For what period of time?
  • How detailed is the source? 
  • How complete is it?  Are there any noticeable omissions? 


  • What is the source’s purpose? (What is the author trying to accomplish through the work?)
  • Does the content seem credible? (well-written, well organized, logically presented)
  • To what extent does the argument rely on evidence and to what extent does it rely on opinion?
  • Is the evidence verifiable? (sources clearly attributed or original research methodology explained)
  • Is the information presented in an objective manner? (All sides of an issue presented; no logical fallacies)
  • Is the source internally consistent? 
  • How does source fit in with other sources in the field? (Does it reference other reputable/authoritative sources? Does it build upon the contributions of others/current knowledge? Is it compatible with known information or explain why it is not compatible?)

General assessment strategies:

Print Resources

Web Pages


Scan table of contents

Scan menus

Review help section

Scan title page

Scan root page

Read about/scope information

Scan index(es)

Scan site map

Review the list of publications/sources included

Read preface

Read introduction

Determine the vendor/source

Scan references/bibliography

Scan references/bibliography


Read author’s bio

Read author’s bio


Developed by Sara Lowe and Karen Wallace; informed by Libraries Linking Idaho course on evaluating reference sources

For students in the sciences, review articles are often the best starting place for research projects since they give students an overview of the field before they dive into the primary literature. However, even upper-level students often have not been introduced to review articles. The infographic below on finding and using review articles can be added to a course guide or distributed to students before class as an introduction to review articles.

Finding Review Articles: an infographic