Introducing first year writing students to scholarly, trade, & popular sources

Note: This was originally published in the Research & Instruction Showcase on the Wellesley College LTS web site. Students in this session reported feeling more confident about their ability to contextualize online sources after examining physical sources.

Composite image of covers of Sierra Magazine, Environment Today, Environmental Ethics, Christianity Today, and WIRED.
Students examined popular, trade, and scholarly magazines and journals in order to understand why they would want to use each one.

First year students often do not know to differentiate between scholarly journal articles, popular magazine and news articles, and publications from trade journals or magazines when doing research. In an increasingly online research environment, this challenge is magnified because articles of all sorts are “unbundled” from their tables of contents and other articles in the same issue.

Students in two first-year writing courses, Environmental Ethics in Christian Traditions and Religion and New Media, had the opportunity to get hands-on experience differentiating between scholarly, popular, and trade sources, and to translate that hands-on experience into the online environment.

Before the instruction session, the librarian identified scholarly, popular, and trade sources for each course, and brought several copies of each source to class. Students were paired and given a guide to help them differentiate between scholarly, popular, and trade sources. They spent 15 minutes working through the guide to make claims about which source was scholarly, which was popular, and which was trade. They then discussed their findings as a group and tried to figure out the salient clues to help them identify types of sources found online.

LTS Staff: Emily Belanger, Megan Brooks

Published by Megan