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University of Utah Library Guides

LEAP with Dr. White and Dale Larsen: What's Scholarly?

This is a course-specific guide supporting Dr. Mike White's LEAP classes with librarian Dale Larsen

Explorations LEAP, LEAP 1101

"I wrote your essay for you!"

Your choices for things to cite may be criticized, but here is the question: why does Wikipedia always get picked on?  It isn't because the articles are patently wrong, is it?  The in-class assignment (below, at least partially) will shed some light on the matter -and hopefully help you defend sources you think are worthwhile at the same time.

In-Class Assignment #1  -find the worst online statement/position on "global warming" that you can
As a team, your job is to locate what you think is the worst possible article or statement on global warming that you could possibly put into a paper on that topic.  Do your worst, and then we'll determine a winner (or loser) of a citation that would guarantee a huge red mark on your paper and the comments, "how could you have possibly thought that this was a reasonble thing to cite!?"  Regions of the web to pick:

   A "Tea Party" Perspective
   An Australian Perspective
   A Liberal/Democrat Perspective
   An environmentalist p.o.v.
   A Baby Boomer OR Millenial p.o.v.

In-Class Assignment #2 -find the most scholarly book you possibly can -and bring it back
As a team, your job is to locate what you think is the most incredibly perfect book to cite in a paper -go get it and bring it back to the librarian (for scrutiny).  The item judged "most scholarly" will be the winner.  Topics include:

   Basket Weaving
   Utah History
   Mac Computers
   Western (movies)


How can you determine the value of any information?  Whether it is verbal, non-verbal, written, yelled, televised, etc., the following information literacy screen can be used to determine value.  Hint: an article is considered scholarly (or "high impact") if it shows strong evidence of passing all five of the following...


P is for Purpose

Why was the information given/published/produced/etc.?  To inform? To persuade? To sell? To entertain? To get you off their back? –there’s no absolute correct answer, but it is very helpful to consider.

A is for Author(ity)

Who is the author(s) and how are they an authority?  Example: Stephen Hawking has a PhD in Physics and holds the Chair of the Physics Department at Cambridge University –if he states something related to Physics, he is highly authoritative.  If he argues with you that the most important element of cheesecake is the crust –he is on equal authoritative footing with the rest of us cheesecake fans.  Note: years of specific experience also counts, but is less easy to quantify than a degree or title.  Being old or being a celebrity do not count in and of themselves.  An item with ‘anonymous’, a ‘wise man once said’, no listed author, or a record of a changed authorship, are all poor.

D is for Date

How fresh is your information, and does that matter?  If you’re looking at anthropology, a field report from a dig along the river Euphrates in 1915 may be just as valuable as today.  If you are looking for smart phone reviews, you’ll want something more recent.  If there is no date of publication –then beware.

R is for Relevance

What level of information do you need?  You won’t need a scholarly article to pick a restaurant to go to, but a foreign policy specialist would be ill-advised to base policy decisions on the ideas of the guy at the grocery store putting in his 2 cents (but he probably is a great reference for the nearest & best coffee shop!)

E is for Editor

All information has added value when a larger group agrees with you and says so by publishing you (essentially you have successfully passed the editors’ desks).  Example; if someone says that all chicken should be eaten raw (which we all know is a bad idea, you would get horribly sick, and it would be disgusting, right?):
            in a self-published blog = it is either a prank/satire, or they are crazy
            in a local news source that will publish anything = it may still be a prank, or something that slipped by the overworked editor by mistake
            in the New York Times = it might be part of a hard to understand movement; you won’t catch me eating it, but at least I can read about why someone is.
            in the Journal of the American Medical Association = either all doctors are crazy
or there’s some bizarre, but effective treatment of a disease.

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