Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Evaluating sources

I was thinking more about some professors' strategies to not have research projects so that students can focus their attention on the class texts. I could see some value in this. However, I also think that in the information age we live in, it's important for students before they graduate to know how to navigate the wealth of information out there. They will need to know how to do this in their personal lives and for their jobs.

It is true that new technology could help students with finding more reliable sources. But there are still other elements of evaluation, such as determining if a source really fits their specific needs. Born Digital talked about how different people have different needs for information, depending on who they are (a doctoral student versus a high schooler, for example) or what they're using it for (i.e. personal interest vs. scholarly study). Although it sounds like Web 3.0 technology might address this too! Apparently they're working on search engines that could learn what the person's level and needs are and return results based on that information. -I could see problems with that (what about if you switched from doing mostly personal research to more scholarly research?) but I imagine they could tweak it.

But given that, it still takes some level of human discernment in deciding what to use and how to use it. That's also part of the creative, human process in crafting a paper, reflecting on what you've found and creating something new based on it...


  • At 12:55 PM, Blogger Matt said…

    What does it mean to say that computers could help students "find more reliable sources?"

    It seems more likely that computers can help people find more popular sources or sources deem acceptable by some authority but our these always reliable?

    Would John's gospel be deemed reliable in the 1st century? Why take a fisherman's word when the religious professionals have deemed Christ a fraud and most people think he was a criminal?

  • At 2:57 PM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Yeah, I definitely think that is a big question as they're developing the new technology. They are programming these systems to evaluate the sources based on some criteria. What are the criteria? Who decides on them? It's especially important in our multi-cultural world, where there are different perspectives.

    A professor was asking me yesterday about how reliable Google Scholar was. I was telling him that it was similar in quality to our library databases - scholarly material. But I wonder how Google decides if they're scholarly? Perhaps the same way databases do - if they're published by scholarly places?


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