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College-Level Research Tutorial

This tutorial models and and teaches users how to navigate and reflect on the research process.

Research In Real Life-2

By the end of this Module, you'll learn that:

•Different types of sources have different purposes and audiences 
•Making sense of a source’s author, audience, and purpose helps us determine how we might use the information in a source 

Have you ever found yourself in a position like Marita's in this example?

Before adopting a kitten, Marita researched everything: toys, beds, litter boxes, food. She expected her new pet to like tuna and laser pointers and scratches behind the ears, but Marita never imagined it would climb her curtains or chew-up the houseplants. Is this normal? she wondered. When Marita searched the web for answers, she found cat training videos, fact pages on pet food company websites, veterinary clinic locations, and more. Marita hears a vase break somewhere in the distance and leaves her search results with a sigh.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your search results, unable to find the type of information you’re looking for, or unsure what which sources are trustworthy? In this module we will learn how to approach reading and searching for information in a way that that will help you deepen your understanding about the issue you're researching. 

Practical Skills-2

Watch the three videos: 1. What are scholarly sources?, 2. Where do I search?, and 3.First Search@UW search. Use the arrow commands below the media player to move on to the next video.


Try It Out-2: The Source Spectrum

We've learned that different sources are created with different audiences in mind to fulfill different purposes. Taking time to consider a source's author, audience, and purpose will help you understand the information shared in the source and use it appropriately. Complete the activity below to practice differentiating popular and scholarly source types based on their author, audience, and purpose.

1. Review Example Sources

Without reading or watching each source in full, review the 5 source examples below. Make note of details that point to each source's author, audience, and purpose.

Tip: Each example link will open in a new window. Once you've opened all the sources, compare them. What are the similarities and differences in the ways the sources are formatted and made available?

Research Article

News Source 1


News Source 2


2. Complete the Drag-and-drop Source Spectrum Activity

After you've decided where each example source falls on the Source Spectrum, Arrange the source tiles on the spectrum. Once you're satisfied with how you ordered the examples sources from popular to scholarly, check your answer for feedback.


3. Reflect

Discuss or reflect on the following questions:

  • What evidence did you find in the example sources that helped you decide where these sources go on the spectrum?
  • How could you use News Source 2 and the Research article from the examples above in a college-level paper?

21st Century Skills-2: Practicing Online Civic Reasoning

In 2016 researchers from Stanford University published a study that found most teens couldn’t tell the difference between news sources and advertisements.

The Researchers conclude that skills like investigating a source’s creator and comparing information across multiple sources are essential practices for responsible digital citizenship.

1. Listen

Listen to the All Things Considered “4 Minute Listen” interview with Stanford professor Dr. Sam Wineburg,  then consider the reflection questions below. Stanford Study finds most students vulnerable to fake news

(transcript of audio available on segment webpage).

2. Discuss

  • What if you were really interested in a specific article, but you weren't sure if it was trustworthy. What would you do to decide if its information was reliable? 

Instructions for Reuse

UWM College-level Research Tutorial 2020 by Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.