Information Literacy through Wikipedia? Yes!

A Wikipedia editing project conducted in a summer anthropology course at SMU recently won the $1,000 SMU Libraries Information Literacy stipend. Yes, Wikipedia! Actually, a project of this type is an excellent way to foster information literacy, critical thinking, and collaborative writing skills in your students.

First, some background

Wikipedia’s reputation in academia has been a mixed bag over the years. However, there’s no denying its popularity among student researchers. The notion of Wikipedia’s viability as an encyclopedic source began to gain momentum after a 2005 study in the journal Nature, which showed that Wikipedia had approximately the same number of errors in its content as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Twelve years later, Wikipedia continues to gain wide acceptance as additional studies have supported claims of its viability as an efficient, useful method for building background knowledge and context.

What SMU is doing

Building on the growing success of Wikipedia as a trusted encyclopedic source, an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education encouraged academics to contribute to Wikipedia in order to improve it even further. Many universities worldwide have since heeded the call, including here at SMU.
You can read about our Summer 2017 project and reflections/results through the report authored by Jessica Lott on the Faculty Information Literacy Stipend website. Our assignment didn’t use Wikipedia as a source, but rather as a place for students to work their creative thinking muscles as editors and creators of content.

With all that positive press, it’s easy to see how and why Wikipedia has a place in research. Want more convincing on the benefits of your students as editors?
In the spirit of David Letterman, here are the Top Ten Reasons why a Wikipedia editing project is an idea worth pursuing in your course:

Top 10!

10. Wikipedia is an excellent way to authentically incorporate the required IL tag into your course.
09. You can avoid the dreaded term paper grading pileup!
08. It encourages creativity and critical thinking in research and writing online, and requires students to write with a neutral point of view.
07. It fills gaps in Wikipedia’s content, giving more exposure to typically underrepresented groups and content areas.
06. Wikipedia gives students first-hand experience with the peer-review process– Yes! There is a peer review on Wikipedia via the “talk” pages.
05. It allows students to participate in a strong global community and practice effective public engagement.
04. Adding content to Wikipedia ensures your field is accurately represented in this go-to resource.
03. It gives students the opportunity to “give back” to a resource they’ve benefitted from
02. Wikipedia editing promotes active-learning, motivation and engagement with research and course content.

…and finally, as we mentioned
01. A Wikipedia editing project won the SMU Libraries $1,000 Information Literacy stipend award!

If you would like to discuss ways that you can incorporate a Wikipedia editing project into your curriculum or otherwise create an assignment that can win the $1,000 IL stipend prize, contact your librarian. We’re ready to talk!

Images licensed under: CC BY-SA 3.0.

Fighting Fake News with the Libraries

The libraries recently held a workshop on how to recognize fake news which generated interesting discussions amongst attendees. As a follow up, we decided to share top tools and resources for fighting the spread of fake news and for understanding why we fall prey to fake news.

Debunking and Fact-Checking Sites

Check out these sites that report on internet hoaxes and fact-check news stories:

News Aggregator Apps

We polled the library staff members for recommendations on their favorite news agreggator apps. Here is what they had to say:

Longform – According to Science Librarian Jennifer Sullivan, “Longform is for the reader who wants a break from the shallow, click-baity coverage of news that we’ve become so accustomed to. This app offers thoughtful, investigative articles on a wide range of topics from over 50 periodicals. Curate your own list of periodicals and journalists that you want to keep up with, or read through the Editors’ Picks for news and stories that you won’t find in your Facebook feed. Either way, spending time in this app can easily make you the most interesting person in the room. Free, easy to use, well worth a look.”

Flipboard – Joan Gosnell, University Archivist, likes to curate her news using Flipboard where she finds the ability to personalize the content as she states, “It can be as balanced or non-balanced as a person wants,” adding that she selects both right-leaning and left-leaning to find a balanced perspective. She also uses Flipboard to follow both news and non-news interests and to also sources that she would not normally follow.

SmartNews – Jonathan McMichael, User Experience Librarian, chooses SmartNews because it allows him to read news sources he would not otherwise encounter.  He appreciates the features which allow users to create custom feeds, but also appreciates that the app doesn’t customize feeds based on clicking which keeps users from inadvertently falling into a filter bubble. Downsides of the app include the lack of filters for fake news, so users will need to have some information literacy skills to discern the difference.

Feedly –  Elisa Welder, Fondren’s Assistant Circulation Manager, recommends Feedly because it “is a super easy-to-use RSS reader.” She appreciates the ability to divide everything into categories which she browse one at a time or all at once. Feedly also has a great “save for later” option which allows her to save interesting articles for when she has more time or save something that she will want to reference in the future.

Why Do We Fall for Fake News?

This article won’t change your mind explores why we stick to our beliefs despite insufficient evidence.

6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it reports on a study on the habit of sharing without reading.

This Is Not Fake News (but Don’t Go by the Headline) explores media literacy in higher education.

Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election, a study out of Stanford, explores the economics of fake news and its consumption in the last election, asking the question of whether fake news possibly changed election results.

Cognitive and Interpersonal Features of Intellectual Humility is a study on the personality trait of intellectual humility and its relationship to the recognition of the strength of persuasive arguments.

Future Workshops

Finding Balanced News in a Biased World, Tuesday, April 25th at 4:00 pm 

We will explore the characteristics of good sources of news, and how news stories might be biased through language, coverage, and sourcing. Come discuss aspects of bias that you see in our media, and learn about resources that will help you find balanced news coverage.

Decoding Numbers in the News, Thursday, April 27th at 4:00 pm 

We will discuss how statistics can be manipulated and misrepresented in the news and in social media. Participants will gain practical ways to see the truth behind the numbers.

Register for these workshops and others at

Want updates about future workshops? Sign up for our Research Workshops mailing list.

Finding Places to Publish

One of the joys of being a researcher, is seeing the results of the research that one has spent a long time working on, published. However, the process of finding the ideal journal is not always that easy. Experienced researchers do not often think about this, because they’ve had lots of experiences writing and publishing, and oftentimes know what journals they need to submit their research output to. On the other hand, graduate students, inexperienced researchers, and new faculty, sometimes have a more difficult time with this process. There are a number of things to consider when looking for a journal that is the “right fit”, one to which you could submit your article, that might be more inclined to accept your article for publication. So, how can we evaluate such journals? Here are a few of the issues to consider:
• Who is the publisher?
• What is the readership?
• What is the scope of the journal?

Then, after you’ve found the right journal, and you’ve been told that your article has been accepted for publication, does it mean that you no longer have any right to the article once you submit it? Is it a done deal? Can you still retain your rights as an author?

If you are interested in getting more information about these issues, please sign up to attend our workshop below.
Title: Finding Places to Publish and Author’s Rights
Day: Thursday
Date: March 23, 2017
Time: 5:00-6:00p
Location: Fondren Library
Room: FLE 323

A Librarian’s Top Tips for Better Internet Searches

We use the internet to find information every day and can often easily find what we are looking for, but there are times when more advanced techniques would yield better results. Here are some recommendations.

1. Consider the language that would be used in the piece of information that you are seeking. Oftentimes, we pose search terms as the question being asked. Instead, use keywords that would appear in the answer.

2. Use the advanced Google functions. My favorite Google trick is using Google to find more websites like one I have already found. To do this, type “related:” in the search box followed by the URL of a website homepage as all one word. Google will then find other websites like that one. For example, a search of “” will find the websites for TCU, UTA, Rice, Dallas Baptist University, University of Dallas, etc.

3. Question your motives when choosing keywords. The internet is vast, and chances are you can find answers that support many sides to the story. Given the human tendency towards confirmation bias, it is very easy for keywords to slant the results that you are seeing from your searches. Keep your search terms neutral, or use both positive and negative terms. For example, you would get very different results from a search of “health benefits wheat” versus a search of “negative effects wheat.”

Learn more about tools and strategies to get the most from your web searches at this upcoming workshop with Megan Heuer, our Communication Arts Librarian.
Advanced Internet Search
Thursday, March 9, 2017
5:00pm – 6:00pm
Fondren Library Red 323
Register for the event

Learn about all of our workshops.