Is it a book? An online journal article? A website? What is the title? Is it scholarly?
Undergraduate students often struggle with these questions when they encounter resources in a Google search. They have trouble determining if they are looking at a webpage or an e-journal, and cannot decipher article or book citations. This is not a new problem: a 2001 survey by UCLA found that 62% of undergraduates could not correctly identify an article citation.
There is a need to improve how we teach students to identify and evaluate resources in a digital environment. Most of the LibGuides, tutorials, and handouts created by libraries mistakenly assume that students can determine basic facts about resources – the title, the author, the date, the journal. But in a digital environment, this information can be difficult to find or understand. Take this Sage journal article I found in a Google search:
Students may not be able to tell if this is a book, a website, or a scholarly journal article. And they may have trouble identifying the article title: is it “Business information review?” And there is no information about peer-review.
We often tell students that they can identify articles by the volume/issue information, but that information is difficult to understand when presented like this:
We need to do a better job teaching our undergraduates how to identify scholarly resources in an online search engine environment. Sure, we can keep steering them to our library databases – but ultimately, they will need to learn to navigate a Google world.
Here are three good examples I found that help students understand citations: