Teaching Tips

Sourcing Heuristic

Many of you have probably heard of “sourcing heuristic,” but I had not before reading an article by Dr. Pete Burkholder titled, “Why You Read Like an Expert — and Why Your Students Probably Don’t.”  According to Dr. Burkholder, sourcing heuristic is “… determining the origin and legitimacy of a text before reading the text itself.”  This skill enables readers to determine if the text is going to support what is taught, provide current and up-to-date information, present a different perspective, and more.  The following is an example of sourcing heuristic that Dr. Burkholder completed with his students:

“Yes, but why should we believe this book, or even take it seriously?” I asked. “Are those important things to know at the outset?” (Of course, they agreed.) “How would we go about answering such questions?”

The responses started coming, slowly at first but then in a torrent. (It’s published by a well-known university press. The author is a professor at Prestigious Institution Y. There are extensive endnotes indicating where his information came from.) “Okay, now take out your smartphones.” (Yippee!) “Can you find out what the author’s been up to since he published this?” (Quite a bit, and it all looks impressive.) “If you Google the book’s title, what do you find?” (References everywhere, and the title even has its own Wikipedia page!)“Has it been reviewed a lot and in a variety of journals across disciplines?” (Yes and yes.)

Dr. Burkholder continues to give strategies and tips to help teach students how to think critically about where the information is coming from before beginning to read the text.  To read more of Dr. Burkholder’s article, click here.

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