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Evaluating Expertise: Activity

Learn about the value of expertise and how to assess the authority of experts, based on credentials, reputation, and situational context.

Evaluating Expertise Teaching Activities

The following class activities can be used to give students practice with the strategies discussed in the Evaluating Expertise videos and handout on the Citizen Literacy website. The activities are designed to be adapted to different disciplinary contexts as well as different learning environments (face-to-face, online, hybrid).

  1. Op-ed Experts: Ask students to read an op-ed piece that addresses a policy issue related to your discipline (e.g., climate change; voting rights; economic inequality; healthcare costs; federal or state education policy). Discuss the argument and evidence presented in the piece, then ask students to use Google to explore the author’s expertise. What are the author’s qualifications and educational background? What else have they written? Do they have any public social media accounts? What institutions, organizations, and/or companies are they affiliated with? Do they have a Wikipedia page? Students then pool their evidence and determine whether the author is an expert on the topic of the op-ed. Be sure that students justify their views based on specific criteria. Individually or in groups, students can then search Google for additional experts on the topic, based on the criteria generated during the discussion, and share their findings with the class.

  2. Google Scholars: Choose a topic related to your discipline or course theme. Ask students to search for sources on the topic in Google, then run a comparison search in Google Scholar. How are the sources searched in Google Scholar different from those in a typical Google search? Consider differences in terms of audience, purpose, jargon/terminology, level of detail, etc. Next, ask students to choose a journal article from Google Scholar and conduct some research on the author and the journal (specifically its mission, author guidelines, and review process). Is the author an expert? Why or why not? How does the journal review submissions? Why do you think experts would use this process? How is it different from the review process for Wikipedia, newspapers, or other kinds of sources? This is also an opportunity to discuss how poor research sometimes makes it past the peer review process but that it is often discovered over time through ongoing expert review. You might cite examples of discredited researchers such as Andrew Wakefield or Judy Mikovits.
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Citizen Literacy was created by Robert Detmering, Amber Willenborg, and Terri Holtze for University of Louisville Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.