Students love the Google Convenience Store. Most people do. Even those who question Google’s dubious privacy policies and monopolistic tendencies often turn to it (even if they do not always admit to it).
Of course, there is nothing inherently un-scholarly about digital scholarship. Indeed, digitisation of primary material and scholarly comment is expanding and deepening our understanding of the world though the free dissemination of human knowledge.
But while this low barrier to entry makes universal education tantalisingly plausible, it also greatly concerns educators. Although dubious publications have long been available through vanity, ideological and poorly managed printing establishments, its higher barrier to entry, especially into academic presses, tended to weed out impostors, providing a basically straightforward set of rules for that eternal question: Is this source okay?
As the barriers for both print and digital publication continue to fall, and mechanisms for identifying sources become increasingly curated by unknown influences, the prevalence of poor source selection is on the rise.
In an effort to assist students in developing the ‘vetting’ skills most academics take for granted, skills developed through years of disciplinary acculturation and a broad familiarity with analogue peer review, I have created the following flow chart. It is certainly imperfect, but it will hopefully force students to think more critically about their research choices.
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