Judging Sources, or, Why You Should Pay the Hell Attention in my Library Instruction Classes

I just spent the last fifteen minutes trying to explain to a young college girl why she should *not* be using The Onion as her news source for a serious research paper.

Let me back up. It started with a relatively simple question – she came to the desk and asked whether she was supposed to cite her news article as a newspaper or as a web source. She held out an article from the Onion. “I know it’s a newspaper, but I only have the online version,” she said.

STOP

Because I wanted to be sure, I asked, “You know The Onion isn’t actually a real news source, right?”

*blank stare*

“What I mean to say is, The Onion is a fake news source. They make things up. it’s a parody of the news, meant to make you laugh.”

*blank stare*

“Erm…it’s not a real newspaper at all. It’s just a fake news website.”

Face brightens. “So I cite it as an online source?”

“Yes. But it’s not real news. Do you need a real-life news article for your paper?”

*blank sullen stare* “Yes. but This one makes the argument I need. It’s an online source, right?”

Exasperation. Well, yes…”

“‘kay, thanksomuchbye!

No, really. In the space of a three-minute conversation, a young woman managed to make a mockery of my life’s work and leave my reference desk just as ignorant as she arrived. This sort of, shall we say, deliberate ignorance, where the right answer is ignored in favor of looking like you got the job done with less-than-mediocre research, is the bane of my existence.

May I ask – why are you in college if not to learn? Why would you blatantly discard information that could save you from your professor’s ridicule and the malicious snickers of your classmates? And WHY would you choose to use erroneous information even after it has been pointed out that it is erroneous??

Try to do someone a favor, and get your spirits dashed. And isn’t it funny how three emails complimenting me on my teaching don’t hold a candle to the one instance of deliberate ignorance that rears its ugly head and snaps my hope for the future in two.

Have students no pride?

Then again, at least I contributed to her citing the source properly.

Baby Jeebus wept.

8 comments

  1. Ah, Jared, it’s okay. When I’m in a better mood I’ll post some of the wonderfully intelligent questions I’ve had at the reference desk, too. And there have been quite a few.

    Like

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