Lesson Plan

Grade Levels



  • Students will gain skills evaluating the reliability of various types of resources.
  • Students will gain confidence explaining the reasoning behind their evaluation of any given source.
  • Students will learn what information is important to look for when evaluating a source.

Total Estimated Class Time

A single class period (approx. 45 mins.)

Sequence of Activities

Warm-Up Activity  (10–15 mins.)

Students independently respond to a Do Now prompt, such as one of the following, written on the board (or on a worksheet if needed):

1. Can you tell the difference between reliable and unreliable sources? Organize the sources below into two columns, one for reliable sources and the other for unreliable sources. If you finish early, choose one of the sources and explain how you organized it by writing down your thought process.

  •  a history textbook published in 1960
  •  a website that has plenty of articles but no authors listed
  •  Entertainment Weekly magazine
  •  a peer-reviewed journal published by a university
  • an electronic version of Hamlet that clearly displays its printed source material and the name of its editor
  • a copy of the Declaration of Independence published by the National Archives

2. Write down your answers to the following questions about conducting research:

  • What are the resources you use when conducting research for an essay or class project?
  • How do you know when you’ve found a source that you can use in an essay or project for school?

3. Reflect on your past experiences with research:

  • Draw a picture of how conducting research for a school project makes you feel.
  • In one sentence, explain why conducting research for school makes you feel this way.

After providing the students suitable time to reflect and write down their answers, the teacher should have students share what they wrote with a partner or partners sitting nearby. (Tip: If students are shy or hesitant to share, select a neutral criterion for who goes first—for example, tell them the person born later in the year or the person whose first name begins earlier in the alphabet should share first.)

Following this turn-and-talk, the teacher should call on a few students to share their answers with the class.

“I Do” Activity (10–15 mins.)

After briefly explaining to students the importance of differentiating between reliable and unreliable sources during the research process, the teacher should hand out the checklist and source #1 worksheet.

If it is possible to do so, the teacher should project the images of the source and checklist onto the board so that students can watch the process of annotating a source.

The teacher should go through the checklist, explaining each step to the students and answering questions as needed. Students should annotate and mark their checklists and source worksheets with the teacher, highlighting or circling parts of the source or writing down clarifying definitions as needed.

Once the checklist is complete, the teacher can tally up the checks and show how these checks can help to determine the reliability of a source.

The teacher should model how students ought to respond to the question at the bottom. If needed, the teacher can provide sentence starters, vocabulary words for students to use, or both.

“We Do” Activity (10 mins.)

Students are either paired up or put into groups.

Students are provided the source #2 worksheet.

In their pairs or groups, the students determine the reliability of source #2 using the checklist. Students should also work together to answer the questions on the source #2 worksheets.

The teacher should walk around the classroom, helping and encouraging students as needed.

If students finish early, they can look back at their answers from the Do Now and discuss with their partner or group whether or not their answers have changed and why.

Final Reflection and Class Discussion (5–10 mins.)

The teacher should call on a few groups to share whether they felt source #2 was reliable and to explain their reasoning (they can use their answer to question #2 from the source #2 worksheet to help with this).

If there is time, the teacher could ask students to look back at their answers from the Do Now and call on students to share and explain whether or not their answers have changed. Alternatively, the teacher could ask students how they feel about finding resources for future research projects: Do they feel more confident after today’s class? Do they still have questions? Do they have more questions?

Homework: “You Do” Activity

For homework, the students should complete the source #3 worksheet using the checklist.

Possible Follow-Up Activities

The teacher can provide another source and checklist worksheet for a Do Now or class activity if students need extra practice.

If a research paper assignment follows this activity, the teacher should have students complete a checklist for each source they plan to cite in their essay. This can be used as a checkpoint assignment for the teacher to check in with students and make sure they are making progress with their research papers.

Possible Alterations

Teachers are encouraged to use or create different sources for the three source worksheets. Teachers should select or create sources that fit with the skills and content they’d like their students to learn from this lesson.

The sources below are organized in the following manner: the first source is a website that is very reliable; the second source is a website that is not very reliable; the third source is a website that is in the middle of the spectrum, leaning more toward being unreliable. The third source was purposefully chosen to be a bit more difficult so that students’ mastery of the skill of evaluating sources could be effectively assessed. An answer key is provided for each worksheet.

Lesson Materials

Checklist for Evaluating Sources

Sentence Starters

Source 1 Worksheet

Source 2 Worksheet

Source 3 Worksheet

Source 1 Worksheet Answer Key

Source 2 Worksheet Answer Key

Source 3 Worksheet Answer Key

Photo of Caitlin Duffy

Caitlin Duffy

Caitlin Duffy is a former New York City secondary school teacher and a current PhD student in English literature at Stony Brook University, State University of New York.