The Collision of Two Lexicons: Librarians, Composition Instructors and the Vocabulary of Source Evaluation
Objective – The study has two aims. The first is to identify words and phrases from information literacy and rhetoric and composition that students used to justify the comparability of two sources. The second is to interpret the effectiveness of students’ application of these evaluative vocabularies and explore the implications for librarians and first-year composition instructors’ collaborations.
Methods – A librarian and a first-year composition instructor taught a class on source evaluation using the language of information literacy, composition, and rhetorical analysis (i.e., classical, Aristotelian, rhetorical appeals). Students applied the information learned from the instruction session to help them locate and select two sources of comparable genre and rigor for the purpose of an essay assignment. The authors assessed this writing assignment for students’ evaluative diction to identify how they could improve their understanding of each other’s discourse.
Results – The authors’ analysis of the student writing sample exposes struggles in how students understand, apply, and integrate the jargon of information literacy and rhetoric and composition. Assessment shows that students chose the language of rhetoric and composition rather than the language of information literacy, they selected the broadest and/or vaguest terms to evaluate their sources, and they applied circular reasoning when justifying their choices. When introduced to analogous concepts or terms between the two discourses, students cherry-picked the terms that allowed for the easiest, albeit, least-meaningful evaluations.
Conclusion – The authors found that their unfamiliarity with each other’s discourse revealed itself in both the class and the student writing. They discovered that these miscommunications affected students’ language use in their written source evaluations. In fact, the authors conclude that this oversight in addressing the subtle differences between the two vocabularies was detrimental to student learning. To improve communication and students’ source evaluation, the authors consider developing a common vocabulary for more consistency between the two lexicons.
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