Scholarship is Not Neutral: Using Positionality Statements for Source Evaluation

Beginning college students often make assumptions that scholarly sources are inherently bias-free. Students may also hold the belief that if they find a source through a library database, it is automatically a useful and neutral viewpoint on a topic. These mindsets can limit students’ motivation to apply evaluation strategies beyond establishing credibility based on the author’s credentials.

This lesson plan introduces the concept of positionality statements to help students understand that scholars do not leave their identities and life experiences behind when they conduct research. Students practice a new way to evaluate and understand the perspective–and limitations–that scholars bring to their research.

The lesson plan is designed for first-year composition courses in which students are asked to develop a research topic based on their interests or experiences. It could be adapted for upper-level undergraduate courses in the social sciences.

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