Source detective questions

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Source detective questions are designed to enhance your information literacy skills on searching for the most appropriate sources to answer a question for an upcoming class. Many questions have more than one right answer, so emphasize how your arrived at your solution. Your response will be evaluated on the depth and clarity of your search strategy and answer to the question.

In the Educ 300 syllabus, look for your initials next to a source detective question, match it to the number below, and read it carefully. Take notes on your search strategy to write up for your post. Update: See the Search Strategies resource page for ideas. Some answers may be on the public web, or in a library database, or only available in print. Feel free to ask a Trinity Research Librarian to help you, or schedule an appointment with me.

Write a short essay (300 words or more) as a WordPress post on our site, including:

  • Descriptive title (using first portion of the question is recommended)
  • Copy and paste the assigned question at the top of your post
  • Text of your response, with any sources cited (links or images are optional)
  • Check the box (category = source detective) and publish to receive credit

Your post should automatically appear in the Responses to Source Detective questions. In class, be prepared to give a brief summary to teach your classmates what you learned.

Source detective questions for Spring 2013:

  1. What was the companion article to Thomas Nast’s political cartoon? In our next class we will examine a political cartoon by Thomas Nast, titled “The American River Ganges: The Priests and the Children,” which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, May 8, 1875, page 384. The cartoon is freely available online. In fine print at the bottom, it refers to a companion article, “The Common Schools and their Foes,” on page 385 of same issue. Describe your search strategy to locate the article and summarize its content. (Hint: Sometimes the past is only available in print.)
  2. Were 19th-century women permitted to be public speakers? In our next class we will analyze an address, “The Evils Suffered by American Women and American Children” (1846) written by Catherine Beecher (alternate spelling: Catharine), in which she seeks to rethink the restrictive “women’s sphere” of her time. But was it considered proper for Beecher — or other women like her — to speak in public? Describe your search strategy, tell us what answers you discovered, and cite your sources.
  3. How did book reviewers assess Ravitch’s reversal? Next week’s book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, became a best-seller in part because of the dramatic shift in thinking by its author, historian and policy advocate Diane Ravitch. How do you locate in-depth reviews of this book in both scholarly and popular media? Describe your search strategy, and quote some representative reviews, including both favorable and critical comments.
  4. What type of students attended John Dewey’s Lab School? In our next class we will read about educator John Dewey and view photos from the University of Chicago Lab School, which leads some to ask: what type of students attended this school in the early 1900s? Were they mostly children of faculty members or the broader neighborhood? Describe your search strategy, tell us what answers you discovered, and cite your sources.
  5. Who published the National School Service and why? For our next class we’ll read a short article by educational psychologist Robert Yerkes, “The Mental Rating of School Children,” National School Service 1, no. 12 (February 15, 1919): 6–7, Who created this publication and what was its purpose in 1919? What major themes stand out in the February issues? And who made it available for us to view on the Internet today?
  6. How can you find Robert Yerkes’ Army alpha and beta tests? For our next class we’ll analyze intelligence tests developed during World War I, which were published by Clarence Yoakum and Robert Yerkes in their book, Army Mental Tests (1920). Does Trinity Library own this book? If not, how can you request it from a nearby library, or even better, instantly view the full-text version for free? Describe your search strategy, and if possible, skim the contents and describe some that stand out.
  7. How can you find Lewis Terman’s early intelligence tests? Lewis Terman was an educational psychologist at Stanford university who developed an intelligence test (later known as the Stanford-Binet IQ test), which he described in his 1916 book. Does Trinity library own this book or is the full-text version freely available online? Describe your search strategy, as well as a few sample questions from the original test, and cite your source.
  8. What did Gustave Feingold write on intelligence and immigrants in 1920s Hartford? Gustave Feingold, a graduate of Trinity College (Class of 1911) and Harvard (Ph.D. 1914), published a critique of intelligence testing and immigrant groups in a psychology journal while he was a staff member at Hartford Public High School in the 1920s. Describe your search strategy for finding this article, and summarize some of its key arguments, and cite it.
  9. How do you find scholarly books on the history of intelligence testing? Imagine that you decide to write a research essay on the history of intelligence testing, particularly how it evolved in U.S. education during the twentieth century. Describe your search strategy for finding books on this topic at Trinity Library, and cite five of the most relevant titles. (Hint: the goal of this question is to distinguish between keyword and subject-term searches.)
  10. Updated: How do you find reviews and essays about video documentaries? Describe your search strategy and cite the 5 most thoughtful reviews or background essays on a designated video documentary. Your search results may include scholarly and/or popular press, but do your best not to include those featured on the film’s companion site. (Hint: the goal of this question is to help your classmates identify thoughtful sources that do not necessarily agree with the policy stance taken by the film.) Add a brief explanation for why you recommended each of the five sources you selected.
  11. How do you locate Connecticut State Department of Education statistics about teachers, such as the percentage of racial minorities and average years of experience by district? Describe your search strategy and results for Hartford versus any suburb.
  12. How do you locate a database of teachers’ contracts for all school districts in Connecticut? Describe your search strategy and summarize differences between Hartford versus any suburb.
  13. How do you locate a scholarly reviews of Doug Harris’ book, Value-Added Measures in Education? Describe your search strategy and summarize criticisms of his book.
  14. In Kate McEachern’s 2005 essay, she wanted to know when major newspapers began using the phrase “teach to the test,” and found a creative way to answer this question. Describe her approach and replicate how she did it.
  15. In Taylor Godfrey’s 2012 web essay, she bases her claims on content that appeared on the Teach for America website over six years ago, yet does not mention how she found this source. Describe how she did it, and offer a better citation. (Hint: See an amazing tool provided by the Internet Archive.)
  16. How do you locate scholarly books and articles written by historians on the topic of sex education in the US, particularly on the Anaheim, California 1960s controversy? (See next week’s syllabus). Describe your search strategy, identify and cite 3 of the most worthwhile secondary sources, and explain why you selected them.
  17. Home-schooling can be a challenging topic to research because it exists outside of most governmental education data-collection systems. What are current estimates of the number (and percentage) of children who are home-schooled in the US, and has this rate grown over time? Describe your search strategy to find reliable estimates, and if sources disagree, briefly explain how and offer some reasons why.

Prior source detective questions and selected answers:

Are McGuffey Readers still used today? McGuffey’s Readers series is one of the most popular textbooks of the nineteenth-century common school era. (See an 1879 digitized edition on Google Books). Is this series of books still in print and used to educate children today? Be sure to describe your search strategy. Answered by: Rosio Baez and Ashley Ardinger, “Are McGuffey Readers still used to educate children today?” Educ 300: Education Reform, Past and Present, January 31, 2012,

Where can you find Common School teachers’ letters?: In her 2003 book, historian Nancy Hoffman published letters written by nineteenth-century teachers such as Ellen Lee and Mary Adams, which were located in an archive. How can you find similar letters (or diaries) written by other teachers from this era? Describe your search strategy (but obtaining the actual letters is not required). Answered by Fionnuala Darby-Hudgens, “Where can you find Common School teachers’ letters?” Educ 300: Education Reform, Past and Present, January 30, 2012,

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