Multimodal Mondays: Helping Students Evaluate and Cite Digital Sources

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326116_pastedImage_9.pngJeanne Law Bohannon is an Assistant Professor of English in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Kennesaw State University. She believes in creating democratic learning spaces, where students become stakeholders in their own rhetorical growth though authentic engagement in class communities. Her research interests include evaluating digital literacies and critical engagement pedagogies; performing feminist rhetorical recoveries; and growing informed and empowered student scholars. Reach Jeanne at: and

At this time in the semester, students are often researching for essays, literature reviews, and academic blogs. And yes, they are struggling to evaluate and cite valid sources – especially the multimodal ones. Like many instructors, I have found in recent years that students, particularly digital natives, seem to prefer using multimodal sources, such as webtexts, chat forums, videos, podcasts, and even memes over traditional print sources.


This year, a few colleagues and I conducted a study of first-year students as part of the Learning Information Literacy Across the Curriculum (LILAC) Project, seeking to describe students’ information-seeking behaviors in electronic spaces when researching academic papers. One of LILAC’s most interesting findings was in two parts: 1) Students privileged multimodal sources (videos, podcasts, etc.) but did not know how to evaluate or cite these sources; and 2) Students consider multimodal sources that include videos and images, not just webpages, when they seek information online for academic research.


So, the question becomes: How do instructors advise students to use multimodal sources and cite them correctly? If we look at MLA 8 formatting, we find multiple ways to cite common multimodal sources. The foundational rule for citing these types of texts is to make sure that readers/viewers/listeners can find the original piece. Digital readers need to be able to click through to find listed sources easily and follow working links. Today, I want to share a mini-lesson on interacting with students as they cite them.


Evaluating Multimodal Sources – Multi-level Activity

Instructors don’t need to be tech experts to guide students through multimodal source evaluation, interpretation, and synthesis. Using Lunsford’s book sections detailed below, instructors can help students frame discussions on why evaluating multimodal sources is especially important in an information age, where digital natives obtain and process most of their daily information digitally.


Background Reading for Students and Instructors

  • The St. Martin’s Handbook: 12d, “Evaluating Usefulness and Credibility”; 12e, “Reading and Interpreting Sources”;  12f, “Synthesizing Sources”
  • The Everyday Writer: 14a, “Understand the Purpose of Sources”; 14c, “Evaluate a Source’s Usefulness and Credibility”; 14d, “Read Critically and Interpret Sources”; 14e, “Synthesize Sources”
  • EasyWriter: 14a, “Evaluating the Usefulness and Credibility of Potential Sources”; 14b, “Reading and Interpreting Sources”; 14c, ” Synthesizing Sources”


Assignment Parameters

Instructors can use dialogue and a flipped class model to engage students in deep conversations and understandings of the credibility of multimodal sources using a two-part assignment.


  • Part I. Ask students to find a Youtube video that they can argue has ethos and one that might not. Using the criteria found in The St. Martin’s Handbook (section 12d), The Everyday Writer (section 14c), or EasyWriter (section 14a), students rank each source on a scale of 1 (doesn’t meet criteria) to 3 (exceeds criteria). Ask students to explain their rankings first in a discussion forum in your LMS and then to the class as “experts” on these multimodal sources. As the flipped class facilitator, the instructor can guide reflections on students’ rankings and source-choice while allowing students to attain competency in both arguing for their choices and presenting those choices to an audience.
  • Part II. Assign students in groups to review the examples of credible multimodal sources below. Ask each group to interpret their source(s) and compare/contrast them to the sources students found on their own in Part I of the assignment. Ask questions like “How do the sources address challenges of audience and argument (logos, pathos, ethos)? Why do some of the sources rank higher in evaluation criteria than others? How can writers determine the validity of multimodal sources based on these criteria?” As an additional exercise, have students complete citations for their sources based on the MLA citations of the examples given here.


Examples of multimodal sources to be used in a mini-lesson

Citation examples constructed by Jeanne Bohannon

Citing a TedTalk video: As with all multimedia, include the URL if you have it. Titles of TEDTalks are in quotations; the website name is in italics. Always include the talk date and the speaker.


Example: McWhorter, John. ”Txtng is Killing Language. JK.” TEDTalks, February 2013,


Citing a YouTube Video: The key here is understanding the difference between an author and an uploader – they are not always the same.


Example: “The Language Hoax: A Talk with John McWhorter.” YouTube, uploaded by Santa Fe Institute, 7 June 2016,


Citing a podcast: Remember to name the page where the podcast is found, as well as the podcast sponsor and date the podcast was recorded.


Example: McWhorter, John. “What’s the Deal with Eleven? On the Etymology and Pronunciation of English Numbers.” Lexicon Valley: A Show about the Mysteries of English, Slate Magazine, 23 Jan. 2018,


Citing a blog post: Similar to a webpage, except use screen names in brackets when available. Also, include both the post’s date and the date you accessed it.


Example: Andrea A. Lunsford. “About Those Speech Bubbles.” Bedford Bits, Macmillan Community, 8 February 2018, Accessed 26 January 2018.

Citing A Tweet: In place of an author’s name, use the Twitter handle instead. Treat the tweet as an article, in quotations. Remember to also include the timestamp. Date accessed is optional.

Example: @Bedford_English. "Andrea A. Lunsford encourages readers to think ‘About Those Speech Bubbles,’ as she considers the question of how to represent emotion, mood, or stance in a medium without sound." Twitter, 10 February, 2018, 9:00 a.m.,


Citing a Comment on a Post or an Online Forum: In place of an author’s name, cite the username instead. Insert the phrase “Comment on” before typing the article in quotations. Also, include the URL.


Example: Patricia Emerson. Comment on “Summer-Time Multimodal Mondays: Digital Drop-ins for Visual Analysis and Meme Crafting.” Bedford Bits, 15 July 2016, 10:14 a.m.,


Citing an Image, meme, or GIF: It is important to note that when citing an image in any electronic space, you should include the web source where the image is actually found. Similar to citing a work of art, an artist’s name goes in place of an author’s name. The key additions are the URL and the date that the site/image was accessed. When citing a meme or GIF, include the username of the GIF creator as the author.


Example: Fairey, Shepard. Peace Elephant, 2011. michael lisi/contemporary art. Accessed 11 February 2018.


Example: @jerseydemic. “Close-up Cat.” Giphy. Accessed 12 February 2018.


Help for Instructors Thinking about Multimodal Source Evaluation

326115_pastedImage_3.pngStudents learning in the 21st century research, read, and write in electronic spaces every day. In fact, according to the LILAC Project findings, more than 73% of students surveyed reported that they conducted their research online as a first choice. Additionally, only an average of 18% of these students reported that they are comfortable with their online source evaluation and citation skills. These numbers, collected over a five-year period with more than 400 students across diverse institutions, represent an exigence for instructors to teach students how to effectively and accurately source and cite the diverse texts they find in online and electronic spaces.


When instructors work with students in evaluating multimodal sources, we often tend to approach that practice drawing on our traditional experiences. An alternative practice might include similar considerations, such as audience and purpose, while incorporating electronic genre, non-traditional syntax, and social context as additional categories of evaluation.


Instructors can also draw on the expertise of librarians and work with these colleagues to model evaluation of sources for students. LILAC’s longitudinal study of information literacies indicates the need for a partnership between instructors and media specialists in teaching students both how and why to evaluate and cite multimodal sources for academic and public writing.

About the Author
Andrea A. Lunsford is the former director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University and teaches at the Bread Loaf School of English. A past chair of CCCC, she has won the major publication awards in both the CCCC and MLA. For Bedford/St. Martin's, she is the author of The St. Martin's Handbook, The Everyday Writer and EasyWriter; The Presence of Others and Everything's an Argument with John Ruszkiewicz; and Everything's an Argument with Readings with John Ruszkiewicz and Keith Walters. She has never met a student she didn’t like—and she is excited about the possibilities for writers in the “literacy revolution” brought about by today’s technology. In addition to Andrea’s regular blog posts inspired by her teaching, reading, and traveling, her “Multimodal Mondays” posts offer ideas for introducing low-stakes multimodal assignments to the composition classroom.