Adding Friction: How to Design Deliberate Thinking into the Research Process

Adding Friction: How to Design Deliberate
Thinking into the Research Process By Debbie Abilock
Teachers ask, “Should I require that students
Dynamic URLs are still useful. Students can
source. Later students can easily configure
use a URL in their citations?”
often locate a document ID or accession
their exported works cited to exclude URLs,
number by scanning a dynamic URL. This
while at the same time retaining them (along
A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is the web
number can be searched in a database to
with archived copies of the original sources)
address that points to an online resource.
retrieve the source at a later date. It may also
in their online projects, thus facilitating your
The first part of the URL, located between
appear as part of a permalink or stable URL
final assessment of the sources.
a double slash and a single forward slash,
(Fig. 1) in a database record.
Some educators are under the misconception
contains domain information such as:
that information can be evaluated based on
the top-level domain (e.g., .com, org, edu, etc.).
• Registered domain name (e.g.,
librarymediaconnection, cityofpaloalto,
However, a .com source does not necessarily
have a commercial focus, nor does .edu
• Top-level domain (e.g., com, org, edu, gov)
always signal educational content. For many
• Country code (e.g., uk, fr, jp)
years any organization or company has been
able to purchase any top-level domain (e.g.,
A static URL is stable, typically including
While MLA, APA, and Chicago styles agree
Crete Public Schools owns the domain www.
directories and files within that domain, separated
that “findability” is one purpose of citation, Indeed, organizations
by slashes. For example, the URL for the column
each weighs the inclusion of a URL differently.
routinely provide the same content on
“Adding Friction: How Do I Cite a PDF?” shows the
The MLA Handbook (2009, 5.6.1) advises the
multiple domains: CNN’s registered domain
domain, the directories and the file:
use of a URL in a citation only if the source
names include,, CNN.
cannot be found by title and author. The
org,,, and You can
editors reason that a dynamic URL doesn’t
embed “How do I select and evaluate a URL?”
retrieve the source later, that a complex URL
is difficult to copy accurately, and that, when
site_advanced/14.html) into your webpage or
a website is reorganized, a previously stable
LibGuide to remind students that evaluating
A static URL contextualizes the source within
URL may no longer point to the source unless
sources by their top-level domain is not a
folders. In the above example:
a webmaster has added a redirect page.
useful rule of thumb.
• Publisher (between // and the first /) is
Some software uses an algorithm based on
Library Media Connection
the organization’s domain name to label as
Although the MLA Handbook calls
“credible” a site such as In fact,
• In the magazine LMC
URLs “supplementary information,” it
CNN is neither “credible” nor “not credible.”
• Among other featured articles
acknowledges that an instructor may have
Rather it contains a range of valuable, useful,
• By an author in a dated issue
specific format requirements for the research
accurate and questionable information –
paper (2009, 4). In the interests of a tidy-
from brilliant news reporting to incomplete
In contrast, a dynamic URL is a temporary
looking works cited, some teachers urge
or inaccurate reports, from well-argued
address created during a search. It includes
students to use short, redirecting URLs (e.g.,
editorial opinions to unvetted citizen-
special characters (e.g., php?, &, %, +, =, $, cgi-bin,
TinyURL, so that they can quickly
journalist contributions. Evgeny Morozov
cgi) and shouldn’t be bookmarked or used in a
retrieve online sources without searching.
describes this type of software application
citation since it will not retrieve the source once
Rather than masking the information
as “the folly of technology solutionism” (New
the browser window is closed. Both open-web
contained in the URL by using a shortener,
York: Public Affairs 2013), the misguided
databases like ARC (Archival Research Catalog)
you can require that students capture the
design of software to simplistically appear
at NARA (National Archives and Records
full, stable URL for a working bibliography,
to “solve” what are (and should continue to
Administration) and some database aggregators
that is, a running list of sources that they
be) complex problems worthy of human
(e.g., Gale, EBSCO) use dynamic URLs. To
plan on using. By locating the publisher
attention. Rather than learning how to
demonstrate how two browsers can test for a
or sponsor before the first single slash and
apply judgment to evaluate sources for their
dynamic URL use this Show Me© screen (www.
“reading” the file structure for contextual
specific needs, the software lulls students
clues, students begin to notice information
into passively accepting auto-evaluation as a
junior/10.html) reproduced here on p. 53.
that can assist them in evaluating their
meaningful substitute for reasoning.
• Contained in a PDF folder, likely to be a
visual duplicate of print
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November/December 2013
Teach students to pause long enough to parse
URLs. You’re adding just enough friction
to suggest to them that evaluation involves
making thoughtful judgments about a
source’s relevance to a specific information
need. They will gain a better understanding
of how a source fits and functions among
other sources within their particular
CC.7.W.8 Research to Build and Present Knowledge: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital
sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase
the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
1.1.4 Find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to answer questions.
1.1.5 Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, and appropriateness to needs,
importance, and social and cultural context.
1.1.7 Make sense of information gathered from diverse sources by identifying misconceptions, main and supporting
ideas, conflicting information, and point of view or bias.
1.2.4 Maintain a critical stance by questioning the validity and accuracy of all information.
3.1.6 Use information and technology ethically and responsibly.
research project.
Debbie Abilock, a former school administrator and school librarian, co-founded and directs the educational
vision of NoodleTools, Inc., a full-service teaching platform for academic research, which has answered over
35,000 questions from educators and students.
Test a URL in a second browser to determine if it is dynamic or static, see
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