Information is the greatest currency we have but in uncertain times like these how can we be sure of anything? We’re continuously bombarded with information that is constantly being updated. I’m often shouting the importance of information literacy from the rooftops but how can we claim to know anything if we are unsure of the validity of our sources and the info they provide in the first place?
Let us first define information literacy:
“The Association of College & Research Libraries defines information literacy as a "set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning". This definition comes from Wikipedia, which, contrary to what some have been lead to believe, is a valid resource.
To put it simply, information literacy is the ability to discover, validate, and understand information. Then use that information to create new knowledge.
If this were a class, this is the time I would make you play a game of Telephone to make a point. Instead we will skip that, and I will run down some tips and things to keep in mind.
I won’t discourage you from playing telephone, but the game doesn’t exactly adhere to the present social distancing standards of today!
Instead I will give you some tips on how to best evaluate information.
When evaluating information ask yourself these questions:
- Relevancy - Is the information relevant to the question or task at hand?
- Appropriateness - Is the information suitable for me and my core values?
- Detail - How much information do I need? Is the depth of coverage adequate?
- Currency - When was the information published or last updated? Is the information current?
- Authority - Who is the author of the information? What are their qualifications?
- Bias - Why was this information written? Was it written to inform me, persuade me, entertain me, or sell me something?
Apply these tips to assist you in finding useful information:
Washington State University key words and phrases that relate to your question(s) in your search to better focus the results. This will also help you focus and avoid irrelevant information.
Example: “Coronavirus infection rate” instead of “what is the infection rate of coronavirus”
Pay close attention to the information source you are evaluating. If it makes you uncomfortable or confused it’s probably not for you. Try to be aware of you biases when asking yourself this question as well. Disagreeing with something is not an immediate reason to invalidate a resource.
Ask yourself how much information you actually need. This will help you decide where to look and for how long.
Is the information current?
How accurate and credible is the information presented? Who is behind the information? What are the author's qualifications? Look for associations, is the author associated with a particular school, university, organization, company, or governmental agency? Is the Author’s contact information available?
Evaluating bias can be one of the more challenging aspects of information evaluation. Try to determine if the information has a special agenda. Are they approaching the story for a particular angle or putting a certain spin on it?
Look at the website. Can you determine anything about it from the domain name?
What is the domain suffix? (.com, .edu, .gov) remember anyone can own a .com but some domain types such as .gov and .edu are verified.
What kind of advertising is on the site? Is it clearly targeting a specific type of person?
Is there a mission statement on the site? What does it say?
Who is the author or what organization is presenting this information?
What tone of voice is begin used?
Ask yourself why the information was written in the first place and does the information exist because someone wants to inform me, persuade me, entertain me, or sell me something?
Keep this in mind when browsing the internet to better determine the value of what you are reading/seeing.
Information Literacy (n.d). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 31, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_literacy