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Information Literacy: Information Literacy

A guide to information literacy instruction at the library!

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Marie Stark
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Evaluating Resources

Information literacy is the ability to find information to fit an information need, especially by evaluating that information for its accuracy, relevance, and other criteria. Information literacy is key to investigative research, and should be used while performing all academic endeavors.

Generally, your research process should follow these steps:

  1. Define your research purpose - what are you looking to find information about?

  2. Locate information regarding your topic of research - what is there to say about your topic?

  3. Evaluate the quality and usefulness of that information - is this information appropriate?

Evaluating your resources is especially important so that when you use your found information in your own work, you can be cited credibly and reliably on the information you have obtained.

The Criteria for Evaluating Resources

Evaluate the Source of the Information

 Questions to Ask:

  • Where did this information come from?
  • Who put it there?

Evaluate the Authority of the Source

Questions to Ask:

  • What qualifications does this person or organization have to talk on this topic?
  • Does the author have a university degree in the discipline? Or is s/he an amateur or a hobbyist or merely someone with an opinion to air?
  • If an organization is responsible for the pages, is the organization widely recognized as a source of scholarly and reliable information? (For example, the American Cancer Society for information on cancer-related topics)
  • What other information can you find about the author or organization responsible for the content of this web page?

Evaluate the Purpose of the Document  

Questions to Ask:

  • Does the author claim this page to be fact or is s/he trying to persuade you of something?
  • Is s/he trying to sell you a product discussed on the page?
  • To whom is the author of this page talking? To scholars and experts? To students? To anyone who will listen?

Evaluate the Objectivity of the Authors

Questions to Ask:

  • Does the author or the organization s/he represents have an obvious bias concerning the topic?
  • Does the author or the organization represent a particular point of view? (The Catholic Church, the National Organization for Women, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Republican or Democratic Party, etc.)
    • If you don't know the answer to this question, be sure to read the "About Us" page.
  • Do they present facts and arguments for both sides of a controversial issue or only their own point of view?
  • Does the page include advertising? If so, can you tell clearly which parts are advertisement and which parts are informational content? Does the page remind you of a television "infomercial," i.e. it looks like an informational article but is actually an advertisement?

Evaluate the Currency

Questions to Ask:

  • Can you tell when the web page was originally created? When it was last updated?
  • Is this a topic on which it's important that you have up-to-date information (science, medicine, news, etc.) or one where it is not as important that information be recent (history, literature, etc.)?

Evaluate the Completeness of the Information

Questions to Ask:

  • Are you viewing an entire text or a selection from a fuller document?
  • If what you are viewing is a selection from another document, is there a reference or a link to the original document in case you want more detail?

Evaluate the Relevance of the Document to Your Information Need

Questions to Ask:

  • Does the information you found really answer the questions you had or does it simply contain some of the same words and phrases as your topic?
  • What aspect of your topic does the information you found address?

Relevant LibGuides

Shaw LibGuides can help you understand additional ways that a resource can be useful and relevant to your work. We recommend checking out -

Libraries love to share resources for you! Below you'll find some Library Guides from other institutions that might help you with your research.

Campus & Web Resources

For further assistance, please contact us!
Shaw University Libraries - James E. Cheek Learning Resources Center
118 E. South Street - Raleigh, NC 27609
919-546-8407 - shawu.edu/libraries

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