We interact with, process, and use information everyday, constantly, and oftentimes unconsciously - news reports, twitter feeds, political campaigns, magazine articles, textbooks, youtube videos, wikipedia, and the list goes on. But what does it mean to be information literate? Perhaps it's easier to describe what the information literate person -- according to the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the information literate individual is able to:
Pretty noble pursuits, but what does all that mean? Use the tabs above to further unpack the concept of information literacy and how you, as a TRAC fellow, can help guide students through their writing process by improving their research and critical thinking skills.
The production of information follows a process, from research to writing to revision to dissemination. Being conversant with the modes of production and dissemination within a discipline, in all its variant forms, enhances our understanding of its scholarship. Consider the following when working with student research:
Good research begins with a good question, or at least with the spark of an inquiry. Sometimes it's easy for students to get bogged down in the mechanics of information-seeking and forget about the exploration and discovery aspect of research. Doing the following can help a student re-engage with the heart of their research question:
Research among most scholarly communities involves sustained engagement with and discourse on ideas over extended periods of time. While scholars look to the past and cite their intellectual predecessors, they also contribute new ideas to the conversation. In order to help guide students toward thinking about themselves as a part of that conversation, consider these questions:
Credibility is a significant hallmark of evaluating a source. We cite researchers or scholars because we believe that their work is based on sound, rigorous research, and thus authoritative, credible, and reliable. But it's important to our audience that we make clear why we are citing that author's work, and that we always maintain a critical eye when interacting with any information source, no matter who wrote it. If a student's work is murky on this point, question:
Every potential source of information on a subject isn't necessarily appropriate for your research question, particularly if the question involves an event. An important part of figuring out what kind of resources you or a student you're working with may need is considering the information timeline:
(Image courtesy of University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Libraries)
For example, if a student were interested in writing on the Ferguson trial and aftermath during the Fall 2015 semester, they would be able to find a wealth of information via the internet, news media, and magazines. Articles may even be available in very recently published scholarly journals. It would be difficult, however, to find books, government materials, and reference materials on the subject due to the recency of the event. Keeping this timeline in mind can help shape effective information-seeking practices.
When we work with numerical data, or search through databases for information, ultimately we do so in order to produce knowledge, whether within ourselves or for our professional or academic communities. The Information Pyramid visually explains how human understanding progresses from data to wisdom:
(image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)