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Information Literacy Framework

This guide will help students better understand the information literacy concepts underlying the research process. Information Literacy includes media literacy and text-based literacy.

"Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences."

"Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education," American Library Association, February 9, 2015. (Accessed July 20, 2020.)



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  • Information can be created intentionally or unwittingly. An example of unwitting creation of information is if you are being surveilled. Just by going about your daily routine you are creating information that someone is collecting. Similarly if you are being tracked on the Internet (by cookies, for example) you are creating information which can then be turned into a commodity and sold. This is how many 'free' apps make money. The information you create by browsing the web, or walking around, is sold to advertisers and marketers.
  • The meaning of the word 'information' expanded over the course of the 20th century. To 'inform' was similar to 'instruct' and information was similar to instruction. The definition of information expanded as analog, then digital, technologies rapidly expanded the term and information became a use catch-all for all the stuff that traveled over various media.
  • Read through a Wikipedia edit debate about questions collaborators raise. Discuss how this debate shapes Wikipedia content.

Here are some different methods of creating information.

The design and style of how information is presented influences our interpretation.

In a pre-digital world you could tell a lot about information based on the type of 'package' it came in. The difference between an academic journal, a newspaper, a general interest magazine, and a trade journal was evident. Now that everything comes wrapped in a browser many of the design cues have vanished.

The process of creating information for different audiences/purposes varies depending on the audience/purpose. The creation of an opinion-editorial is different than the creation of an academic article. The creation of investigative journalism is different than the creation of a short report about city council business. A book review for a blog is different than a book review for a medical journal.

Since the physical packaging can no longer be used as a cue to determine the type of information we are looking at, it is important to develop the skills to recognize other sets of cues that can help us distinguish different types of created information. It is vital to teach about the purpose of information rather than the format.


(These assignments are offered as inspirational prompts to be adapted by anyone using this guide.)

Ask students to generate a list of messages/formats/delivery.

Ask students how many information formats they can think of (at end of exercise maybe point to Dead Media Project for examples of formats that no longer exist).

How does format signal quality or authority?

Examples: Commercials on television, op-eds in newspapers, instagram photos online, research articles in databases, clickbait, twitter memes, etc.

There is a spectrum of information creation, from trivial to serious, from informative to manipulative. "The medium is the message." Information is shaped by its format and delivery system.


Show a list of articles/reports.

Ask Who is creating this information and Why? What is their target audience? What do they hope to accomplish by creating this information? How is this information being paid for? Discuss distinctions between prosocial information creation and commercial information creation.

(Examples to consider: report from think tank, scholarly article, report from pharmaceutical company, government document, lobbyist, news article, opinion editorial, article from a trade journal, review, data set, video script, weather report, traffic report, flight times, short story, poem, photograph, drawing, sculpture, youtube video, movie, encyclopedia article, map, )


Create an annotated bibliography. Use a popular book, an academic press book, a government resource, a think tank paper, a scholarly article, a news site, a web site, a youtube video, a DVD documentary, etc.


Have students pick a topic, then write 3 pieces about it.

1) write an opinion piece or something creative

2) write something educational, like and explainer or a WIkipedia entry

3) write a literature review

Then, ask them to write a research question to address a problem that exists in the world and has not been solved.

This demonstrates four different types of information.


From newspaper article to research article: backtracking to find original research

Posted on November 20, 2018
Author: Kirsten Hansen

In this assignment, students are given a range of newspaper articles about science topics and work in pairs to find the original research article that the newspaper article is based on in the library databases. Students then assess when they might use an original research article vs when they might use a well-written newspaper article.

CORA Community of Online Research Assignments
an open access resource for faculty and librarians


Ask students to create step-by-step instructions on how to do research for someone who has never done a research project. This can also be done as a class project with students adding to the list and the instructor elaborating on steps they might have missed, or noting why some suggested steps might not work or be important in a research project.

Or, divide the class into groups, and ask each group to create a step-by-step list for different kinds of information products. One group writes the steps for a research project, one group writes the steps for an opinion-editorial, one group writes the steps for a video script, etc.


Provide students with an opinion editorial and ask them to correct the weasel words with peer-reviewed data.

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