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Writing in the Digital Age (WITDA)

Guide students doing research for the WITDA course

Why do we care so much about information literacy?

Information Literacy is a life skill.

You do it every time you read a book, watch a video, listen to a podcast, or consume any information. You are making (unconscious) decisions about the trustworthiness of the source, the accuracy of the content, and whether either is relevant to your situation.

Today, we are going to learn a bit on how information is created and presented, whether it is in a tweet (like the ones below from @Steak-umm) or a scholarly article found on JSTOR (such as “Recreating the Chinese American Home through Cookbook Writing”).

Credibility Is Contextual

  1. Watch the video above, Credibility is Contextual
  2. Now ask yourself: Why should I trust @Steak-umm as a source for media literacy?

Trust is built upon credibility and authority:

"Credibility is based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority should be viewed with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought." - Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

Credibility can be determined through the combination of different factors:

  • Author and author's credentials
  • Publisher and publisher's credentials
  • Type of Information and format
  • Intended audience

In fact, these factors are included in crafting your evaluative annotations.

Authority and Credentials

One way to help determine credibility is to look at who created the content. Do a little research on the author or publisher.

  • Do they have expertise in the subject area?
  • Do they have any education degrees, such as a PhD?
  • If so, are those degrees relevant to the subject at hand? is there a named author?
  • How easy is it to find out information about the authors?

Very closely related is the publisher.

  • Who are they?
  • Why are they publishing it?
  • Do they tend to present content through a specific lens or bias?

Since @Steak-umm does not have formal expertise in the subject area of media literacy, why do we believe their tweets about it?

Let's do a little research. In April 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official account for Steak-umm pivoted its Twitter presence from selling products to promoting critical thinking skills.

Types of Information and Audience

Another factor is to look at the type of information and format.

Where is the source published? How are they presenting the information? Why did they choose that format?

  • Present original research
  • Hype an event
  • Reflect on a project
  • Report breaking news
  • Review a video game
  • Opinion piece

Publications (including newspapers, websites, podcasts, Instagram accounts, journals, etc.) often contain a mix of these different types of information. It can be confusing.

The next step is to look at the publication's intended audience.

Who is source written for?

  • Does it assume that the reader is knows a lot about the subject?
    • Yes = scholarly, trade/professional
    • No = general public
  • Does it use specialized vocabulary, long words, complicated sentences?
    • Academic jargon = scholarly
    • Professional jargon = trade/professional
    • None, easy to read = general public
  • Is it trying to provoke a reaction?
    • Strong reaction = sensational
    • Spark interest = popular
    • Attempt to maintain neutrality (i.e. "just the facts") or balance = news

@Steak-umm's intended audience is the general public. It is a popular source. By promoting critical thinking skills instead of selling its product, it could even be considered sensational.

Exercise

Write an evaluative annotation for one of the tweets posted by @Steak-umm

Feel free to use the Annotation Builder to help you craft it.

Annotations are personal; they should represent your critical thinking applied to your paper or project.

Tips for writing annotations:

  • be brief
  • do not copy and paste an author's bio--that is plagiarism
  • only highlight credentials that are relevant to the source

BONUS VIDEO: Peer Review in 3 Minutes

Learn more about the publication process for academic and scholarly sources:

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