During your college career, you will probably take a variety of classes in the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and other fields. Although the demands for these courses will vary widely, in each of the classes you will need to determine the information required, evaluate the credibility of primary and secondary resources, communicate complex ideas in simple and clear ways, research sources for your own writing, and use such sources to help you explain your ideas. These skills, which teachers and librarians often refer to as "information literacy skills," will be necessary in every class you take—particularly writing courses.
Broadly defined, information literacy refers to the ability to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information" (American Library Association 1989). More specifically, information literacy refers to the ability to:
- "Determine the extent of information needed
- Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
- Evaluate information and its sources critically
- Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
- Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
- Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally" (ACRL 2000).
Thanks to the Internet, locating information resources like library databases or Google Scholar has become relatively straightforward; however, evaluating the scope and quality of information has become much more problematic. After all, as resources such as Writing Commons demonstrate, it's possible to publish major Internet sites without the support of traditional publishers or institutions. Thanks to our distinguished editorial board, review editors, and transparent peer review process, you can have some confidence that this site is reliable, but what about other websites that you stumble upon?
Information Literacy @ Writing Commons
Being a critical reader is essential to your success as a student and a citizen. To avoid being spammed and spoofed, you need to probe written and visual texts for their messages, tones, lenses, etc. Doing so will not only encourage you to become a better critical thinker, but it will also enable you to become a more engaged citizen.
- One technique that will not only make you a better critical thinker but will also help you develop as a writer is to break down others' arguments when reading. Critical Reading Practices will assist you in analyzing argument-driven pieces, as will Distinguishing between Main Points and Sub-claims and The Guiding Idea and Argumentative Thesis Statement.
- Identifying a Conversation will instruct you about how to make connections between sources, preparing you to situate your own argument in an existing conversation about a particular topic.
- Engaging in rhetorical analysis requires you to develop an awareness and understanding of the rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos) and the logical fallacies, which in this section are organized based on their associated rhetorical appeal: fallacious ethos, fallacious pathos, fallacious logos, and fallacious kairos.
- Writers use visual rhetoric to sway consumers' buying decisions, voting preferences, and emotional responses to alphabetic texts. Consult Breaking Down an Image to discover how to dissect an image into its essential components, and check out Ad Analysis to learn how to analyze advertisements from a particular lens (i.e., race, gender, or socioeconomic status).