What is information literacy and why is it important?
The constant evolution of technology has introduced many new gadgets and software, designed to help make our everyday lives better in addition to saving us time and giving us personalization that matches our interests and lifestyles.
However, this swift technological progression has also brought along many new issues and problems to the forefront of our digital society especially in relation to our online security and privacy as well as information. The latter of the 3 often gets overlooked due to the strong emphasis that is put on the other 2 aspects, but in reality information can be just as important, misleading and harmful as exposing your privacy online.
What is information literacy?
Having the ability to find, evaluate and utilize truthful and trustworthy information is what is commonly described as ‘information literacy’. The principles behind this concept can be split into 5 major categories, which include:
Identify what you need
The world runs on information. Large companies want to collect it in order to make their products better and to also create targeted advertising, specifically tailored for those who will be willing to invest into their goods or services. Every one of us as an individual also needs information to perform basic tasks such as traveling or buying items online. However, the thing is that without knowing what we need, it is impossible to find it. Because of this, the first and most crucial step to take when searching for any piece of information is to identify what exactly you are looking for because knowing what you need is crucial as it can save you time in the long run and it can provide you with better results in the end. As weird as it might sound, it is always better to write down on a piece of paper what you are looking for using some broad keywords and then start expanding on your search and narrow down the keywords, making them a lot more specific in the process. This will enable you to perform much more optimal searches and it will save you time.
Search & locate
The next important step to take is to locate the information that you will be needing. Think about where you can find what you are looking for in relation to its most commonly appearing spots. If you are a student doing a dissertation, or an individual project, you will most likely need to look at research papers, journal articles as well as studies and you will tend to avoid random websites on the Internet that do not reference any of the text that they have provided on their pages.
If for example, you are looking for reviews of a given restaurant, hotel or travel destination, you will most likely go onto a forum where real users share their experiences or look for more graphical information in the form of pictures. Having the ability to know exactly what you are looking for and where to find the most optimal location for it can save you a lot of time and make the other steps a lot easier to carry out.
Evaluate the results
This is the most important step in the entire process. Being able to evaluate the information that you are being presented with is extremely crucial as using some, which is potentially bogus, can be severely damaging in the long run.
The term ‘fake news’ is constantly being thrown around in mainstream media and it is done so with a purpose. With the inception of the Internet, information sharing and news reporting have taken on a completely new form with a number of individuals running their own online news platforms and blogs. This open Web cyberspace and the blank canvas that it represents has consequently allowed for many fraudulent individuals to start reporting and spreading fake news and misleading information. Make sure to differentiate between real reports and online opinions. In order to evaluate whether given news are legitimate, make sure you first look at the domain, where it is posted as well as whether it has an active SSL certificate. Furthemore, make sure to check the author of the given piece or article. Moreover, evaluate the date of upload to make sure that the piece is timely. Next, pay some attention to the overall grammar and syntax of the text. Finally, check whether everything is referenced correctly and thoroughly.
On the other hand, there is also information that you might find useful in general, but you must always take into consideration your project or needs. Just because something is cool and interesting does not mean that it will be suitable for your needs. Even though you might be tempted to incorporate something in your research for example, if it does not add any value to it, then it is probably not a good idea to be using it at all.
Apply what you have found to your project or situation
The penultimate stage involves applying the information that you have found to your project or adapting it for your needs. This can be anything ranging from adding it to your academic research paper, to inputting a destination on your phone’s map application. Overall, this step comes very naturally in the grand scheme of the literacy progression and should be really easy to implement if you have meticulously carried out the previous steps.
Acknowledge any original authors and sources
Acknowledgement is the final pillar of the information literacy cycle and it involves giving credit to the original author as well as the source of any piece, should you find yourself using it. While this does predominantly apply to the field of academics and research, giving credit to someone else’s opinion or text is also important in the online cyberspace. Some examples of different situations, in which this can be applied to, include commenting on someone else’s post on social media or in a given forum, as well as sharing any pictures or other types of uploaded media. Proper referencing is important as it can also help battle plagiarism.
Why does information literacy matter?
Being constantly bombarded with information is something that our digital society struggles with every day. Due to this potentially oversaturated field, it is absolutely essential for each one of us to be able to find what we are looking for.. To do this, we need to be able to locate, evaluate and disseminate any information without hassle so that we can filter out fake news and useless pieces and articles, which can strengthen our security and privacy.