Skip to main content

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Frame: Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

Framework Defined

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual refers to the recognition that information resources are drawn from their creators’ expertise and credibility based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Experts view authority with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought.

Visual Guide

Activity for Library Session

Alignment with 2000 ACRL Standards

Standard One: The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed

Standard Three: The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.

From: Hovious, Amanda. “Alignment Charts for ACRL Standards and Proposed Framework.” Google Docs, January 23, 2015.

Key Aspects

Key Aspects of the Frame:

  1. What is the context? Students will define the characteristics of authoritative evidence in a given context and for a given audience.
  2. Use the right tool/source for the job! How a source is used determines its authority. The practitioner must always consider the contextual evaluation of sources.
  3. Whose voices are being left out of this conversation? Recognize that traditional notions of granting authority might hinder the diversity of ideas and worldviews that get heard and shared.
  4. What are you bringing to this conversation? Students will evaluate sources using a variety of criteria in order to cultivate a skeptical stance and self-awareness of their own biases and world views.
  5. It’s not all relative! One of the challenges of teaching this frame is falling into subjectivity. However, the concepts of construction and contextualization assists in finding good information for the task at hand.

Possible Learning Objectives

Recognize appropriate information resources per discipline through understanding the role of authoritative voices in a subject area.

  • Recognize the relevance of subject expertise as a kind of authority in order to gather appropriate articles for an information need
  • Acknowledge that oneself may be seen as an authority in a particular area, and recognize the responsibilities entailed

Determine attributes of authoritative information for different needs, with the understanding that context plays a role in authority-based attributes

  • Evaluate sources using a variety of criteria in order to determine whether it meets ones information need
  • Evaluate sources using a variety of criteria in order to cultivate a skeptical stance and a self-awareness of their own biases and world views
  • Evaluate databases results in order to select relevant and credible sources
  • Evaluate an author's use of sources
  • Recognize that traditional notions of granting authority might hinder diverse ideas and world views

Distinguish between different types of sources (i.e. scholarly, popular) in order to select appropriate sources for the research need.

  • Thoughtfully find published primary sources in order to include first-person perspectives in their research project.
  • Distinguish news from an editorial article to understand that information is created for a purpose.
  • Express a desire to find better resources in order to improve the quality of their resources.

Ideas to Incorporate into Classroom

  • Students are presented with a source ( article about Facebook privacy) and brainstorm ways the source might be used for school, for work, and personally
  • Groups are given a source (book, article, blogpost, ad, etc.) and examine it to determine what it is; who is responsible for it; it’s purpose (ie why it exists, not their purpose in using it) ; how it was created (eg was it reviewed by experts); what makes it credible or not for different kinds of uses
  • Jigsaw method: in groups of 4-5, students will analyze the authority of their assigned article, groups will break apart and share their knowledge with the other group
  • Brainstorming: in groups students will brainstorm criteria of authority with entire class
  • Chalk talk where students write adjectives describing scholarly articles on one board & popular  on the popular.
  • Case study: look at an article to have students vote with clickers on what type of source it is.
  • Distinguish news from editorial article (pre-college students)
    • Pair students. Give printout of short news and editorial article from same source (for example New York Times) on same topic. Ask pairs paraphrase article & identify purpose
  • After discussing/presenting idea of evaluating information resources, give pairs or groups of students a resource/website and ask them to come up with criteria for determining if it is reliable.
  • Jigsaw groups have 1 popular and 1 scholarly source with question prompts to examine characteristics re: authority re-group with others to teach.
  • Provide students with sample resources (using different formats) and have them develop authority criteria together using Padlet.
  • Brainstorming in small groups on why they think a source is credible and use that as jumping off point for discussion
  • Give students articles on the same topic. Have them examine how the author affects the content. Include scholarly, magazine, Wikipedia, newspapers, etc., Also consider including articles from multiple scholarly disciplines.
    • Students can share in pairs, groups, as a class, etc.,
  • Students in groups brainstorm evaluation criteria; share out and put in a Google Doc.
    • Back into group - use criteria to evaluate an article; share out findings

Faculty / Librarian Collaboration Task Force

Private Academic Library Network of Indiana logo

This guide was created by a task force of PALNI librarians. 

Task Force Members:
Eric Bradley | Goshen College / PALNI
Ula Gaha | St. Mary's College
Rebecca Johnson | Manchester University
Sally Neal | Butler University
Catherine Pellegrino | St. Mary's College

Authority Frame Links

Framework Links