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

Overview and advice for using the Framework

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 Overview

Re-examining Authority Infographic

Activity for Library Session

Activity for a 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? The given context and audience define the characteristics of authoritative evidence.
  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? Evaluate sources using a variety of criteria in order to cultivate a skeptical stance and self-awareness of your own biases and world views.
  5. It’s not all relative! One of the challenges of teaching this frame is falling into subjectivity. However, no matter what the context, there are going to be better and less good sources.

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

Hands on activities:

  • Students are presented with a source (eg. an 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, blog post, ad, etc.) and examine it to determine what it is: who is responsible for it; what is the purpose of the source; whether it is a scholarly, peer-reviewed resource, or if it falls into another category; and what types of research the source is best used for
  • Jigsaw method: in groups of 4-5, students analyze the authority of their assigned article. Groups then break apart and share their knowledge with the other groups
  • Brainstorming: in groups, students will brainstorm criteria of authority with entire class
  • Chalk talk: students write adjectives describing scholarly articles on one side of the board, popular articles on another side of the board
  • Case study: look at an article and have students vote with clickers on what type of source it i
  • Pair and share: 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

Additional ideas:

  • After discussing/presenting the 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 such as authority, bias, etc.  The groups then re-group with others to teach the concept they worked on
  • Provide students with sample resources (using different formats) and have them develop authority criteria together using Padlet
  • Brainstorm in small groups on why students 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., consider including articles from multiple scholarly disciplines.

ACRL IL Framework 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 | [formerly] Saint Mary's College
Rebecca Johnson | [formerly] Manchester University
Sally Neal | Butler University
Catherine Pellegrino | Saint Mary's College

Literature Review

Authority Frame Links

Rubrics for the Frame

rubric examples for classroom assessment

For general guidance on creating rubrics, refer to:

Rubrics examples for the specific Authority is Constructed and Contextual Frame, include:

Creative Commons License

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education by PALNI's ACRL IL Framework Task Force is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless marked otherwise. PALNI’s logos and branding template are not covered by this license, and all rights to such material are reserved.