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Information Literacy

This guide will help you understand information literacy concepts and direct your research process. Use the guide tabs to help locate specific information and other related information.

The Do's and Don't of Internet Research

You’ve come a long way to becoming a great researcher. Now it’s time to consider why internet research may not be the best tool for your research needs.  You know that you can Google anything and get answers.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that Information Has Structure. It’s organized in a way that allows a user to find and locate information based on a set of parameters. These parameters or characteristics define how a search engine retrieves information based on its underlying architecture.  Think of a house, it has walls, windows, doors, etc.   This architecture forms the structure of your home and allows you to move about in it based on that framework. Similarly, the internet has been organized, defined, structured, and indexed so that search engines mine that data to answer questions.

Moreover; its structure can be formal with controlled vocabularies, thesaurus or dictionaries to define how information is related. Or, organized in a more informal manner with tags, hashtags, likes or dislikes. When you do a Google search, its page ranking algorithm, monetized by Google Ad words, returns websites to the first page of results for those who have paid the most money to Google. Does that mean it’s credible?  Remember Google is a business of over $90 million in revenue. Other search engines have similar financial models driving the search function. There is so much information on the internet, it’s really important to be able to critically evaluate information.

Now let’s take a look at Evaluating Online Information.  We’re going to talk about this in the context of websites but you can use this to evaluate online documents or online news articles. We’ve briefly discussed this before but now we are going to look more deeply and critically at it.

Websites have different domain names and can be decoded by looking at the extension of the website:

.com  a commercial enterprise

.org   an organization: typically a not for profit organization but may be for profit as well

.gov  a government sponsored website. It could be a federal, state, or local government

.edu  an educational organization such as a community college or university

Please know that domain names and the respective extensions can be purchased by anyone.


Now let’s look at other ways to deconstruct website and online information.  You may have heard of FAT-P Reading and Pre-writing Strategy.  It briefly states that every work of art (whether is literary, audio-visual, or artistic), has a particular Form (F), Audience (A), Topic (T) and Purpose (P).  We are going to take it a bit further and add Content (C), Creator (C1), Sponsor/Funding (S), and Design (D).


What is the FORM?

  • Is it a website, blog, online news?
  • Is it social media?
  • Online discussion board?

Who is the AUDIENCE?

  • Everyone?
  • Students?
  • Researchers?
  • Faculty?
  • A specific demographic?

What is the TOPIC?

  • What is this about?
  • Is about a specific subject or topic?
  • Is it more general?

What is its PURPOSE?

  • To inform
  • To educate
  • To persuade
  • To sell

What is the CONTENT?

  • Is the information accurate? Is it timely and current?
  • Does the site advertise a product or services?
  • Is there a bias or point of view?
  • Has the information been critiqued or reviewed?
  • Is the reviewer an expert in the field or someone giving their opinion? Many people today provide opinions about things they actually know nothing about. Beware and don’t be fooled.
  • Are the sources stated clearly? Can you find them to check their accuracy?
  • Is the information credible?  Is it supported by other reliable, credible and authoritative sources?
  • When it was last updated?

Who is the CREATOR?

  • Who is the author? Is it a person or an organization?
  • Do they have expertise in the area?

Who SPONSORS the site or who FUNDS the site?

  • Is it a person or organization?
  • Does the site have specific standards or ethics for which they adhere to ensure the authenticity of the information?

Website/Content DESIGN?

  • Does the site look credible?
  • Is it clearly and logically organized?
  • Is the writing style appropriate for the audience?
  • Do you find any typographical errors or misspellings?

Now that we’ve looked at how you can evaluate a website and online information. Let’s take a look website and see if we can deconstruct it. Okay?

Let’s take a look at a webpage

Using the framework let’s call out the components.


  • This website has an .ORG extension. So you think it’s a not for profit organization.  Great.


  • Who is this website targeted to? Anyone? Students? Faculty? Researchers?


  • What is the topic?


  • What is its purpose? To Persuade? Educate? Inform? Sell?


  • Let’s look at the content on this website and see if it’s a credible site.
  • Let’s click on The TRUTH ABOUT KING.
  • Does this website have a particular slant or bias? Does it try to persuade you? Does it inform or educate you?
  • Is the information accurate? Is the reviewer an expert in the field or someone giving their opinion? Many people today provide opinions about things they actually know nothing about. You need to check it out!
  • Are there any resources cited in the page? Is it accurate? Credible? Is it supported by other reliable, credible and authoritative sources?


  • Who created this website?
  • If you go to the bottom of the page and click on the Join MLK Discussion Forum: Hosted by Stormfront

If you look at this forum, you’ll see that it’s run by a white supremacist group.

  • Here’s some content from the forum:

This forum is to discuss the liar, hypocrite, plagiarist, womanizer and communist sympathizer we all know as Martin Luther King

  • Would you consider this an unbiased and reputable source? Why or why not? Would your professor allow you to cite this for your paper?


  • Does this site ask for you to donate?
  • Is it funded by a nonprofit organization?
  • How can you tell if the information is accurate, credible and reasonable?


  • How is the website laid out? Does it make logical sense?
  • Are there any typographical errors or misspelling?
  • Does it look credible?

Now let’s checkout another website and see if we can deconstruct that?


  • Is it a website?


  • Who is the audience? The general public? Researchers? Who else might want to use this website?


  • What is this website about? Is it about Martin Luther King only or is it about Nobel Laureates? Why is this important?


  • What is the purpose of this site? To educate, inform, persuade, see, educate?


  • What is the site about?
  • Is it biased or reviewed by an expert?
  • Are there resources included to verify the information from which the website is created?
  • Is the information current, authoritative, accurate and relevant?


  • Who is the creator?
  • Is the Official Website of the Nobel Prize an authoritative, reputable, and an unbiased website? Why or why not?


  • How is the website funded? Does The Nobel Foundation fund this website?
  • Did you find a bibliography or a list of resources at the end of the webpage on Martin Luther King, Jr., who won The Nobel Peace Prize 1964?


  • How is the website laid out? Does it make logical sense and flow easily from one topic to another?
  • Is the information spelled correctly without typographical errors?
  • Does it look credible?

So we’ve looked at two different websites about Martin Luther King, Jr. One is highly credible and an authoritative website. The other is a very biased and slanted website based on the White Supremacist Philosophy.  Please remember that anyone can create a website and post whatever they want on it.  You need to discern what a credible and reliable resource is. Thanks so much.

Congratulations! You’ve completed Internet Searching. 

Evaluate information

Evaluate Information 

Goal:  To critically evaluate information and its sources.

When examining a print periodical or journal, or a website, you need to ask yourself some questions when trying to figure out its ideological orientation.  You will want to recognize editorial points of view for many reasons: e.g., to find competing perspectives on particular policy proposals.

You’ve done some great work so far, thumbs up!  Now we are going to look at information access and evaluation, another important skill for your research skills toolbox.

Information has many facets, and it’s important to understand how these components contribute to writing your research paper. Sometimes, you are looking for snippets of information that capture your thoughts or ideas. But when you access and evaluate resources you need to think deeply and critically about the resource you want to use to support your argument in your writing assignment.

Information resources come in a variety of formats, such as books, e-books, scholarly and peer reviewed articles, articles from trade magazines, newspapers, and, depending on your topic, streaming videos; audio files or blog posts.  But one thing they have in common is that they have identifiable attributes for you to consider. These attributes help you to determine if the resource is relevant to your topic.

So what are these facets?

  • The date the source was published or created.
  • If the article is not been published recently, you must ask yourself why you want to use it as a source. Is the material dated? Or does it offer some insight that warrants being cited (i.e., is it a classic in the field? a neglected contribution to the literature?)
  • The title of the source
    • Is this part of a larger source?
    • For example, is it a chapter in a book or e-book? Article in a journal or newspaper?
    • What about that source tells you this?
  • The type or format of the resource
    • Print Book
    • E-book
    • Article in a newspaper or trade magazine
    • Abstract
    • Book Review
    • Scholarly and peer reviewed article
    • Websites

There are a number of questions you should ask of these different formats. If your source is from a periodical, is that source considered credible, for example, a major newspaper such as the New York Times or Washington Post? If your source is from a trade magazine, does it offer a skewed perspective, based on its position in industry or ideology? Does it show bias? If from a website, where does the site get its facts? Does it cite scholarly articles, clearly indicate its sources? Have other credible sources questioned its objectivity?

  • The author or authors (it can be a person/s or even an organization)
    • What do you know about the author? (Where they workwhat they doother sources they’ve created, their relationship to the subject or topic?
    • What else might you find out about the author/s?

Once you identify these aspects, you need to ask some critical questions to evaluate your sources.

  • What is your source about? What is the author’s argument? If you can’t tell from the information that’s been provided, context or clues within the source will help you make a reasonable guess.
  • What would you say about the language used in the source? Is it difficult to understand or fairly simple?
  • Who do you think is the audience for your source? Why?
  • What about the visuals in your source? For example, are the images used to support the messageprovide evidence, or give you information about the author? Are there images that distract?
  • Where or how would you get this source? Would you have to use technology to access it? Would you have to pay for it?
    • Remember that the PGCC Library Databases have been vetted by Teaching and Library faculty to ensure that the content meets the curriculum plan of the college. If you are using articles from a PGCC Library Database, you will never have to pay to access the article.

Now we are going to look at an article obtained from a library database about BLACKLIVESMATTER and see if we can consider access and evaluation of the article based on the criteria above. This article is from PsycArticles, a PROQUEST database.

The article title is : “Participation in Black Lives Matter and deferred action for childhood arrivals: Modern activism among Black and Latino college students”

The authors are:    Hope, Elan C. View Profile ;  Keels, MicereView ProfileDurkee, Myles I. View Profile

What do we know about the author/authors?

By clicking on the star like icon  View Profileyou will find Author Information.

If you click on the Hyperlink for the Author’s name, you’ll find other articles that have been published by the author.

The article is published in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. If you click on the name of the Journal you will find out information about the journal. 

The 9.3 (Sep 2016): 203-215; indicates that it is Volume 9; Issue 3 dated September 2016: pages 203-215.

How can we tell that this is a scholarly and peer reviewed article? What components of this article indicate that this is a research paper?

If you look at these components, you will find that they meet the test of a scholarly and peer reviewed research article. The article uses technical terminology, and it follows a standard research format—it has an abstract, a review of the literature, methodology, results, conclusion, and references.

So, after looking at this article, you have concluded that this is a peer-reviewed research article. Next you’ll need to evaluate the source. You’ll want to consider what this source is about. From reading the abstract above, can you consider through what lens or perspective might this author be writing?

First, look at the language in the article. Is it clear, concise and easily readable? Based on the language, who do you think the AUDIENCE is for this source? Students? Researchers? Is it for the average reader or for someone who might want to write a research paper?

Now let’s look at the article’s presentation of data. You will find four tables that report on the study: Study Variables by Race; BLM and DACA involvement by Race, Ethnicity and Gender; Average level of political activism; Predicting BLM and DACA Involvement. Do these tables help you understand the impact of study better? Why or Why not? 

Now let’s return to the language of the article and see if we can tell if this article pro-BLACKLIVESMATTERS or not? How can you tell? Are there clues in how the abstract is written that help you to infer the author’s position? For example, does this statement from the article give you a perspective as to the direction of the article, “Two 21st century sociopolitical movements that have emerged to counteract racial/ethnic marginalization in the United States are BLM and advocacy for DACA legislation. BLM activists seek legislative changes to decrease the negative (and often life threatening) effects of discriminatory practices in our justice and political systems”.

Your analysis of the author’s attitude involves you interpreting the article’s tone—in the preceding sentence, the author does not use language to undermine BLM—it doesn’t say “claims to” or “reportedly” or “seemingly” in describing the impact of the movement. It does not use charged political rhetoric to suggest BLM’s worsens marginalization or to undercut its assertions about the level of discrimination.

Then you have judge the usefulness of the source:

If you are writing about the influence of the BLACKLIVESMATTER movement and activism, is this article good for your paper? Why or Why not?

Let’s look at the abstract, where the article claims that “Political activism is one way racially/ethnically marginalized youth can combat institutional discrimination and seek legislative change toward equality and justice. In the current study, we examine participation in #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) and advocacy for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as political activism popular among youth.”

First, determine whether the article may provide evidence to support your argument. This involves paying close attention to the article’s thesis and to its supporting evidence. What do you think the article is saying overall? What is the takeaway? How does it relate to your own argument? This involves considerable reflection on your part.

For example, does this statement argue your topic? “Finally, scholars suggest that experiencing racial/ethnic discrimination likely contributes to greater participation in political activism as a mechanism to mitigate future instances of discrimination (Hope & Jagers, 2014; Hope & Spencer, in press)”. That really depends on what your thesis is. You may find that this conclusion is too broad, and you may then refine your own position. In an engagement with scholarly articles, you may be forced to think more clearly about your own position.

Secondly, you must determine how much research has been done on this topic. Where does this article fit in the overall field of scholarship? You can’t simply assume that one article has vanquished all others from the field of intellectual battle. In this analysis, you must examine the article’s limitations: What wasn’t included or what was missing from the article? Have you seen other articles that challenge the author’s perspective? Do you want—for example—to see evidence of political activism actually leading to change? Or is the article’s claim too weak? After all, the sentence above simply says it’s one way to seek change, not the most effective.

Remember, research is a process. You want to find the best scholarly articles not only to support your own claims, but to challenge your assumptions and help refine your conclusions. As we’ve seen, that involves determining whether an article appears in a respectable scholarly journal—as citing weak and unprofessional sources destroys your credibility and offers no real challenge. Instead, you should exercise your analytical and argumentative skills on the best scholarship available

CRAAP Evaluation Method

Use the CRAAP Method for evaluating information consider the following factors:

Currency: the timeliness of the information

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

Authority: the source of the information

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

Purpose: the reason the information exists

Scholarly Sources

What are Scholarly Sources? Scholarly Information

  • has been written by a scholar or expert in a specific field of knowledge
  • has often been reviewed by a board of experts in that field
  • includes extensive background information

A journal that has been refereed has been reviewed by an editorial board of experts in a field before being accepted for publication. It contains a list of references or bibliography of other notable sources.

 Here is a "in a nutshell view" of scholarly vs. popular information.

Assistive Technologies

Accessibility Masterlist

This MasterList, edited by Gregg Vanderheiden Ph.D., is designed to serve as a resource for researchers, developers, students, and others interested in understanding or developing products that incorporate one or more of these features.

Each feature or approach is then listed below along with applicable disabilities to each feature are marked with the following icons:

  • B - Blindness (For our purposes, blindness is defined as no or very low vision - such that text cannot be read at any magnification)
  • LV - Low Vision
  • CLL - Cognitive, Language, and Learning Disabilities (including low literacy)
  • PHY - Physical Disabilities
  • D/HOH - Deaf and Hard of Hearing

American Sign Language Dictionary

Search and compare thousands of words and phrases in American Sign Language (ASL). The largest collection of free video signs online.

Braille Translator is a simple way to convert text to braille notation. This supports nearly all Grade Two braille contractions.

Voyant Tools (Corpus Analysis)

Voyant Tools is an open-source, web-based application for performing text analysis. It supports scholarly reading and interpretation of texts or corpus, particularly by scholars in the digital humanities, but also by students and the general public. It can be used to analyze online texts or ones uploaded by users. (Source: Wikipedia)

Meta-cognitive Awareness Inventory

Meta-cognitive Awareness Inventory

Library Terms

Library Terms

It's important to understand library terms in order for you to do your research. If you have questions about the terminology used in the tutorial you can check this Glossary of Library Terms.

Abstract:  A summary or brief description of the content of another long work. An abstract is often provided along with the citation to a work.

Annotated bibliography: a bibliography in which a brief explanatory or evaluate note is added to each reference or citation. An annotation can be helpful to the researcher in evaluating whether the source is relevant to a given topic or line of inquiry.

Archives: 1. A space which houses historical or public records. 2. The historical or public records themselves, which are generally non-circulating materials such as collections of personal papers, rare books, Ephemera, etc.


Article: A brief work—generally between 1 and 35 pages in length—on a topic. Often published as part of a journal, magazine, or newspaper.

Author: The person(s) or organization(s) that wrote or compiled a document. Looking for information under its author's name is one option in searching.

Bibliography: A list containing citations to the resources used in writing a research paper or other document. See also Reference.

Book: A relatively lengthy work, often on a single topic. May be in print or electronic.

Boolean operator: A word—such as AND, OR, or NOT—that commands a computer to combine search terms. Helps to narrow (AND, NOT) or broaden (OR) searches.

Call number: A group of letters and/or numbers that identifies a specific item in a library and provides a way for organizing library holdings. Three major types of call numbers are Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress, and Superintendent of Documents.

Catalog: A database (either online or on paper cards) listing and describing the books, journals, government documents, audiovisual and other materials held by a library. Various search terms allow you to look for items in the catalog.

Check-out: To borrow an item from a library for a fixed period of time in order to read, listen to, or view it. Check-out periods vary by library. Items are checked out at the circulation desk.

Circulation: The place in the library, often a desk, where you check out, renew, and return library materials. You may also place a hold, report an item missing from the shelves, or pay late fees or fines there.

Citation: A reference to a book, magazine or journal article, or other work containing all the information necessary to identify and locate that work. A citation to a book includes its author's name, title, publisher and place of publication, and date of publication.

Controlled vocabulary: Standardized terms used in searching a specific database.

Course reserve: Select books, articles, videotapes, or other materials that instructors want students to read or view for a particular course. These materials are usually kept in one area of the library and circulate for only a short period of time. See also Electronic reserve.

Descriptor: A word that describes the subject of an article or book; used in many computer databases.

Dissertation: An extended written treatment of a subject (like a book) submitted by a graduate student as a requirement for a doctorate.

DOI: Acronym for Digital Object Identifier. It is a unique alphanumeric string assigned by the publisher to a digital object.

E-book (or Electronic book): An electronic version of a book that can be read on a computer or mobile device.

Editor: A person or group responsible for compiling the writings of others into a single information source. Looking for information under the editor's name is one option in searching.

Electronic reserve (or E-reserve): An electronic version of a course reserve that is read on a computer display screen. See also Course reserve.

Encyclopedia: A work containing information on all branches of knowledge or treating comprehensively a particular branch of knowledge (such as history or chemistry). Often has entries or articles arranged alphabetically.

Hold: A request to have an item saved (put aside) to be picked up later. Holds can generally, be placed on any regularly circulating library material in-person or online.

Holdings: The materials owned by a library.

Index: 1. A list of names or topics—usually found at the end of a publication—that directs you to the pages where those names or topics are discussed within the publication. 2. A printed or electronic publication that provides references to periodical articles or books by their subject, author, or other search terms.

Interlibrary services/loan: A service that allows you to borrow materials from other libraries through your own library. See also Document delivery.

Journal: A publication, issued on a regular basis, which contains scholarly research published as articles, papers, research reports, or technical reports. See also Periodical.

Limits/limiters: Options used in searching that restrict your results to only information resources meeting certain other, non-subject-related, criteria. Limiting options vary by database, but common options include limiting results to materials available full-text in the database, to scholarly publications, to materials written in a particular language, to materials available in a particular location, or to materials published at a specific time. 

Magazine: A publication, issued on a regular basis, containing popular articles, written and illustrated in a less technical manner than the articles found in a journal.

Microform: A reduced sized photographic reproduction of printed information on reel to reel film (microfilm) or film cards (microfiche) or opaque pages that can be read with a microform reader/printer.

Newspaper: A publication containing information about varied topics that are pertinent to general information, a geographic area, or a specific subject matter (i.e. business, culture, education). Often published daily.

Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC): A computerized database that can be searched in various ways— such as by keyword, author, title, subject, or call number— to find out what resources a library owns. OPAC’s will supply listings of the title, call number, author, location, and description of any items matching one's search. Also referred to as “library catalog ” or “online catalog.”

PDF: A file format developed by Adobe Acrobat® that allows files to be transmitted from one computer to another while retaining their original appearance both on-screen and when printed. An acronym for Portable Document Format.

Peer-reviewed journal: Peer review is a process by which editors have experts in a field review books or articles submitted for publication by the experts’ peers. Peer review helps to ensure the quality of an information source. A peer-reviewed journal is also called a refereed journal or scholarly journal.

Periodical: An information source published in multiple parts at regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, biannually). Journals, magazines, and newspapers are all periodicals. See also Serial.

Plagiarism: Using the words or ideas of others without acknowledging the original source.

Primary source: An original record of events, such as a diary, a newspaper article, a public record, or scientific documentation.

Print: The written symbols of a language as portrayed on paper. Information sources may be either print or electronic.

Publisher: An entity or company that produces and issues books, journals, newspapers, or other publications.

Recall: A request for the return of library material before the due date.

Refereed journal: See Peer-reviewed journal.

Reference: 1. A service that helps people find needed information. 2. Sometimes "reference" refers to reference collections, such as encyclopedias, indexes, handbooks, directories, etc. 3. A citation to a work is also known as a reference.

Renewal: An extension of the loan period for library materials.

Reserve: 1. A service providing special, often short-term, access to course-related materials (book or article readings, lecture notes, sample tests) or to other materials (CD-ROMs, audio-visual materials, current newspapers or magazines). 2. Also the
physical location—often a service desk or room—within a library where materials on reserve are kept. Materials can also be made available electronically. See also Course reserve, Electronic reserve.

Scholarly journal: See Peer-reviewed journal.

Search statement/Search Query: Words entered into the search box of a database or search engine when looking for information. Words relating to an information source's author, editor, title, subject heading or keyword serve as search terms. Search terms can be combined by using Boolean operators and can also be used with limits/limiters.

Secondary sources: Materials such as books and journal articles that analyze primary sources. Secondary sources usually provide evaluation or interpretation of data or evidence found in original research or documents such as historical manuscripts or memoirs.

Serial: Publications such as journals, magazines, and newspapers that are generally published multiple times per year, month, or week. Serials usually have number volumes and issues.

Stacks: Shelves in the library where materials—typically books—are stored. Books in the stacks are normally arranged by call number. May be referred to as “book stacks.”

Style manual: An information source providing guidelines for people who are writing research papers. A style manual outlines specific formats for arranging research papers and citing the sources that are used in writing the paper.

Subject heading: Descriptions of an information source’s content assigned to make finding information easier. See also Controlled vocabulary, Descriptors.

Title: The name of a book, article, or other information sources. Upload: To transfer information from a computer system or a personal computer to another computer system or a larger computer system.

Virtual reference: A service allowing library users to ask questions through email, text message, or live-chat as opposed to coming to the reference desk at the library and asking a question in person. Also referred to as “online reference” or “e-reference.”

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Multilingual Glossary for Today’s Library Users - Definitions

Multilingual Glossary for Today’s Library Users

If English is not your first language, then this resource will help you navigate the definitions of library terms in the following languages: English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Vietnamese.