A woman thinking while on her computer.Throughout both life and academia, you will need to be able to identify what is viable research or information, and what is not. If you are typing up an educational paper, or even just looking for the best therapeutic care option, you want to make sure that the source you are pulling information or recommendations from is credible.

This becomes especially true with the influx of fake news and misinformation on the internet. In order to combat the spread of fake news, you should become aware of what information literacy is, why it is important, and how to improve it.

What Is Information Literacy?

Information literacy refers to the set of skills that people acquire over time to identify, retrieve, organize, interpret, and seek out valuable, factual information. Information literacy is a continual learning process, not just something that comes to you overnight. It is introduced and practiced throughout primary and secondary school, but it is a crucial skill to possess prior to higher education and life as a whole.

Information literacy can be difficult to grasp, but by and large, it is knowing where to go when you’re looking for information. Almost everyone has some degree of information literacy. For example, preschoolers know that they can ask their instructor where to find the art supplies. When you excel with information literacy, you are someone who is equipped to find viable and reliable information for any task, debate, or situation that you face in life.

Why Is Information Literacy Important?

Everyone needs some degree of information literacy. When you create an understanding of information literacy, you comprehend that there are reliable places to access information, and there are unreliable places to access information.

You can find contradictory information on a variety of topics online. If you are unable to tell which source is credible, and which source is not, you will have a hard time trying to understand what the right answer is. Additionally, information literacy helps you develop a variety of problem-solving skills — these include:

  • An ability to recognize problems or issues;
  • An ability to develop questions;
  • An ability to create a plan of action for finding information, answers, or solutions;
  • An ability to form hypotheses and predictions;
  • An ability to navigate data from both the internet and books;
  • An ability to determine credibility;
  • An ability arrange, and interpret information;
  • An ability to draw conclusions in a variety of situations from viable information (research, conversation, debates).

Information Literacy and Education

Information literacy is crucial for success in education — both in primary, and higher education. While you are going to school, you will need to sift through endless amounts of information to find a good source to back up your claims or research.

For example, if you are doing a paper on occupational therapy, you will want to include what the salary for an occupational therapist is, how to apply for licensure, the difference between an occupational therapist and similar occupations, the various occupational therapy schooling requirements, where to find accredited occupational therapy schools, important traits of an occupational therapist, and a variety of other OT-specific information.

To comprehensively and accurately cover the topic, you must be able to know where to access this information, which sources are credible, and which sources are not credible in order to properly present research within your paper. Information literacy helps with problem-solving and gives you the tools to understand where the solutions for your problems are.

Information literacy is also important for educating yourself outside of formal education. Although you may not be writing a research paper, we as people use information to guide decisions, dictate conversations, and to direct many other facets of everyday life. If someone is speaking about politics, and there is a difference between their information and what you believe to be true, it may ultimately stem from biases, and the sources from which each party obtained their information.

The same is true in all scenarios. Where and how you educate yourself (whether it’s the Web, a book, or word of mouth) can directly impact the validity of the information you acquire. There is misinformation in many areas of life, and it is especially prevalent in the health and wellness sector.

Students, expert healthcare workers, and society as a whole can help eliminate the effects of misinformation by weeding out questionable or poor information at the source. Without an understanding of potential source biases, what to look for, what to avoid, and how to find overall credible sources for information, wellness information consumers can find it confusing, complex, and overwhelming to filter out misinformation.

Information Literacy and Society

Information literacy is crucial for success in society. There won’t always be someone there to provide some sort of direction, and you need to be able to do so yourself. For example, if you are looking for how to get to a therapy appointment in a large city, you will need to figure out the best route, and figure out the most viable method of transportation. You will need to look for ways to navigate any biases with the information you find surrounding transportation modes, and look for reliable, relevant information surrounding traffic trends.

You will also need to develop an understanding of what the most credible source of information is. For example, if you are looking for recommendations for a therapeutic provider, suggestions from a site that offers therapeutic services may not be as credible as those from a local site with verified customer reviews and personal experiences.

Overall, an understanding of information literacy helps create higher functionality and independence in society.

How to Improve Information Literacy

Information literacy is a continual process that starts early in life. It isn’t something you can learn by reading a book or listening to a lecture, it is something that is developed through practice.

Identifying Needs

The first step is creating an understanding of what your information needs are. Start by indicating what you do know to create an understanding of where your personal knowledge is lacking. When you have an understanding of where your personal knowledge is lacking, you have a breadcrumb trail of what you need to search for to fill in information gaps in your knowledge.

Evaluating Information and Sources

Once you understand what you need to search for, the next step is evaluating the various information sources that you find. You want to look at a few specific areas when evaluating the information for credibility — these include:

  • The authority: Look at where the information is posted. Look to see what the author’s (or site’s) credentials are for speaking on specific topics;
  • The timeline: Look at when the information was published, if the information has been updated/revised, if the hyperlinks (if applicable) work throughout the source, and determine whether older or newer sources are more viable for your informational needs;
  • The relevance: Look at who the intended audience is and how well it fits your needs (is it directed at adults or children, the layman or the specialist?), how applicable information is to your topic, and overall how confident you would feel if you cited this source;
  • The accuracy: Look at the reliability, and truthfulness of the information. Check to see if the information is supported with facts, whether or not the information has been peer-reviewed or fact-checked, what the language/tone appear like (if there are any emotional biases), and who the author, publisher, sponsor, hosting site is;
  • The purpose: Look at the reason why the article exists. Is the information used to inform, entertain, persuade, or sell? Look to see if the information is objective, or if it is leaning towards a personal, political, ideological, cultural, religious, organizational bias.

Image Source: https://www.pexels.com/