Communications in Information Literacy, Vol 4, No 2 (2010)

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Source Evaluation and Information Literacy: Findings from a Study on Science Websites

Nora J. Bird, Claire R. McInerney, Stewart Mohr

Abstract


An essential component of information literacy is the evaluation of information resources. Integral to evaluation are users’ judgments about which Web sources might prove reliable when learning about a particular topic and the ones that they would choose for short term and long term use. Past Website quality studies have used research methods that involved asking participants to recall quality factors without the benefit of concurrent Web searching. Users in this study evaluated Websites during live searching on the “open” or unrestricted Web in a quasi-experimental protocol to determine the quality factors they valued and how these factors relate to gaining knowledge about a particular topic – genetically modified food. Forty users from within a university setting and from the general community were given a pre-test about subject knowledge, were then asked to search and evaluate the most promising sites they found, and, subsequently, were given a post-searching questionnaire related to the quality of the information and the Websites retrieved. The quality factors that participants reported as helpful to them during the search are reported here. Two weeks later participants answered questions about the Websites they visited and what they had learned via an email survey. The participants then reported factors that allowed them to remember a Website or the information contained within it.

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