A New Proactive Approach to Evaluating Information

During my years in academia, I taught information literacy to many college students. This is a fancy way of saying I taught students how to evaluate information so it is credible. These skills are also valuable to business professionals needing to make critical decisions based on authoritative information.

A new article has been published that introduces an approach to teaching students about misinformation. Authors Alaina C. Bull, Margy MacMillan, and Alison J. Head, in “Dismantling the Evaluation Framework,” explain that historically librarians have used two models for instruction. The first is CRAPP, an acronym for looking at Currency, Relevancy, Accuracy, Authority, and Purpose when assessing content. The second is SIFT, developed by Mike Caulfield, which is comprised of four “moves” – Stop, Investigate, Find, and Trace. SIFT is thought of as an improvement over the CRAPP method by evaluating a work as part of an information ecosystem, not just in isolation.

Proposed in this article is a new framework based on the foundation of SIFT. CRAPP and SIFT, according to the authors, are reactive approaches where “the individual is an agent, acting upon information objects they find.“ This relationship needs to be inverted to consider “the information object as the agent that is acting on the individual it finds.” In other words, both students and professional practitioners need to “go beyond evaluating individual information objects and understand the systems that intervene during the search processes, sending results with the agency to nudge, if not shove, users in certain directions.” When evaluating sources this proactive approach allows “for the information to have agency, i.e. acknowledging information as active, targeted, and capable of influencing action.”

As business professionals who perform research, this is an interesting way to look at how we connect to the information we consume. Whether the information source is the agent, or we as individuals are the agent, bias is almost always at the root of misinformation spread. Searchers must be both self-aware of their own biases (individual as agent) and of the biases of the sources they find and use (information object acting as the agent).

Thank you, Alaina C. Bull, Margy MacMillan and Alison J. Head for a thought-provoking article.

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