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Companion Document to the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Politics, Policy and International Relations

This guide was developed to accompany the Companion Document to the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Politics, Policy and International Relations.

Frame Description

Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.

The claims of individuals and organizations to speak with authority in political science, policy studies, international relations, and related disciplines are complex and ever-changing. The information produced by governments at all levels has varying degrees of authority; this authority changes depending upon the issue, and may be shared or unclear in many cases. When searching for legal or government information, it is helpful for researchers to consider whether the creator of the information has the legitimacy to speak authoritatively on the subject and in what contexts that information is authoritative. Governments may use their power to determine what information is publicly available. This power can be used to keep information secret, placing limitations on available information, and in turn, limiting the authority of individuals or groups to speak on issues. Researchers should consider whether their information needs can be met by publicly available sources.

Think tanks, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and interest groups also produce information that can be reliable. Organizations sometimes use the legitimacy conferred upon them to misinform the public in an effort to further political agendas. It is an essential skill for researchers in PPIRS disciplines to think critically about the biases no matter the source.

The authoritativeness of information in PPIRS disciplines is situational and can be conferred through formal and informal processes and be published or broadcast in many formats. Depending upon the topic, an authoritative figure or group can produce information in sources ranging from peer-reviewed academic literature to community activist newsletters and local news broadcasts.

Evidence of Frame in Action

  • Statistics published by government agencies are widely used and accepted as authoritative because of these agencies' reputations for using sound methodologies and for collecting and analyzing data in a non-partisan manner.
  • Peer-reviewed journals provide public administrators with more credible information on which to base their decisions than they would find using social media platforms. However, an exploration of social media platforms might provide those officials with a sense of any misinformation they need to dispel when briefing the public.
  • A paper about polluted streams can bolster its argument by utilizing corroborating information from national governments, local environmental groups, regional newspapers, and industry press releases, drawing on their different points of view and areas of expertise.

Sample Learning Goals

  1. Acknowledge the ways in which authority is constructed reflect and reinforce existing hierarchies in our society. (KP1, D2)
  2. Articulate the benefits and drawbacks of using various information sources (gray literature, government information, data, news sources, etc.) and consider how marginalized voices may have been excluded from those sources. (KP1-2)
  3. Reflect on their personal biases and reactions to news stories and practice identifying and distinguishing between their emotional responses and logical analysis of the resources. (D3, D5)
  4. Comprehend and apply the differences between the perspectives offered by scholarly and practitioner literature, government and organizational documents, legal cases and regulations, community data, and think tank information, recognizing the various purposes these literatures and organizations serve. (KP1-2, KP4, D3-4)
  5. Distinguish reliable data from unreliable and recognize how data is shaped by the data collection and analysis decisions made by data creators. In the case of government-produced data, students will consider how politics shape data collection and analysis. (KP2)
  6. Identify the characteristics of primary- versus secondary-source legal information and the relationship between the two. (KP1)
  7. Interrogate the traditional notions of authority in PPIRS disciplines and consider voices often excluded from those conversations, particularly voices from BIPOC, immigrant, disabled and LGBTQ communities. (KP3, D4)