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Cabarrus College: Information Literacy

Cabarrus College of Health Sciences Information

INFORMATION LITERACY

What is Information Literacy?

Information Literacy is the ability to think critically about information.  It is the ability to evaluate information  to determine if the information is appropriate and relevant for your needs.  Information Literacy helps promote problem solving skills and thinking skills - asking questions and seeking answers.  Information literacy starts with realizing the need for information,  then locating information, evaluating and synthesizing information found and then finally forming conclusions with the application of information.

This concept includes the skills of understanding how to:

  • Determine the extent of information needed
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Incorporate selected information into one's knowledge base
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose (American Library Association, 2016)

Why is it so Important?

  • Information Literacy is essential to building the foundation for lifelong learning.   Strong information literacy skills are expected of a graduate level student to support the pursuit of continued and ongoing professional development.
  • As an adult learner, information literacy skills enhance one's ability to:
    • Master content
    • Become a more self-directed learner
    • Assume greater control over your own learning (American Library Association, 2016)

Methods of Thinking: Critical Thinking and Synthesizing Information

What is Critical Thinking?  Let us start with what it is NOT.  It is NOT being negative, showing displeasure or disapproval or being emotionally judgmental.  That is the social connotation of the word "critical".  In the academic and clinical practice setting, the phrase "critical thinking" has a positive meaning. 

Per Dictionary.com, critical thinking is defined as "disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence".  (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/critical-thinking)

Per Rasmussen College,  "Critical Thinking includes identifying a problem, determining the best solution and choosing the most effective method of reaching that solution. After executing the plan, critical thinkers reflect on the situation to figure out if the plan was effective and if it could have been done better."   (http://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/nursing/blog/understanding-why-nurses-need-critical-thinking-skills/)  Critical thinking applies thinking, reading, writing, listening and speaking.  There are many factors in critical thinking, including gathering, focusing, organizing, analyzing, generating, integrating, and evaluating information.

Critical thinking in research is the method of evaluating all the information gathered, including the sources from which the information is obtained by and determining the value of the information in relationship to the situation.  It means evaluating the sources that you use to find the information to determine the value of the source.  Information from an undergraduate's blog post is not going to have as much weight as information from an article in JAMA

For nursing, it also means utilizing the Evidence-Based Practice methodology for determining the quality and strength of the information found.  It means developing the skills to become a critical thinker beyond the classroom.  This practice will allow you to develop deductive and sound reasoning skills and become self-confident in your thought process and your decision making skills.

What is synthesizing information? Synthesizing information is the process in which you connect multiple sources of information together and create a cohesive statement and/or argument.  Per Dictionary.com, synthesize is: "to form (a material or abstract entity) by combining parts or elements"  (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/synthesize)  It is the method of pulling together information and finding the connection in that information (even if the information is in conflict) to say something new. 

For example, your favorite music artist has just released a new album.  You love everything this artist has done, but the critics are panning this new album.  The critics are stating that this is the worst thing they have ever heard and it is awful.  You think about whether you want to download the new album or not.  You eventually decide to download the album. You are combining all of the known information about this (previous work, critical reviews) and form your conclusion (purchasing the album).  This is a very simplistic example of synthesizing information. According to the West Virginia Department of Education website, "synthesis occurs as a reader summarizes what has happened and gives it personal meaning"  (https://wvde.state.wv.us/strategybank/SynthesizingInformation.html)

Analysis and Synthesis are closely related. 

Although analysis and synthesis are closely related, there are differences between the styles.  The publication "Analysis, Synthesis and and Response Papers" from Grand Valley State University offers an excellent overview of the styles with a specific focus on writing for nurses. 

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Scholarly Writing

Scholarly Writing 

As a student in a master's degree professional program, you will be expected to demonstrate scholarly writing which reflects higher level critical thinking skills and synthesis of information.  

Writing well organized and articulate scholarly papers is an important skill indicative of higher education and required of accredited master level educational programs. As with the shift in reading from undergraduate coursework, expectations for written papers will increase for graduate studies.  Kuther (2014) describes the transition as:

“The purpose of papers in graduate school is not simply to show the professor that you’ve read or paid attention. Rather than simply reporting a bunch of facts, graduate school papers require you to analyze problems by applying the literature and constructing arguments that are supported by the literature.”

This type of writing is characterized by the ability to generate complete, concise and clear responses which are necessary to communicate ideas clearly and effectively.  This is not only an important skill for academic coursework but also for professional documentation. 

What is a Scholarly Article?  Scholarly Articles are articles that have been written by scholars or professionals in the field.  They often have distinguishing characteristics that set them apart from news, general interest or "popular" articles.  This differences include: journal that the article is written in, language of the article (is the article in written in the jargon of the field or is it written in non-technical language), and  format of the article (scholarly articles usually include abstract, methodology, results, conclusion and references).  Below are tips to help determine if an article is a scholarly article:

Looking at the Citation

These criteria are most important when you are looking at a citation for an article in an index, a database, or a bibliography:

  • Does the periodical title depict a very specific subject area?

  • Does the article have a complex and lengthy title?

  • Are the authors' names listed along with their degrees, titles, or other credentials and/or the names of the institutions with which they are affiliated (particularly colleges or universities)?

  • Was the article cited in a subject-specific index or database (e.g., Education Index, Medline, Sociological Abstracts)?

  • Does the periodical title contain the words Journal, Studies, Research, or Review?

  • Is the article long -- more than 5 pages?

Looking at the Article On-Line (all of the above, plus:)

These criteria will be most helpful when you're looking at a full-text article on-line:

  • Does the article use technical language and specialized vocabulary? Does it assume some subject knowledge on the part of the reader? Is it complex &not easily comprehended by a general reader?

  • Does the article include footnotes, a bibliography, or list of references?

  • Is the text accompanied by tables &charts, but not many photos or drawings? (unless the field is visually-oriented, such as art, design, or architecture)

  • Does the article report on the results of research or experiments?

  • Does the article include a review of the literature, i.e., a summary of other articles written on the topic?

  • Does an abstract or summary of the article appear before the article itself begins?

  • The University of New South Wales, Australia offers a helpful online Writing Support series, including tips for writing essays, grammar, referencing, and avoiding plagiarism.  For the Writing Support link click here
  • The University of North Carolina Writing Center also offers a number of helpful handouts to assist students with writing.  For a list of the handouts click here
  • Turnitin - is a service to check the originality of a written paper:
    • Students can use this as a tool to check that they include appropriate citations for crediting information sources
    • Faculty can use this tool, when grading, to check the originality of a written paper 
  • Cabarrus College offers an online Writing Center through Smarthinking to help students develop the expected writing skills.  You may access Smartthinking through Canvas.
  • Perdue OWL:  Academic Writing offers assistance with writing in the academic setting
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