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Information literacy is a subversive activity: developing a research-based theory of information discernment

Walton, G (2017) Information literacy is a subversive activity: developing a research-based theory of information discernment. Journal of Information Literacy, 11 (1). pp. 137-155. ISSN 1750-5968

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Abstract

The theory of information discernment discussed here is very firmly based on models, research and scholarship of information literacy coupled with theory and research in information behaviour. This paper will explore the original research conducted by Walton and Hepworth (the pilot study was reported in the very first edition of this journal in 2007) and how this work has developed over the last 10 years. The account will also examine how this research has led to the emergence of the concept of information discernment and how Foucault’s discourse analysis theory was used to further critically analyse its application. This paper will also show how this research has been applied in a range of contexts from enabling first year 6th formers in the UK carry out better research for their extended project qualification (EPQ), to prospective students to undergraduates in various disciplines. This research will then be synthesised to create a new theory of information discernment and argue that it informs the ACRL (2016) key threshold concept that authority is constructed and contextual and that it should be included in future notions of information literacy. An examination of attendant psychological notions of worldview, misinformation, confirmation bias, motivated reasoning and epistemic beliefs will be explored to determine how these articulate and enrich this new theory. There will also be an exploration of how this can be applied in practice beyond the learning environment and argue that ultimately information literacy is a subversive activity which challenges received notions of the construction communication and exchange of knowledge.

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