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Information literacy in higher education - empowerment or reproduction? A discourse analysis approach

Walton, Geoff and Cleland, Jamie (2014) Information literacy in higher education - empowerment or reproduction? A discourse analysis approach. Information Research, 19. ISSN 1368-1613


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Introduction. This paper presents a qualitative investigation into whether online discourse, produced by first year undergraduate students, can demonstrate their information capabilities as a socially-enacted practice and be used to assess their information literacy. Method. Discourse analysis was used to categorise online discussion board postings produced by first-year UK undergraduate students as part of a formative online peer assessment exercise. Analysis. Online discourse was the node of analysis which sought to identify patterns of language within the social and cultural contexts in which they occurred. Postings were inductively analysed through manual content analysis. Results. Postings appeared to embody student’s discursive competence in information literacy, especially their level of information discernment and what constituted a quality ’reference’ for an assignment. However, they also demonstrated that ’references’ perform a certain function within this discourse as an agreed construct between tutor, student and librarian. Conclusions. Students were engaged in the process of becoming good scholars by using appropriate online postings to create valid arguments through assessing other’s work, but what they did not do was question received meanings regarding the quality of found information they used as evidence.

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