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ACRL Framework Toolbox: ACRL Framework

ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

Authority is Constructed and Contexual


Authority is Constructed and Contexual

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.

Session Learning Outcomes            

             Performance Indicators

Institutional Learning Outcomes

Evaluate a resource using a variety of criteria to determine if it meets their information need.

Students will be able to evaluate a source for currency, reliability, accuracy, authority, and purpose.

Critical Thinking

Understand that a resource's authority depends on its creator and the context in which it is used.

Students will be able to idenitfy a source's possible audiences, purposes, viewpoints, and expertise of authors.

Critical Thinking

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

  • How can students identify an authority or authoritative work in their discipline?

  • How does that concept of authority privilege some sources of information over others?

  • What are the limits of a given source of information?

1. Ask students to find several scholarly sources on the same topic that take very different stands. How was it that the authors came to different conclusions? Does it have to do with authority?

2. Have students look at a blog, a video on YouTube, a collection of tweets, or some other type of social media regarding a contemporary event (e.g. the Women's March on Washington, a campaign rally, etc.). Ask them to describe how they would analyze and evaluate the authority of the author(s) of the information. Are there ways to determine whether the individual was an actual witness or participant in the events? Are there ways to identify whether the individual or group that developed a collection of information has a particular political bias? Can they determine whether the author(s) has a particular status within the group s/he represents or is the individual reporting as an "average citizen?"

3. Have students compare two websites utilizing the CRAAP test or another specific set of criteria, and ask students to report back to the class, individually or in groups, which website they found to be more trustworthy.

4. Choose two “Facebook News Feed”-type articles on a controversial topic, and have students compare them using the CRAAP test or another specific set of criteria to determine which article is more trustworthy. This is a great opportunity to spotlight biased, clickbait articles, or even articles from satirical “news” sites like The Onion or Clickhole.

5.  Periodicals Sort:  After describing/discussing what periodicals are and how the various types differ from one another, have the students form groups of 3 or 4.  Hand each group a pile containing some popular magazines, trade/professional journals and scholarly journals.  Ask them to examine and sort into piles by type. (Also fits Information Creation as a Process & Research as Inquiry)

Information Creation as a Process

Information Creation as a Process

Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences.

Session Learning Outcomes Performance Indicators Institutional Learning Outcomes
Link the process involved in information creation to a particular information need.


  • Students will be able to distinguish between primary and secondary sources in order to select appropriate sources for their research.
  • Students will be able to identify common characteristics of a variety of information source types in order to differentiate scholarly, trade, and popular publications.
  • Students will recognize that scholarly research materials exist in a variety of formats and will select resources that meet their needs regardless of medium.


Communication Skills





Social Responsibility


Information Creation as a Process

  • What kinds of resources should students search to find the information they need?

  • What are the qualitative differences of each format? How does this vary by and within a discipline?

1. Use the following table to describe source types:



How it is 


Who is able

to create it?

Is there a review process? Should there be?

What is the best use of the information from this format?

How can I locate information in this format?

(example: blog)



2. Assign students to identify the format of the sources they find for a given research project and articulate why the chosen formats are appropriate for the information need.


3. Ask students to transform information they have created in one format to another format, and to write a reflection on what they needed to consider as they went through the process.


4.  Periodicals Sort:  After describing/discussing what periodicals are and how the various types differ from one another, have the students form groups of 3 or 4.  Hand each group a pile containing some popular magazines, trade/professional journals and scholarly journals.  Ask them to examine and sort into piles by type. (Also fits Authority is Constructed and Contextual & Research as Inquiry) 

Information Has Value


Information Has Value

Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. Legal and socioeconomic interests influence information production and dissemination.

Session Learning Outcomes Performance Indicators Institutional Learning Outcomes
Describe the legal and socioeconomic influences in information production and dissemination in order to use information legally and ethically.
  • Students will understand what constitutes plagiarism.
  • Students will be able to cite information sources to give credit to the original ideas of others.
Personal Responsibility

Information Has Value

  • What is the difference between “free” and paid information?

  • How can students work with the intellectual property of others ethically and responsibly?

  • How can access to information be powerful?

  • Think/pair/share on consequences of NOT using and benefits of using recommended resources
  • Think aloud: why do library databases exist?
  • Create a contest between two groups (Google vs. Academic Search Premier)
  • Brainstorming how using and citing information sources will help with their individual paper topics - various ways
  • Jigsaw - small groups become expert on assigned format (reputable blog, scholarly journal, magazine…) Might provide example of each format or assignment ahead
  • Jigsaw - each group is assigned to evaluate based on a particular criteria (authority, etc.) of that source

2. Have students find a full text article that requires payment to access versus a free full text article and have them critically evaluate the value of the information in the articles (Is the information better if I pay for it vs. getting access for free?)

Research as Inquiry

Research as Inquiry

Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field.

Session Learning Outcomes Performance Indicators Institutional Learning Outcomes

Recognize that research is an iterative process that requires ongoing inquiries.

  • Students will identify information gaps in order to formulate research questions.
  • Students will determine an appropriate scope for researching assignments.
  • Students will revise their research questions in response to new information and understandings.

Critical Thinking

Research as Inquiry

  • How can students learn to deal with complex research questions?

  • How can information be organized and interpreted in meaningful ways?

  1. Ask students to draft a research question or come to class with a research question they have used in the past. Then, provide students with research questions from more experienced researchers, and ask students to compare their research questions. Help students analyze some of the differences and determine what elements they might be able to incorporate into their next research question.

  2. Ask students to reflect upon the steps they went through when researching a major purchase or event in their lives (e.g. buying a car, selecting a college, etc.). Let them identify the steps involved in the research behind such a decision and their relative effectiveness in achieving the desired outcome, then consider how they might use a similar strategy in the academic setting.

  3. Assign students to keep research logs in which they note changes in particular research directions as they identify resources, read, and incorporate new learning.

  4. Ask students to think about a time when they had an information need that was successfully fulfilled. This can be an academic information need, but it may work best if students consider daily-life information seeking behaviors (for example, you need to build a fence: Where do you learn how to build a fence? Where do you go for materials? Who do you ask for help?) Using art supplies, have students create a visual map of this information-seeking process, being as abstract as they like. Alternatively, provide building material (such as Legos, pipecleaners & beads, or blocks) and have them physically model their information-seeking process. After they’ve completed the exercise, discuss with students each step they  identified in their information-seeking process and, through discussion, draw parallels between information-seeking in other areas of their lives, and each step of the information-seeking process when doing research in the library.

  5. Periodicals Sort:  After describing/discussing what periodicals are and how the various types differ from one another, have the students form groups of 3 or 4.  Hand each group a pile containing some popular magazines, trade/professional journals and scholarly journals.  Ask them to examine and sort into piles by type. (Also fits Information Creation as a Process & Authority is Constructed and Contextual)

Scholarship as Conversation

Scholarship as Conversation

Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations.

Session Learning Outcomes Performance Indicators Institutional Learning Outcomes
Demonstrate that research and knowledge creation involve listening to, acknowledging, and responding to other scholars related ideas.
  • Students will understand that scholarly communication is a global conversation between different authorities, and will be able to trace their own contribution, placing it in context with other authorities in the discipline. 
  • Students will use a variety of resources in order to address the various perspectives on a topic.
  • Students will be able to describe the role of the peer-review process.
  • Students will be able to trace citations representing the scholarly conversation on a topic.

Social Responsibility





Communication Skills

Scholarship as Conversation

  • How, and why, has research on a specific topic changed over time?

  • How can students be part of the scholarly conversation on a specific topic?

1.  Provide students with a list of 3-5 sources from different perspectives that shape the conversation surrounding a topic of interest.

Example sources: a news article, a tweet from a reputable source, a scholarly article & a literature review.



  • What perspectives are presented?
  • Who has the strongest voice in this conversation? Why?
  • How would you involve yourself in this conversation?

2. Ask students to conduct an investigation of a particular topic from its treatment in the popular media, and then trace its origin in conversations among scholars and researchers. How have perspectives changed and why? 

       Example sources: news articles, tweets from reputable sources, magazine articles, blog entries, bestselling novels.

3. Have students compare two websites utilising each component of the CRAAP test, and ask students to report back to the class, individually or in groups, which website they found to be more trustworthy. Under ‘documents,’ find the website comparison worksheet used in 2015-2016 Academic Strategies classes.

4. Ask students to read a short story and attached background information about the author (find in Documents section a worksheet that uses Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl,” a one-page short story). Once they’ve read the story, ask them to locate two to three pieces of literary criticism related to the short story, using the library’s literary criticism databases. Allow students 10-15 minutes to perform their search, then have them report back to the class, individually or in groups. Did they find articles successfully? What kind of challenges did they face? Did anyone encounter a major obstacle during the search process?

5.  This activity prompts students to brainstorm keywords/synonyms related to a defined research topic. Write the research topic on the board--this can be anything from “Cryptozoology” to “NSA Surveillance.” Next, use a Koosh ball, tennis ball, or other non-lethal projectile, and toss it to the first student. Each student volunteers a possible search term related to the main topic, then tosses the ball to another student of their choice. If a student chooses a search term that others in the class are skeptical of, the student must defend their choice and explain why it’s a logical synonym or related term to the main topic. This is a fast-paced game that gets students moving and out of their seats.

Searching as Strategic Exploration

Searching as Strategic Exploration

Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops.

Session Learning Outcomes Performance Indicators Institutional Learning Outcomes

Align search strategies to information needs in order to work in a variety of information systems.


  • Students will be able to match search strategies and tools with their needs.
  • Students will be able to identify key concepts and related terms in order to locate relevant sources for their projects.
  • Students will be able to implement advanced search techniques, such as use of subject headings and Boolean operators.
  • Students will understand how information at the library is organized.
  • Students can successfully navigate on the library website to locate appropriate databases for their information need.
Critical Thinking


Guiding questions citation: "Information Literacy Plan." Northeastern Illinois University Ronald Williams Library, last modified September 16, 2015,

Searching as Strategic Exploration

  • What tools or resources can students search to find the information they need?

  • What are the different strategies for searching those sources?

1. Ask students to choose a topic, develop key terms to search with, and use two different databases to locate information on their topic. Have them compare the results in terms of quantity, types of sources (e.g., government, educational, scholarly, commercial), order/sequence of results, and relevance. Pair students who used different databases with the same topics to compare results.


2. Assign students to identify and use subject headings after conducting a keyword search; after which they write a paragraph on the differences between subject and keyword searching.


3. Have students compile a list of keywords. Then, have them pick two keywords and have them search using those two keywords (search by "___" and "____"). Have them select an article and discuss the difference between keyword and subject searching. 


4. Students can compare and contrast the same search terms on two different databases and note the similarities and differences between those database search results.


5.  Keyword Brainstorming:  Write / display this sentence (or any other research question):  Does watching violence on television affect children?  Ask them to copy it on their paper & circle the important (KEY) words.  Discuss their choices.  Ask them to write each of those keywords (violence, television, children) under the sentence on their paper.  Then ask them to think of and list 3-5 words under each that could also be used to express that (or a similar) concept.  Possible Extension:  Ask the students to open Academic Search Premier and try different combinations of those words, one from each column, in each of the search boxes.  Compare the first ten results of each attempt.


6.  Human Boolean:  Tell the students that each of them is going to represent an article in a database.  Whenever I "type" (say) a word or phrase that describes or applies to them, they should stand. (Possible modification: If there is a mobility or other issue, raising their hand can also work.) They should stay standing until I add a word or phrase that doesn't apply to them.  Start by saying college student.  (They should all stand - or raise hand - at this point.)  After a quick glance around the room to identify a new category/descriptor, say, "Ok, I'm going to add the search term "long sleeve," after which those wearing short sleeves should all sit down/put hand down. Repeat another 2 or 3 times until there are just a handful (3 - 5) of them standing.  Reinforce by saying, "Right now, I've got 3 or 4 VERY SPECIFIC articles on my list...they are the only ones left that fit all of my criteria."  Explain that that's how keyword searching in a database works - the more search terms you add, the harder it is for an article to fit the description...the shorter your results list will be & the articles on it should better fit what you're looking for.


7.  Read Your Screen:  Give a student volunteer a laser pointer and open the database you're going to demonstrate or teach.  Ask the student to point at various tools/commands within the database:  search box, any limiter, result #1, full text access link, print feature, save feature(s), email feature, etc.


8. Research Feud: Play the "Family-Feud"-style game (find powerpoint under "Supporting Materials and Documents" to encourage students to brainstorm synonyms for keywords/search terms. Divide the class into two teams of 4-5 people. Give Team A a chance to individually (without conferring) guess five possible synonyms for the keyword listed at the top of the screen. If Team A fails to guess all five terms, Team B gets the chance to confer and guess as many terms as there are empty spots on the board. Each team is awarded points depending on how many terms they correctly guess. You can customize the poweroint with your own keywords and synonyms--rank synonyms according to how many hits they garner in a database such as Academic Search Premier, but be aware of terms that garner false hits, and consider ranking those terms lower as a way to spark discussion about problematic search terms.

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