Skip to Main Content

Information Literacy: Authority is Constructed and Contextual

Authority is Constructed and Contextual - 
Recognizes authoritative sources, recognizes & questions scholarly debate

From the Framework

Knowledge Practices

Learners who are developing their information literate abilities

  • define different types of authority, such as subject expertise (e.g., scholarship), societal position (e.g., public office or title), or special experience (e.g., participating in a historic event);
  • use research tools and indicators of authority to determine the credibility of sources, understanding the elements that might temper this credibility;
  • understand that many disciplines have acknowledged authorities in the sense of well-known scholars and publications that are widely considered “standard,” and yet, even in those situations, some scholars would challenge the authority of those sources;
  • recognize that authoritative content may be packaged formally or informally and may include sources of all media types;
  • acknowledge they are developing their own authoritative voices in a particular area and recognize the responsibilities this entails, including seeking accuracy and reliability, respecting intellectual property, and participating in communities of practice;
  • understand the increasingly social nature of the information ecosystem where authorities actively connect with one another and sources develop over time.


Learners who are developing their information literate abilities

  • develop and maintain an open mind when encountering varied and sometimes conflicting perspectives;
  • motivate themselves to find authoritative sources, recognizing that authority may be conferred or manifested in unexpected ways;
  • develop awareness of the importance of assessing content with a skeptical stance and with a self-awareness of their own biases and worldview;
  • question traditional notions of granting authority and recognize the value of diverse ideas and worldviews;
  • are conscious that maintaining these attitudes and actions requires frequent self-evaluation.

Mapped to the LEAP Standards




3                                                                  2



Recognizes that information resources are drawn from their creators’ expertise and credibility based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. View authority with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought.

Recognizes that information resources are drawn from their creators’ expertise. Relates the credibility of information to the context in which it will be used. Begins to question authority, starts to incorporate new perspectives, additional voices, and changes schools of thought.

Marginally recognizes that information comes from the creators’ expertise. Begins to relate the credibility of information to the context in which it will be used. Has trouble questioning authority, and does not modify thesis.

Does not recognize information comes from creators’ expertise. Has trouble relating credibility to the context in which the information will be used. Takes all information at face value, does not question authority.

Assignment Ideas

  • Provide students with two different information types (with two different goals) on the same topic by the same unnamed authoritative creator/author (for example, scholarly article and blog post). Use as discussion starter with students about context in relationship to authority. Reveal authorship later in discussion.
  • Ask students in professional or career-focused programs to consider who has authority within their areas of study and the origins of that authority.
  • 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?
  • 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. demonstrations at Tahrir Square during the "Arab Spring" events). Ask them to describe how they would analyze and evaluate the authority 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 he/she represents or is the individual reporting as an "average citizen"?
  • Ask students to create a citation "web" using a citation analysis database, and conduct a content analysis of the linked authors by affiliation (workplace, academic preparation, geography, subject expertise). Do authors cite each other?