Skip to Main Content

Information Literacy: Philosophy

Information Literacy Skills for Philosophy Majors

What skills do your majors need in order to conduct research in your discipline?

In our view, information literacy is not essentially discipline-specific, but forms (along with other approaches to critical thinking and writing) the basis for lifelong thinking and learning.  It promotes the skills and dispositions required to become informed, self-directed, critical participants in the pursuit of knowledge and learning.  Accordingly, an information-literate individual is able to:

  • Determine the nature and extent of information required
  • Access information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate critically information and its sources
  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
  • access and use information ethically and legally[1]


In which classes will these skills be taught?

Information literacy skills, considered as a subset of critical thinking skills, are required for all philosophy courses. They naturally receive particular emphasis in introductory courses, but we reinforce and deepen that initial exposure, first in Logic and Critical Reasoning, and then in our required upper-division course in Epistemology and Metaphysics, where explicit questions about what constitutes information, evidence, etc. are at center stage.

We anticipate incorporating in many of our classes this fall a variation on our method of critical essay-writing (CRITO) [2] using the acronym CRITIC, Brad Matthies’ 2005 appropriation[3] of Wayne Bartz’s 2002 method of teaching the scientific method to psychology students.[4]  CRITIC is designed to assist students in selecting and evaluation potential sources of information.  The elements of CRITIC are as follows:

1. Claim: Identify the relevance, clarity, scope, and criticizability of the claim.

2. Role of Claimant: Establish the credibility, identity, and potential biases of the author(s) making the claim.

3. Information supporting the claim: List the credible, trustworthy evidence the claimant supplies in defense of his/her claim.

4: Truth of the evidence: Assess the truth or reasonableness of the evidence.

5: Independent verification: Seek out alternative, reliable sources of evidence for or against the claimant’s position.

6: Conclusion: In light of 1-4, critically assess the viability, usefulness, or credibility of the source.

How will you know that the students have mastered these skills?

In many of our courses (most importantly at the 100-level and in Logic and Critical Reasoning), we plan to ask students to utilize CRITIC (in anticipation, in most cases, of composing a CRITO-based, argumentative essay) in finding and assessing the merits of three distinct sources, one from each of the following categories:

1. Online philosophy guides, including IEP, SEP, and Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

2. Online refereed journals (JSTOR, primarily)

3. Philosophical blogs


[1] The bulleted list is an adaptation of one supplied by the Association of College and Research Libraries:

[2] For a brief essay describing this method, currently in use in all of our courses (and across the disciplines generally), see:


[4] Bartz. Wayne R. 2002. “Teaching skepticism via the CRITIC acronym and the Skeptical Inquirer.” Skeptical Inquirer, 26 (5): 42-44.