Information Literacy – a skill worth learning

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Market research data collection, which we provide at Burkhardt & Co., requires a high level of information literacy so we can find, collect, and make use of information that is accurate, relevant, and useful.  We believe information literacy is important for everyone.  Thus, we offer this brief primer on information and media literacy.

When you look at information from any source – from books to quotations, literary references, reports, news stories, and social media – ask the following:

  • What is the source of the information? Does the information come from a knowledgeable and reliable source – such as reputable expert, university, government study, or someone with first-hand knowledge?   How close is the information provider to the information source?  The closer the source is to original information – a current news story, a historical event, etc. – the more likely it is to be accurate.
  • Is the information sensical and measurable?  Does the information “measure up” against standards of knowledge you already know?   There are many “levels” to this……  Does a reference to Queen Victoria accurately mention the time period in which she was Queen of England (i.e., question any source that discusses a decision she made in 1750)?  If you are reading the results of a medical study, question the results of a study for medication to treat gynecological health problems that are only tested on men (yes, this is said to have actually occurred!).   When reading about a statistical study, were there enough study participants for the results to be statistically relevant?
  • What is the information’s date?  Medical recommendations from a medical textbook published in 2015 are going to be more rigorous than a medical textbook published in 1815.  On the other hand, someone writing in 1815 about a news event that happened in that year will have more first-hand knowledge of the situation than someone extrapolating a theory of the event in 2015.
  • Is there bias involved?  Does an information source have a motive for wanting you to believe a particular perspective?  If the answer is yes, that bias can be cause for scrutiny – depending on the context.  On the other hand, an information source may clearly state, “My bias is X and here’s why I believe you should view this from a particular perspective….”

Interested in learning the skills involved in information literacy?

 

Kim Burkhardt, MBA is a market research and competitive intelligence consultant at Burkhardt & Co.