Authority and Value of Information: Information and Digital Literacy Explained

Authority and Value of Information


Recognize the interdependent nature of the authority and value of information and use this knowledge ethically when selecting, using, and creating information.


This dimension is made up of two big information literacy concepts: authority and value of information. Each of these concepts are complex in their own right, so we provide breakdowns of each concept within the rubric. We understand these concepts are huge! You have many choices when assessing these concepts. You could choose to follow either authority or value as a thread throughout the rubric, or mix and match for each step on the scale. The definitions we use are taken from the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education:

“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.”
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.”

Rubric Translation

According to UNM’s Information and Digital Literacy rubric

0=No Evidence

Knowledge by others is neither recognized nor attributed.


A recognition that information is produced by individuals and communities who may or may not be reliable and who may have a particular point of view is present, but with minimal further evaluation; a recognition that new knowledge builds upon existing knowledge is present, and credit is given through attribution.

  • Authority. The student at the emerging level knows that not all information creators have the same level of reliability and may be biased, and has relied only on basic indicators of authority, such as journal rating or the author’s credentials.
  • Value. The student at the emerging level attributes others’ work in-text and provides some kind of citation in a bibliography. The student may rely heavily on quotations in-text to get a point across, rather than using quotations as illustration. This may show an overinflated value of cited work.


Following from a recognition of the variety of authority and points of view, established criteria is used to evaluate information, formats, and sources and to differentiate between reliable and convenient information; informed choices are made regarding online actions in awareness of issues related to privacy and the recognition of personal information.

  • Authority. The student investigates the sources of information by looking for contextual clues within the source itself, such as attribution or bibliography, the author’s prior work in the field. The student may begin to look outside of the source for information about the source, building awareness of where to look for author/publisher/editorial information within formats (e.g.: review processes, contributor guidelines, mission statements, or “about” pages). The student evaluates sources by stepping outside of the source in question and sees what other authoritative sources have said about it. The student remains flexible in attributing authority as additional sources are gathered, and may discard sources later found to be unfit for the information need.
  • Value. The student understands the link between their right to access and use information with the authors’ rights to control how they share their information. The student recognizes different barriers exist for different information (e.g. paywalls) and not all information is easily available. The student has some level of control over their online presence and can choose what information they will share online about themselves. The student has an awareness of how and why their personal information may be gathered, shared, and/or tracked online.


Different types of authorities are evaluated; new perspectives and alternative authoritative voices are then further integrated; credit through proper attribution is given; an appropriate citation style is applied.

  • Authority. The student understands that authority is not necessarily tied to format and applies skepticism to information in all kinds of packages or formats (e.g. not all scholarly articles are the pinnacle of authority, and conversely not all Wikipedia entries should be discarded out of hand). The student has the ability to recognize experts on a given topic or discipline, even non-normative experts. The student seeks sources with opposing perspectives and practices cross-checking to best gauge the consensus of popular opinion across multiple outside sources.
  • Value. The student knows some ways to get around barriers to desired information (e.g. starts at the library website or requests an article through Interlibrary Loan). The student is aware of varying levels of licensed content. The student credits sources not only by quoting, but also by paraphrasing information (not just moving phrases around to construct a “new” sentence).

Theoretical Considerations

  • Encourage flexibility in choosing sources
  • Encourage scaffolding in source use and attribution
  • Encourage reflectivity
  • Note which sources were retrieved from the library
  • If images are allowed, discuss Creative Commons licensing search option (e.g. within Google Image or Flikr)
  • Help students understand bias exists in all formats and certain people are selected as “authorities”
  • Resist equating perfectly-cited sources to the student's understanding of the source’s context

Concrete Considerations


  • Have the students ask why the author of the source can talk about this topic
    • Novice: answer is based on generalization, not specific to a particular author (convenience or top-down)
    • More experienced: Student links the author of this work with immediate context of the work (e.g. “this author has published this piece in a journal that focuses on X discipline or sub-discipline). Student may question the link between the author and the context (e.g. “why is Ms. X writing this in the XYZ context?). Citations approach the discipline.
    • Expert: has investigated the circumstances of the author (credentials, past works).
  • Student provides some in-text context about the authors they cite
  • Student knows how to use one source as a jumping off point for other sources: forward chaining (“cited by” in Google Scholar) and backward chaining (mining a bibliography)
  • A “spotlight” on an author cited as an appendix or infobox
  • Students identify experts on a topic and interview them
  • Include an Anti-Annotated Bibliography (what you didn’t choose to include as a source and why)


  • Bibliography Includes sources that may not be found on Google
  • Images and photos are credited

Editing a Wikipedia article

  • Authority. The student understands that anyone can edit Wikipedia, regardless of their prior knowledge on the subject. The student understands they are vested with the authority to make changes, and by making changes they become part of a community that monitors the authority of information provided in Wikipedia.
  • Value. The student is required to add to an information source they use on a regular basis. Because every fact must be supported by a citation, source material is referenced in-text and in the References section. If the student is required to add a fact or citation from a library source, this shows proficiency in their understanding of the difference in value of information platforms and sources.

Authority in Process (Stand-alone assignment)

This reflection assignment explores the student’s relationship with information authority. It is framed within the context of the student’s lived experiences with an activity, personal interest, or topic they have worked hard to master.

Ask the student to recall, in detail, the steps they have taken to learn about the activity, personal interest or topic. The following steps walk the student through generalized stages of acquiring information and the contextualization of their authority:

  • Think back to when you were first beginning to learn about this topic. Who did you see as an expert or role model? What made them an expert for you? As you began to learn more, did this person retain their status as expert or role model? Why or why not?
  • Once you began to feel more comfortable with this topic, you may have begun to find like-minded people and developed a community. Describe this community. Tell us about the written or unwritten rules about who was considered an expert in this community.
  • How did you learn more about your topic? Which sources of information did you find reliable? Which did you find to be unreliable? (These could be printed resources, conversations, blogs, tweets, stories, etc.)
  • When did you feel like you became an expert or more confident in your abilities? Do you still use the sources of information you used when you were a novice? If you’re part of an active community, are you a resource for others just starting out? Tell us about it.
  • Go back and review your experts. Search for them broadly on the internet. If found, how does the information provided in the source match your experience? Did you learn anything new about the source? Cite your sources, whether they are personal communications or recorded on the internet.