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Format Agnostics or Format Believers? How Students in High School Use Genre to Assess Credibility

Helena Francke and Olof Sundin

(Submission #58)


This paper presents findings concerning how high school students use genre as a tool when they assess the credibility of resources as part of school work. The theoretical focus takes its point of departure in a socio-cultural approach to information literacy, which views credibility assessment as part of information practices. The discussion is based on an empirical study aiming to understand the studentsí practices with regard to seeking and evaluating the credibility of sources, with a particular interest in user-generated web sites such as blogs, Internet discussion forums, and Wikipedia. An ethnographic approach was employed, which sought to get as close to the studentsí activities as possible within the context of their group-based school work. We draw on data collected through participant observations, information seeking diaries, and interviews, of approximately 70 students in two schools. Two of the most prominent aspects that influenced the studentsí practices in relation to the credibility of user-generated web resources in the school were that credibility was attributed to authorities and experts rather than to peers or authors whose work had not been submitted to quality control, and that resources considered to contain opinions rather than facts were viewed with suspicion in this community of practice.

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