What you see is what you get, but do you get what you see: Higher education students’ evaluation of the credibility of online information.
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Information literacy involves the ability to find, access, evaluate, organise and store information in a variety of media, though there is as yet no consensus on a precise definition. This thesis, set in the context of higher education, explores aspects of information literacy associated with students’ evaluation of information found on the World Wide Web. Two studies relating to third level students’ evaluation of the credibility of online information were conducted. Study 1 examined whether the search results ranking that a website receives following a Google search query affects students’ perceived credibility of that website. Study 2 presented final year psychology students with information that was either relevant or not relevant to their area of study. In order to examine the frequency of information verification behaviours and to explore the nature of information processing (either heuristic or systematic) that underlies students’ interactions with online information. The results of Study 1 are consistent with the idea that state search engine rankings do not significantly impact participants’ evaluation of webpage content. The results of Study 2 indicate that final year psychology students did not engage in information verification behaviours more frequently when evaluating psychology-relevant versus psychology non-relevant information, but that they did evaluate the credibility of such information differently. These results are discussed in the context of the conceptual overlap between information literacy skills and the aims of higher education.