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Effective Advocacy: Develop Information Literacy Skills

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Key to gaining knowledge about your issue of concern, the key actors, the best tactics, and the other components of your efforts is the ability to find, evaluate, and use the accurate, credible information that you need.

Since we’re immersed in the digital age, many people assume that everyone is literate in finding information. You just type a few keywords in a search box and voilá!

But the amount of sheer knowledge and information is increasing at expanding rates—and in the social change arena, a lot of the information we may want can be hard to find or even intentionally hidden.

Additionally, information may be inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise unhelpful.

It’s important for advocates to hone their information literacy skills.

The Big 6 offers a good basic process to follow for conducting research. Here’s an adapted version:

  1. Define your task.
  2. Develop an effective research strategy.
  3. Locate the information you need.
  4. Extract the relevant information.
  5. Synthesize the information into your chosen “product.”
  6. Evaluate your produce and process.
The copyright license 2018; original license for the Big6 is copyright © 1987 Michael B. Eisenberg and Robert E. Berkowitz. For more on the Big6, visit:


Here’s a chart of questions that can help you dive a little deeper into the process:

What’s my area of concern?
What do I think I already know?
What questions do I need to answer?
What kinds of sources should I consult? Which are likely the best ones for finding out more about my issue of concern?
What search terms should I use to find useful information and reliable resources about my issue of concern?
Which kinds of resources are most likely to be more accurate and credible?
Where are those resources located and how can I access them?
Whose help might I need to access the information I want?
How can I best organize and synthesize the information for my needs?
Did I find what I need? How should I alter my process to be more effective?
Am I following all copyright and other appropriate guidelines and laws?
Download this chart of questions to consider.

Be sure to use a tool like the CRAAP Test to evaluate the accuracy and credibility of the resources you use.

When you’re thinking about where to find the information you need, consider resources such as:

  • Government documents and databases
  • University libraries and special libraries (e.g., law libraries)
  • Scientific, public health, and other professional associations and sources
  • Corporate reports
  • Online databases (often available to access via public and university libraries)
  • Academic journals
  • Current and historical newspapers and primary documents
  • Human experts
  • Nonprofit organizations working on your issue of concern
  • Books and films
  • Podcasts and radio shows
  • Art, music, photography, and other kinds of artistic expression
  • Museums and other educational exhibits

Every database and other source of information is likely to function differently, so orient yourself to their unique requirements. Some will often have a help section, table of contents, index, or other tools for navigation.


Take note iconPublic, university, and special libraries can be excellent sources of help, both for information, and for the expertise of the librarians. Librarians are trained to find difficult-to-uncover information, often have insights into where or how to find particular kinds of resources, and are often available via a variety of means (e.g., phone, email, chat).


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