What is PIL?
Project Information Literacy (PIL) is a nonprofit research institute that conducts ongoing, national studies on what it is like being a student in the digital age.
In the past decade, PIL has surveyed and interviewed almost 21,000 U.S. college students to examine how they interact with information resources for school, for life, for work, and most recently, for engaging with the news. To learn more, read PIL's FAQ or a summary of our key research findings.
"Information Literacy in the Age of Algorithms": This January 2020 report from a yearlong study of students and their awareness and concerns about algorithmic-driven platforms that shape and influence news and information they receive. Research was supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harvard Graduate School of Education, ER&L, a leading library conference, and the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina.
> Report landing page
> Press release
> Executive summary
"Across the Great Divide: How Today's College Students Engage with News," Alison J. Head, Erica DeFrain, Barbara Fister and Margy MacMillan, First Monday, August 2019.
This lead article from the PIL Team in the August 2019 First Monday issue asks: How can college students and young voters be prepared with the information skills they need to assess news quality and credibility of the information found online and in print as the threats of “fake news,” propaganda, and bias multiply and intensify? Opportunities and strategies are identified for preparing students to gather and evaluate credible news sources, first as students and then as lifelong learners.
PIL AT A GLANCE
Director: Dr. Alison J. Head
Purpose: PIL is a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit institute that conducts ongoing, scholarly research about how young adults conceptualize and carry out information tasks in the digital age.
Volunteer Sample: See the 265+ community colleges, public colleges and universities, and private colleges and universities in the U.S. that have already joined. Read the FAQ about how your institution can join the sample.
Support for PIL research efforts has included:
RESEARCH IN THE WORKS
We're working on a two-part series on news literacy and the Covid-19 pandemic that will be released in early September. This special report examines how an unprecedented public health story of inestimable global impact spread in the U.S. media ecosystem during the first three months, and how media messages were represented. Findings from our analyses are intended to give readers insights into how news text and visuals shape our understanding of the world, depending on the content presented and what we see.
Each report included interactive information visualizations that help explain underlying and complex patterns in the media ecosystem dataset, based on our analysis of more than 125,000 news stories from 60 U.S. news traditional and digital-only outlets. Results from this analysis are presented in two research reports (6-8 pages each), and are written for instruction and first-year experience librarians as well as educators, students, and journalists.
Information and news literacy learning activities accompany these reports to support readers in deepening their understanding of this phenomenon, and as a way for readers to reclaim information agency by stepping outside the torrent of endless information about the Covid-19 story in order to critically evaluate the news.
Interested in learning more? Do you want us to send you a link when the research is released in early September? Please let us know by signing up here.
"The Bigot in the Machine," The New York Technical Services Librarians Session, June 17, 2020, Keynote: Barbara Fister (transcript).
"Information Literacy in the Age of Algorithms," ER&L, Austin (TX), Monday, March 9, 8:30 a.m. CST. Opening Keynote: Barbara Fister.
"Tales from the Algorithmic Frontlines," SXSW EDU 2020, Austin (TX), Monday, March 9, 11 a.m. CST. Panelists: Barbara Fister (podcast recording: 47:05).
"How Students Engage with News": This October 2018 report from our yearlong study of students and their news engagement practices, commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Association of College and Research Libraries, and Harvard Graduate School of Education, is available here.
"Kyle Jones: The Datafied Student and the Ethics of Learning Analytics": In this October 14, 2019 Smart Talk interview, PIL Scholar-in-Residence, Barbara Fister, interviews Data Doubles collaborator and LIS educator, Kyle Jones, about the double-edged sword of learning analytics and student privacy.
"Asking the Right Questions: Bridging the Gaps between Information Literacy Assessment Approaches": Is it time to re-frame information literacy assessment? In this October 2019, Against the Grain article, we introduce a typology for classifying and critiquing four levels of assessment widely used by academic librarians, while presenting reflective questions for strengthening ties among these approaches and maximizing teaching, learning, and assessment outcomes. Selected one of LIRT’s 2019 Top 20 Articles by American Library Association.