Mapping literacies. Comparing information horizons mapping to measures of information and health literacy

Publication Date09 Dec 2019
AuthorMargaret S. Zimmerman
subjectMatterLibrary & information science,Records management & preservation,Document management,Classification & cataloguing,Information behaviour & retrieval,Collection building & management,Scholarly communications/publishing,Information & knowledge management,Information management & governance,Information management,Information & communications technology,Internet
Mapping literacies
Comparing information horizons mapping to
measures of information and health literacy
Margaret S. Zimmerman
School of Library and Information Science,
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
Purpose Information literacy and health literacy skills are positively correlated with indicators of quality
of life. Assessing these literacies, however, can be daunting particularly with people that may not respond
well to prose-based tools. The purpose of this paper is to use information horizons methodology as a metric
that may be reflective of literacies.
Design/methodology/approach Following a power analysis to insure statistical significance, a sample of
161 participants was recruited from a university population and given formal, vetted measures of information
literacy and health literacy and then was asked to create an information horizons map within a health-related
context. The information horizons maps were evaluated in two different ways. First, the number of sources
was counted. Then, the quality of sources was factored in. Multiple regression analysis was applied to both
metrics as independent variables with the other assessments as dependent variables. Anker, Reinhart, and
Feeleys model provided the conceptual framework for the study.
Findings Information horizons mapping was not found to have a significant relationship with measures of
information literacy. However, there were strong, statistically significant relationships with the measures of
health literacy employed in this study.
Originality/value Employing information horizons methodology as a means of providing a metric to
assess literacies may be helpful in providing a more complete picture of a personsabilities. While the current
assessment tools have value, this method has the potential to provide importantinformation about the health
literacy of people who are not traditionally well represented by prose-based measures.
Keywords Information literacy, Research methods, Health literacy, Assessment,
Information horizons mapping, Non-traditional populations
Paper type Research paper
Few skills exist in concordance with quality of life as significantly as those of information
literacy and health literacy. Contemporary scholarship states that being an information
literate individual requires not only the skills to find information but also the skills to
interpret, evaluate and then use the information effectively (Information literacy, 2011;
Murray, 2003). Scholarship to this end has linked increased information literacy with
improved quality of life. This can be attributed to an individuals increased ability to access
and process the information necessary to make significant life decisions, including those
tied to education, financial wellbeing and health, which establishes its position as the
bedrock of lifelong learning (Boeriswati, 2012; Leung, 2010).
Health literacy has many varied definitions in the literature. However, they tend to mirror
the National Institutes of Healths definition, [] the degree to which individuals have the
capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to
make appropriate health decisions.Health literacy encompasses a myriad of skills including,
information-seeking, decision-making, problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication,
along with a multitude of social, personal, and cognitive skills that are imperative to function in
the health-system(Sørensen et al., 2012, p. 11). The primary focus of this conceptualization of Journal of Documentation
Vol. 76 No. 2, 2020
pp. 531-551
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/JD-05-2019-0090
Received 19 May 2019
Revised 2 October 2019
Accepted 6 October 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
The author would like to thank the University of School of Library and Information Science for
providing funding for this project.
health literacy is that it reflects the individuals ability to navigate the health information
landscape in order to obtain services and make decisions. The focus is on health literacy as a
reflection of the seekers skills, not simply their ability to decipher health-related textual
information or vocabulary. While information literacy has been tied to quality of life in the
literature, so has health literacy (Sørensen et al., 2012; Song et al., 2012). After all, research has
demonstrated repeatedly that proficient health literacy skills are a requisite determinant of
favorable health outcomes (Lloyd, 2014; Wångdahl et al., 2014; Zimmerman, 2017). A systemic
review of 111 articles found that low health literacy, alternatively, has been consistently
associated with negative health outcomes including a few examples such as more
hospitalizations, a decreased ability to comply with medication instructions and understand
health messaging, greater use of emergency services, and higher mortality rates among the
elderly (Berkman et al., 2011). Another systemic review of 24 articles found that children whose
parents had lower health literacy had poorer health outcomes (DeWalt and Hink, 2009).
The assessment of information literacy is reliant on lengthy, prose-based assessment
tools. The various measures that were explored for use in this research have many
commonalities. They have typically 25 or more questions and rely on high-level reading
skills. As an example, Boh Podgornik et al. (2016) created a 40-question assessment that
asks about search queries, password security and section headings in research articles.
The Tool for Real Time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills (TRALS) is 30 questions
and of a similar nature (Schloman and Gedeon, 2007). While each of these assessments are
vetted and useful measures of scholarly information evaluation ability, they capture a
metric that is only attainable to the highly educated and does not necessarily provide a
complete picture of an individuals ability to do the defined skill above, that is to find
information and use it effectively.
Health literacy assessments have greater variety, likely because scholars and clinicians
recognize the need for a tool that can be applied quickly to diverse populations. The Rapid
Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medic ine (REALM) is a list of 125 words of increasing
difficulty that patients are asked to read aloud. The assessment can be completed in just
threetofiveminutes(Daviset al., 1991). The Short Test of Functional Health Literacy for
Adults is administered in just seven minutes as a written assessment (Baker et al., 1999).
However, each of these have been criticized as truly measuring reading literacy as
opposed to health information-seeking ability and skills (Baker, 2006; Berkman et al.,
2004). While each of these measures certainly has value, these methodologies should not
be exhaustive of the types of assessment tools available, particularly; to people that may
have non-traditional skills or lack the means of expressing them. People that do not speak
the dominant languages represented in these assessments or have poor traditional reading
literacy are not as likely to be adequately assessed by standard prose-based measures.
Because of this, it is the authors objective in conducting this study to try to find an
alternative method of assessing information and health literacies. To this end, the
idea pursued in this research is that perhaps asking participants to draw their
information-seeking experience may be an effective way to gather data, which can then be
used as a metric to qualify their seeking skills.
Graphical representations of knowledge have previously been found to be helpful in
assistingpeoplewithlow-literacylevels(Bukiet al., 2009; Houts et al., 2006; Kripalani et al.,
2007). What if the idea was flipped in order to explore the possibility that perhaps drawings
created by people could be used to describe their information-seeking abilities? Is it possible
to adapt a methodology in which people draw their information-seeking experience and that
drawing is examined to provide evidence of the information or health literacy of the artist?
It is the goal of this study to determine if by examining peoplesdrawings of their
information-seeking experience, their seeking skills can be assessed and measured. In order
to provide a previously used and vetted approach to create the drawings, Sonnenwalds

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