Finding and evaluating information: LEGIT

Is it LEGIT? A tool for interpreting and evaluating texts

In this digital age where we are saturated with enormous amounts of information, it has never been more important for students to develop skills that allow them to consume information critically.

LEGIT is a tool that can be used for interpreting and evaluating texts. It plays on common question heard in the classroom of whether something is legit. Within the memorable acronym are a series of prompts and questions that can be posed to any text.

Carrying out ‘LEGIT’ on a source is an excellent way for senior history students to evaluate their sources as they work on their .1 research. It is also great for year 13 history students during their analysis for 3.4 as they evaluate different historical perspectives on an event.

At a junior level (up to year 9) it is enough to focus only on Label. At year 10 you may incorporate Evidence, and potentially Intention (LIE).

  • L – Label
  • E – Evidence
  • G – Genre
  • I – Intention
  • T – Tone

This resource will explain each aspect of LEGIT.

Label

Just like when you buy a top and check the label, we need to check the label on any source we think looks good when we are finding information.

There are all kinds of sources you can use.  Here are some questions to think about when you are checking the credibility of the source.

Credible = someone believable, reliable, knowledgeable.

For a written source:

    1. Look for the name of the writer/speaker
    2. Click on the writer’s name and/or type their name into Google
    3. Ask yourself:
  • Is this person knowledgeable about this topic?
  • Where did they write this?  Can we trust that place?
  • When was it made – does this influence what is said? Is this info is up-to-date (if it needs to be)?

If the answer is yes to these questions then they are a credible author on your topic.

For a person in a video:

  • Use the same steps as for a written source

For a person you talk to:

  • Were they there? Are they talking about their own experiences?
  • Are they an expert on what they are talking about if they weren’t there?

For objects/photo/places:

  • Who made it?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • What can we infer from it?
  • What can’t we tell from it?

No Author on the Internet?

Sometimes there’s no author’s name. In this case you need to think of the website as the author and ask the same questions.

Evidence

A good source uses credible (reliable) evidence.

Evidence comes in many forms and includes:

  • Statistics
  • Specific names, dates and places
  • Direct quotes
  • Tables
  • Graphs
  • Oral accounts by experts
  • First-hand accounts
  • Quotes from studies or research

Ask these questions: 

  • Does this source use any evidence to back up its points?
  • What is that evidence?
  • Does it say where the evidence came from, or who said it?
  • Can we trust that person or organisation?
  • Is the information up-to-date?

What if I just talk to my family?  Do they have credible evidence?

It depends what you ask them.  If you’re asking them about their opinions, about things they have experienced or areas that they are trained in then YES.

If you’re asking them about stuff they have not experienced or know nothing about then NO.

Can I use a myth as a credible source?

Yes.  If you say where it came from and if the person who told the myth is knowledgeable. Myths give us rich insights into culture, but we need to remain weary about using them as ‘facts’. Myths often contain symbolism and can be interpreted in several ways.

Remember:

You might not agree with how the author has interpreted the evidence, but that doesn’t make it a bad source.

Genre

Genre asks us to think about what kind of source it is.

Is it a primary or a secondary source?

You can extend Genre with senior students so that you consider the aesthetic or ideological form of a text. This can help contextualise a text within a ‘school of thought’. For example, you might read a ‘feminist’ or ‘revisionist’ text. This is where students can consider historiography – the way history has been written and interpreted.

Colonisation in New Zealand has tended to be told as progressive story of development – an evolutionary movement from Polynesian homeland to colonial outpost, to independent nation-state. We might call this the ‘traditional history’. This narrative seeks to explain the past in neat chronological steps (beginning, middle, end). Overarching this ‘coherent story of New Zealand’ is a quest for ‘national identity’. (Giselle Byrnes (ed), The New Oxford History of New Zealand, 2009)

In the late twentieth century this traditional history was challenged. The rise of women’s history, indigenous history, perspectives around class, sexuality, and gender (for so long kept on the margins of history) ‘opened history up’, into a kaleidoscope of competing ‘fragments’ of history that challenged any single dominant ‘narrative’. Historians today often challenge the very notion of ‘national identity’, viewing it as an artificial idea, or myth, which obscures ongoing colonisation.

In year 13 and scholarship history you must analyse historical interpretations. This involves working out the approach the historian is using and critiquing/evaluating these interpretations.

Tone

How does the text sound?

Is it biased, informed, balanced, persuasive…? 

As E.H. Carr said, 'when you read a work of history, always listen out for the buzzing. If you can detect none, either you are tone deaf or your historian is a dull dog.'

Analysing the tone of a text can be hard. Paying attention to adjectives can help and sometimes Tone relates to evidence and Intention. 

Intention

Ask yourself: What is the purpose of the text?

Why does the text exist? Is it to entertain, persuade, inform…?

What are the key messages / ideas / arguments?

Who is the text for – which audience?

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