Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA English




Kelly Shea, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Edmund Jones, Ph.D.


Media Literacy, Media Education, Information Literacy, Digital Natives, Lateral Reading



The overwhelming amount of (mis)information housed online and on various social media platforms in the age of “fake news” requires the development of a first-year writing curriculum that supports students’ ability to assess source credibility. While both Millennials and Generation Z, or “zoomers,” have been labeled as “digital natives,” recent research indicates that, though these generational groups have grown up with constant access to technology, they are not necessarily experts when it comes to evaluating the credibility of online sources (Belinha 59). In fact, according to the Stanford History Education Group, “young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak” (Wineburg and McGrew, “Evaluating Information” 4). Many students surveyed for the case study described herein expressed that while they are aware of the amount of misinformation available online, they are unsure of how to effectively sift through the content available to them. One challenge of media literacy is teaching students to not only think and write critically about written sources, but also about images, videos, and audio files. Therefore, as Thoman and Jolls suggest, “If our children are to be able to navigate their lives through this multimedia culture, they need to be fluent in ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ the language of images and sounds just as we have always taught them to ‘read’ and ‘write’ the language of printed communications” (180).

The common first-year writing curriculum in CORE English I courses at Seton Hall University requires that faculty focus on a rhetorical genre approach to teaching reading and writing. Over the course of the semester, students in CORE English I are exposed to a rhetorical genre vocabulary that transfers well into an approach for media literacy and serves as a framework for students to follow as they sift through information. After posing a research paper prompt to a select group of first-year writing students, this case study examined the effectiveness of transferring the rhetorical genre approach to evaluating source credibility for online news platforms. Using this familiar approach allowed students to apply their knowledge of the rhetorical situation to identify and analyze the author, sponsor/publisher, genre, medium, audience, stance, purpose, design, tone, and content of online platforms. To gather the information necessary to complete this case study, I utilized personal interviews, student writing samples, student in-class pre-writing activities, and anonymous surveys. At the end of their interviews, consenting students were also asked about their consumption of news and how likely they are to continue thinking about the rhetorical genre strategies when consuming news as a student in their other courses and as an informed citizen beyond their higher education. I assessed the impact and longevity of the project on students’ own personal lives as informed citizens by asking about the likelihood of applying the rhetorical genre framework to their own personal consumption of news. This case study draws on this data, as well as on research from the fields of information literacy, media literacy, and media education.