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Digital Literacy

This guide will help you to use information technologies and the Internet to find, evaluate, use, and share information in order to succeed academically and in your future career development.

Responsible use of digital resources

Digital literacy includes understanding and following acceptable polices and understanding the consequences of inappropriate use.


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines netiquette as

"rules about the proper and polite way to communicate with other people when you are using the Internet"
or "etiquette governing communication on the Internet."

The core rules of netiquette

(from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea).

  • Remember the Human.
  • Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life.
  • Know where you are in cyberspace.
  • Respect other people's time and bandwidth.
  • Make yourself look good online.
  • Share expert knowledge.
  • Help keep flame wars under control.
  • Respect other people's privacy.
  • Don't abuse your power.
  • Be forgiving of other people's mistakes.

E-mail etiquette

  • In brief
    • Be concise.
    • Use expressive and compelling subject lines.
    • Never send an angry or contentious email.
    • Avoid writing in all CAPITALS.
    • Spell check before sending the message.
    • Don't "reply all" unless absolute necessary.

Social media etiquette

  • In brief
    • Be polite and respectful.
    • Communicate openly and honestly.
    • Play by the rules.
    • Share what you find valuable.
    • Recognize privacy.
    • Cultivate connections.

Copyright and attribution of sources

As a digital citizen you have the right to access a huge amount of information in various formats and use it in multiple ways. However you need to remember that even resources on the public Web are not there for grabs - someone owns the copyright to them!

Copyright is a form of protection given to the authors or creators of original works, including content published on the Web. What that means is that, as the content author, you alone have the right to do any of the following or to let others do any of the following:

  • make copies of your work;
  • distribute copies of your work;
  • perform or display your work publicly;
  • make “derivative works” (including making modifications, adaptations or other new uses of a work, or translating the work to other media).

Anyone who exploits any of the exclusive rights of copyright without the copyright owner's permission commits copyright infringement.

The copyright law establishes some limitations on the rights of the copyright owner. One of the most important limitations on the exclusive rights is the doctrine of "Fair Use," which allows limited copying of copyrighted works for educational and research purposes.

Infographic on fair use fundamentalsThe "Fair Use Fundamentals" infographic (PDF file) explains what fair use is, why it is important, who use it, and provides some examples of fair use.





Infograpnic illustrating Fair Use in a day in the life of a college student

The “Fair Use in a Day in the Life of a College Student” infographic (PDF file) created by the Association of Research Libraries shows how a college student relies on fair use numerous times in a typical day.


Unless you are absolutely sure that your use of material falls under "Fair Use" provisions, you should either seek permission to use an author's work or use works from the public domain.

Public domain is a term that applies to creative works which can be re-used by anyone in any way, and for any purpose. Works in the public domain fall into three basic categories:

  • works that are not copyrightable (facts, titles, phrases, etc)
  • works that have been assigned to the public domain by their creators
  • works for which copyright has expired.

The links below are examples of copyright-free resources.

Learn more

Attribution of sources

Whether the material you are using is copyrighted, copyright, or covered by the Creative Commons License, it needs to be credited properly. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism, a severe form of academic misconduct. Learn more about citing sources and avoiding plagiarism.

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