Saint-Louis University - Bruxelles

DROI1121 - Criticism of Information Sources

Credits : 3

Lecturers :
Teaching assistant :
Mode of delivery :
Face-to-face , first term, 30 hours of theory.

Timetable :
First term
Thursday from 10:45 to 12:45 at Ommegang Om10

Language of instruction :
French. The course may be illustrated by some audiovisual documents in Dutch or English (generally with subtitles).

Learning outcomes :
This course does not aim to teach the students to be critical or hypercritical. The aim is to introduce them to a methodology that will enable them to express a reasoned and scientific criticism of written and oral sources, which they may be faced with. This method was developed by historians, but its techniques will be applied to contemporary sources, in particular to the press and the legal testimony.

By the end of the course, the students should be able to develop an external and internal criticism of a written document or oral source (testimony, interview, survey), which is the preparatory approach to any interpretation of sources. This way, they should be able to recognise a forgery, a plagiary and to know the techniques that will enable them to assess the accuracy and truthfulness of a testimony.

Prerequisites :

Co-requisites :

Course contents :
The course is divided into three main parts.

The first part is devoted to the typology of sources. Here we will present the main characteristics and the informative value of written, material (especially iconographic) and oral sources.

The second part will deal with external criticism (authenticity, originality and textual criticism). The notions of "authenticity" (the authentic act in law and in history) and of "forgeries" will be explored and illustrated, as the aim is not only to recognise the forgeries, but also to wonder about their "raison d'être" (economical, political, philosophical, etc.).

In the third part we will study internal criticism (interpretation and authority criticism). We will focus on the analysis of the written and audiovisual press and on criticism of evidence in civil and criminal proceedings (especially the legal testimony). There, we will learn from concrete examples, how to recognise voluntary or involuntary distortions of reality.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods :
This course tries to strike a balance between the theoretical lectures and practical exercises. Firstly, the theory is presented and, as much as possible, illustrated by concrete examples. The students have at their disposal a framework-syllabus, which includes a detailed outline of the course (including technical terms) and an exhaustive bibliography enabling them to go further into the subject matter.
After the ex cathedra lecture, we will put theory into practice through the projection of video recordings (television broadcastings, reports, documentary films), which illustrate press criticism and the use of the historical critical method by lawyers, prosecutors, investigating judges or parliamentary committees.

Assessment methods and criteria :
The final assessment is a written examination which includes two types of questions: on the one hand there are theoretical questions to assess if the student has mastered the methodology taught in class (this part counts for half of the final mark) and, on the other hand, exercises through which the students must demonstrate their ability to use the different critical methods in concrete cases.

Recommended or required reading :
An exhaustive bibliography is to be found in the framework-syllabus.

Other information :