Information Literacy

Contained on the first page is an information literacy definition, skills, and importance. Subpages contain information related to library instruction and research services.

Information literacy: Definition

Information literacy is an individual's ability to effectively find, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information. Such abilities are central to the success of the 21st century higher education student, since the qualities attained through information literacy directly influence the fostering of critical thinking skills and lifelong learning.


What skills are associated with information literacy?

The information literate student understands:

  • The information cycle: how information is published about an event, from first-hand reporting to analysis published in a scholarly work.
  • Sources: When and how to use different types (primary versus secondary versus tertiary), and the sources most valuable to their discipline.
  • The research process: how to analyze an assignment, define a research question/create a thesis statement, find sources for a topical overview, refine a topic as necessary to meet the needs of the assignment and the research, and effectively search for and find information.
  • Evaluation and collation: how to critically evaluate sources for accuracy, bias, and usefulness, and how to synthesize sources to meet their information needs.
  • Utilization: how to properly cite and use information.

Why is it important to be information literate?

To be information literate is to be an informed citizen in a democratic society. To become informed, however, requires an individual to have the ability to sift through the overwhelming amount of information produced by our society each day: from the 24/7 news cycle on the radio, television, Internet, and other media formats to the ever-expanding scholarly disciplines and sub-disciplines. Information literacy allows a person to not only search for and find information relevant to their personal, professional, and civic lives: it also allows them to critically evaluate information for accuracy and bias, and to understand and effectively apply that information.

Like any advanced skill, information literacy is a skill which takes time to develop, and will not occur immediately. A great deal of time, practice, and support must be invested to make the transition. Polk Library plays an important role in making this transition; please see the links to the right to discover how we can help your students.

For more information on information literacy and standards for higher education, please visit the Association of College and Research Libraries' website on information literacy.


"Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education", American Library Association, September 1, 2006.