Information Literacy

Information Literacy refers to a cluster of competencies associated with consuming, evaluating, producing, using, and archiving information. Knowledge of information literacy practices, perspectives, and strategies is a prerequisite for critical literacy, clarity, and persuasiveness in communication.
Information Literacy: Travelers in line at an airport reading signs as they enter another country.

As travelers enter a new space, perhaps a new country, they read the signs: they engage in literacy.

Information Literacy: Travelers in line at an airport reading signs as they enter another country.

What is Information Literacy?

Information Literacy may be conceptualized as

  • a competency, the ability to recognize “when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use the needed information” (American Library Association, 1989)
  • “a cluster of interconnected core activities, frameworks” that constitute information ecosystems (ACRL 2015)
  • a subject of study
    • Consuming, evaluating, producing, managing, using, and archiving information–these are topics of ongoing scholarship in Information Studies, Writing Studies, and related disciplines. This academic field is under constant evolution as new communication technologies evolve.

What is Information?
Information is everything your senses perceive, including visual, auditory, or kinesthetic data.

What is Literacy?
Literacy is the ability to identify, interpret signs, and communicate with signs, using whatever medium or semiotic system the audience(s) expects you to use.

Synonymous Terms

Information Literacy may also be called

  • Data Information Literacy
  • Science Communication
  • STEM Literacy for Learning.

Related Concepts: Copyright; Critical Literacy; Evidence; Plagiarism; Rhetorical Analysis; Rhetorical Reasoning; Semiotics: Sign, Signifier, Signified; The CRAAP Test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose)

Why Does Information Literacy Matter?

In order to thrive, much less survive in a global information economy, people need to be strategic about how they consume and use information.

The cluster of competencies associated with information literacy are a prerequisite to survival in an information economy. Information Literacy competencies can protect you from

  • being spammed, tricked, or fooled by bad actors
  • making decisions based on emotions rather than reason, being overly swayed by appeals to pathos
  • being uninformed about the best information on a topic
  • making poor decisions, contrary to the decisions you would make if you had been informed, evidence-based decisions.

“Over the past decade, we have seen a crisis of authenticity emerge. We now live in a world where anyone can publish an opinion or perspective, whether true or not, and have that opinion amplified within the information marketplace. At the same time, Americans have unprecedented access to the diverse and independent sources of information, as well as institutions such as libraries and universities, that can help separate truth from fiction and signal from noise.”

Obama, Barack (2009). “National Information Literacy Awareness Month” (PDF).

What Competencies are Associated with Information Literacy?

Most generally, Information Literacy refers to a cluster of competencies, including the ability

  • to recognize when you need information
  • to understand the type of information you need
  • to know how to search for information
  • to know how to interpret information
    • to know how to engage in critical research practices
  • to know how to engage in the research methods sanctioned by your targeted audience
  • to know how to use and cite information
  • to know how to remediate texts in new media

By using critical perspectives when consuming, evaluating, or producing information, people develop competencies that have been conceptualized as “a basic human right in a digital world” (Alexandria Proclamation 2005).

Core Competencies
Be conscious of when you need information.
Learn to adeptly research information to inform and solve problems, entertain, or persuade.
Evaluate information critically (e.g, distinguish fake news from real news).
Be aware of ethical and unethical uses of information, including plagiarism.
Weave sources strategically into your text without undermining your purpose or losing your intended voice or tone.
Establish the credibility of your sources for your audience. Avoid patchwriting.
Cite sources correctly.
Information Literacy Core Competencies

Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

ACRL Frameworks (aka Threshold Concepts) for Information Literacy

In Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, the ACRL imagines six critical frameworks, aka mindsets, that inform clear and persuasive acts of communication:

  1. Authority is Constructed & Contextual
  2. Information Creation as a Process
  3. Information Has Value
  4. Research as Inquiry
  5. Scholarship as a Conversation
  6. Searching as Strategic Exploration

Works Cited

Alexandria Proclamation on Information Literacy and Lifelong Learning, 2005. Information literacy. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved from

Association of College and Research Libraries. “Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.” Text. Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), October 10, 2019,

ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) (2015) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education,, 12/21/19.

CWPA 2011. Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing,, 3/3/20.

Obama, Barack (2009). “National Information Literacy Awareness Month” (PDF).