Advancing Student's Information Literacy

Meg Gorzycki, Ed.D.

Why Integrate Information Literacy into the Curriculum?

The digital revolution of the 20th century makes it possible for college students to quickly access millions of sources in relatively little time. Research reveals that while many students believe they are proficient in information literacy skills, many leave college without such proficiency (Gross & Lantham, 2011). Students often require explicit instruction that will help them understand the difference between proficient information literacy skills and the basic ability to retrieve information electronically, and help them assess the credibility, relevance, accuracy, and signficance of their sources. This tutorial will address:

What is Informaiton Literacy?

Knowledge and Information Literacy

Integrating Information Literacy into the Curriculum

What is Information Literacy?

The Association of College and Research libraries (2013) has synthesized a list of desirable behaviors and competencies from various research relative to information literacy; the information literate individual is able to (Webber & Johnston, 2000):

  1. Determine the nature, depth, and scope of information required
  2. Access required information effective information effectively and efficiently
  3. Critically evaluate sources and information for accuracy, credibility, and relevance
  4. Incorporate knowledge about sources and the quality of information into his or her knowledge bank
  5. Use information effectively and appropriately to complete a specific task
  6. Understand the legal and economic issues related to access and use of electronic materials

Proficiency in information literacy reflects student mastery of the cognitive and metacognitive skills implicit in general literacy proficiency (Jackson, 2008). These skills include:

  • An understanding of metacognition and its value relative to scholarship
  • The capacity to self-regulate one’s research and reading by maintaining an awareness of what is confusing or unknown
  • The ability to anticipate research problems and what information may or may not be available
  • The ability to discern an author’s purpose and potential bias
  • The ability to draw inferences and detect implications
  • The ability to assess the accuracy, relevance, meaning, and significance of assertions
  • The ability to construct new investigations based on what has been gleaned from former studies
  • An understanding of the important differences in the structure and purpose of sources (such as articles in scholarly journals, government reports, editorials, personal blogs, and television documentaries) as those differences impact the quality of information
  • The capacity to select appropriate data bases and to interpret statistical information as illustrated in text, graphs, figures and tables

Knowledge and Information Literacy

Information literacy is concerned with declarative, procedural, and conditional knowledge. Declarative knowledge includes knowing what concepts are operative in an inquiry, what terms to use in order to locate materials and information, and what sources are likely to contain needed information (Macpherson, 2003). Procedural knowledge regards knowing what steps to take in order to access information and knowing what cognitive tasks must be performed in order to accurately read and interpret the information. Students who commence research with faulty conceptualizations or inaccurate information about sources are vulnerable to making procedural mistakes (Holliday & Li (2004). Conditional knowledge refers to knowing when to perform certain procedures and when to hold sources to certain standards of credibility.

Information literacy is a complex behavior as it relies upon individuals to successfully integrate different types of knowledge. It is possible, for example, for a student to conduct research in order to write an essay about genetically altered agricultural products, cite 35 sources, and yet produce a rather poor essay because he or she used only sources that were the first and therefor most convenient sources (Valentine, 2001), or because he or she used the least scholarly works as the basis of discussion (Davis, 2003).

Integrating Information Literacy in Existing Curriculum

Perhaps the most important step in integrating information literacy into existing curriculum is to conceptualize it as course content. For many instructors these ideas represent a shift away from the thinking that information literacy is an ancillary rather than a central concern of curriculum and that it is the exclusive duty of librarians to help students achieve information literacy. The PowerPoint, Subject and Information Literacy, may be a helpful tool for introducing subject and information literacy to students, or for having discussions with departmental colleagues about how to integrate subject and information literacy into a given program.

The following activities are recommended for effectively integrating of information literacy into existing curriculum:

  1. Develop a consensus in the department and with the subject librarian on what specific information literacy competencies will be developed in each program and what benchmarks represent progress at each phase of the program
  2. Develop a departmental consensus on how information literacy competencies will be assessed
  3. Clearly identify the learning outcomes relative to information literacy that will be pursued in a given course
  4. Dedicate appropriate class time to explicit instruction that:
    1. Helps students distinguish scholarly from unscholarly work
    2. Helps students improve their understanding of discrete strategies in research
    3. Helps students understand the declarative, procedural, and conditional knowledge associated with information literacy proficiency
    4. Help student actually read a scholarly article the way a scholar would read it
  5. Dedicate appropriate class time to exercises that rehearse students information literacy skills and that provides abundant formative  assessment so that students may improve their own monitoring of progress
  6. Meet frequently with subject librarians to learn what current research reveals about fostering information  literacy and about what their experiences with students implies about curriculum design and instruction


Association of College and Research Libraries (2013). Information literacy competency standards for higher education.

Davis, P. M. (2003). Effect of the Web on undergraduate citation behavior: guiding student scholarship in a networked age. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 3(1), 41-51.

Gross, M. & Latham, D. (2011). What’s skill got to do with it?: Information literacy skills and self-views of ability among first-year college students. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(3): 574-583.

Holliday, W. & Li, Q. (2004). Understanding the millennials: updating our knowledge about students. Reference Services Review, 32(4), 356-366.

Jackson, R. (2008). Information literacy and its relationship to cognitive development and reflective judgment. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 114, 47-61.

Macpherson, K. (2003). An information processing model of undergraduate electronic database information retrieval. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 55(4), 333-337.

Valentine, B. (2001). The legitimate effort in research papers: student commitment versus faculty expectations. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 27(2), 107-115.

Webber, S. & Johnston, B. (2000). Conceptions of information literacy: new perspectives and implications. Journal of Information Science, 26:381-397.

Additional Resources

Association of College and Research Libraries (2013). Information literacy resources.

Otis College Information Literacy

Steven, C. (2012). Integrating Information literacy into courses. APUS librarian, YouTube.