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Research Foundations: Information Literacy

What is information literacy?

The term "information literacy" describes a set of abilities that enables an individual to acquire, evaluate, and use information. You can think of information literacy as having five components: identify, find, evaluate, apply, and acknowledge sources of information. Information literacy is a lifelong learning process, something beginning before you arrive at college and developing as you grow. While each skill is individually important, understanding how they fit together is essential to becoming an information literate person.

Why is information literacy important?

Every day we encounter an increasingly large and diverse sea of information through the Web, mass media, and published works. You can find information in many different formats, from an endless number of sources. The quality of information varies greatly between the available information choices. Just think of a typical internet search; it is common to retrieve authoritative, current, and reliable sources alongside biased, outdated, misleading, or false sources. Furthermore, an online search is likely to result in more information than can be effectively handled. The sheer amount and variety of information available to us makes information literacy competencies important to master!

Information literacy skills are vital to success in your personal, professional, and academic life. In college, you use these skills to perform well on research papers, projects, and presentations. At work you will likely encounter situations where you must seek out new information to make logical decisions. In the home, you are constantly faced with deciding consumer issues and forming opinions on social and political topics. Each situation requires engagement in the information literacy process.

5 Components of Information Literacy video

The video below will walk you through the five components of information literacy including academic and real-life examples.

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