Skip to Main Content

Student Learning Success Guides!

INFORMATION LITERACY is the ability to find, evaluate, and effectively use information when you need it. This is an important set of skills for life, both during and after college.


Identify the best sources of information for your course or program (e.g., a specific database or journal).

Remain open to new approaches in research: finding information is not a single straight path.

Remember that information has value for education, influence, and as a commodity.

Read sources critically. Information resources reflect their creators' expertise and credibility.

Think about scholarship as a conversation in which ideas are formulated, debated, and reinterpreted over time.


When you need to find information and can't find good sources via Google, where do you look?

How do you assess the trustworthiness of online sources?

How do you choose between credible sources?

How do you avoid plagiarism when you use others' work?

When making major life decisions, how much research do you do?

Searching is strategic exploration.

Determine the extent of information needed.

Try to match your information need with appropriate sources:

  • If you need background information, use encyclopedias or “research starters” in the Library databases.
  • If you need scholarly theory use academics, academic journals or associations, and subject-specific databases.
  • If you need new ideas or theories, use news media, academics, blogs, podcasts, and new or emerging media.

Remember:  ”Common sense” sometimes includes ideas or myths that are widely accepted as true but have never been tested or verified!

(If you doubt the credibility of a claim or story, check out

Note: Your own unconscious bias might trick you into choosing inappropriate sources!

Research is an inquiry.

Access the information you need effectively and efficiently.

  • Your research strategies depend on your information needs. Get to know where to find the best sources to avoid wasting your time.
  • Initial research is a time to exercise your intellectual curiosity and explore your topic by asking questions and analyzing current debates or conversations about your topic.

Example:  An essay on psychology and therapeutic counseling should focus on medical, health and human services, and nursing databases.

Authority is constructed and contextual.

Critically evaluate information and its sources.

  • Know the difference between well supported arguments and unsupported opinions.
  • Articles are well-supported if they reference proven scientific facts or previous studies that show the same outcome.
  • Editorials or blog posts might rely on Truthiness (a term invented by comedian Stephen Colbert): “Sounds good to me; therefore, I’ll believe it’s fact.”
  • Authoritative or “standard” sources exist for every subject: newspapers, blogs written by experts, academic journals, trade publications, and people with specific experience.

Scholarship is a conversation.

Incorporate selected information into your knowledge base.

As your research progresses and you learn more, your research questions will become more complex or focused.

  • What is already known about a specific issue?
  • How has the problem been addressed in the past?

After you have solid background knowledge, you might focus on new or controversial theories and ideas.

You join the scholarly conversation about a subject or discipline by choosing sources, using them in your writing, and citing them.

Information creation is a process.

Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.

Information is created in many ways to serve numerous diverse functions.

The purpose of an information item impacts how it is created and how much value it holds for different groups.

Most creative endeavours follow this sequence:

  • Planning             
  • Creating                    
  • Editing                         
  • Sharing

Most new students focus all their energy on the creation phase. Don’t neglect the planning and editing phases! Change this habit, and your results will likely improve.

Information has value.

Understand the value of information; access and use information ethically and legally.

  • Information is a valuable commodity.

                 For example, marketing firms pay to access your internet browsing habits.

  • Information educates and influences decisions.
  • Information can change and improve the world when used appropriately.
  • Academic research represents years of work and study.

This is why we pay fees to access scholarly databases and why some people advocate for “open access” to scholarly information.

This is also why you must use information ethically by citing your research sources.


ACRL Definition: Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.

This video was created by Eastern Gateway Community College.