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Information Literacy

"to carry the keys of the world's library in your pocket, and feel its resources behind you in whatever task you undertake "

--'Offer of the College,' by William DeWitt Hyde, Seventh President of Bowdoin College

An information literate person:

  1. Identifies a need for information, is able to develop an appropriate research strategy and plan of action and
    • assumes responsibility for being an engaged, active, and critical participant;
    • is familiar with his/her own learning style and adjusts the research process accordingly.
  2. Recognizes that various disciplines and types of information have unique organizational structures, each with different means of access and
    • identifies appropriate and authoritative tools (e.g., library catalog, indices and abstracts, bibliographies, reference works, etc.) for a given subject, discipline, or type of information (e.g., government documents, journals, books, etc.) using research guides, help pages, and other instructional resources;
    • seeks assistance and guidance from instructors and librarians;
    • formulates strategies for approaching poorly organized information.
  3. Selects and uses a variety of general and in-depth research tools, in print and electronic formats and
    • understands that each source is best suited for specific purposes and audiences and
      provides differing amounts of information (e.g., brief or thorough, citations or full-text, introductory or advanced);
    • locates basic resources that identify the vocabulary of the discipline;
    • formulates efficient search queries, specific to each tool, using controlled vocabulary, keyword searching, natural language, Boolean operators, truncation and other techniques;
    • documents, for future reference, each step of the research process as well as source materials consulted.
  4. Analyzes search results and selects relevant sources and
    • considers authority, bias, accuracy and other criteria to determine the value of sources, e.g., author's credentials, publisher's reputation;
    • evaluates appropriateness of sources for a particular information need (e.g., peer-reviewed and popular publications, primary and secondary sources);
    • captures, records, and manages pertinent citation information using bibliographic management software or other means;
    • understands the procedures for obtaining material available locally or through interlibrary loan, document delivery services, and other means;
    • considers refining the search strategy if the number or relevancy of sources does not meet expectations.
  5. Synthesizes the ideas and concepts from the information sources collected and
    • combines research with original thought, experimentation, and analysis;
    • selects a communication medium (e.g., narrative text, video, website, etc.) appropriate to the purpose of the research and intended audience;
    • chooses an appropriate documentation style and uses it consistently to cite sources.
  6. Understands the legal, ethical, economic, and public policy issues related to the production and use of information and information technology and
    • is aware of the social, political, and economic factors that influence which research is undertaken and what gets published;
    • understands what constitutes plagiarism and recognizes when ideas and concepts need to be attributed;
    • understands intellectual property, copyright, and fair use of copyrighted material;
    • legally acquires, stores, and distributes text, data, images, sounds or videos;
    • understands issues relating to freedom of access to information and censorship;
    • understands privacy and security issues related to both the print and electronic environments.
  7. Regularly transfers information seeking skills to each new information need and 
    • is able to apply skills and techniques of the information seeking process across a variety of academic disciplines;
    • builds on existing knowledge of the research process to address future academic, work-related and personal information needs.

Developed by Bowdoin College librarians, March 2004. Portions of this document were inspired by: The Mission of Bowdoin College; and adapted from Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, American Library Association (Association of College and Research Libraries); and Information Literacy Competencies and Criteria for Academic Libraries in Wisconsin, (Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians)