In the Words of UMass Lowell Faculty...
From UML Faculty Development Institute
Coping with Information Literacy, 2006

• Faculty believe that students need to have a basic level of understanding and awareness about information, i.e., how it’s organized, including the fact that it is organized in a systematic way as opposed to how it is presented and made available on the web.

• They would like to be sure that students know how to engage in research and understand the research process and not just surf the web looking for information.

• Students should begin to have academic research experience during their first year in college. They should know early in their academic career how to find, evaluate, and summarize information sources.

• Students should know and be able to identify good sources of information – whether its database choices or simply reliable information on the web. This implies they have the ability to evaluate web resources and are able to ask the right questions when they come upon a site. On a practical level this means for example, “Source one says ‘x.’ Source two says ‘y.’ And here are the differences.”

• Students should be able to summarize what they have learned in their own words.

• Many attendees agreed that the University should offer a basic [preliminary] research course for all students (regardless of college or discipline) – perhaps during 2nd semester freshman year.

• Some faculty voiced the concern that students do not understand the nature of academic discourse (or even the role of discourse in society, for that matter) and that it is more than simply finding information and voicing one’s opinion. ["What is an argument and how is one put together?"] Students don’t often understand or aren’t aware that there is often a whole body of literature on a topic that informs one’s opinion.



A Checklist of Information Competencies for College Students

Lower Division Students
Basic Information Resources and Search Strategies

Ability to:

  • Use signage, maps, and user guides to locate library collections and services
  • Use the library’s classification system to browse by subject and to locate an item by call number
  • Develop a focused topic and strategies for obtaining needed information
  • Gather background information in books and encyclopedic works
  • Search by author, title, and keyword in library online catalog and locate relevant items
  • Identify relevant keywords and controlled vocabulary terms for searching a topic
  • Conduct a search in an interdisciplinary database (e.g., Expanded Academic ASAP) using Boolean operators, limit function, etc.
  • Identify relevant subject databases, e.g., PsycInfo and execute a basic search
  • Use database features to mark/save/print/email citations and link to fulltext
  • Interpret catalog and database search results; link from subject headings to find additional resources
  • Determine local availability of cited items and use interlibrary loan services as needed
  • Match search tool to information need: academic library databases, search engines (e.g., Google), etc.
  • Evaluate information gathered by such criteria as: relevance, authority, currency, peer review process
  • Revise topic and/or strategy if search results are unsatisfactory
  • Understand and differentiate between primary vs. secondary, popular vs. scholarly resources
  • Summarize, organize, and synthesize information found
  • Cite sources properly according to appropriate style guide
  • Observe copyright guidelines; legally obtain, store, and use text and data
  • Recognize the need for information for any purpose (academic, work, personal)


Upper Division Students
Disciplinary Resources and Critical Evaluation

Ability to:

  • Identify and use specialized reference sources in the major field, e.g., subject dictionaries
  • Use special features of subject databases, e.g., chemical structure searching in SciFinder Scholar
  • Select controlled vocabulary specific to the discipline
  • Use appropriate subject-based style manuals and/or citation style formatting software
  • Describe how research literature is generated and disseminated in the major subject
  • Identify investigative methods in the major subject, e.g., fieldwork in anthropology
  • Identify and use unique resources in the major subject, e.g., case studies (business) and datasets (geography)
  • Observe guidelines and standards endorsed by the discipline/profession, e.g., human subjects research
  • Use appropriate criteria to evaluate and select resources suitable for upper-division work, such as relevance, scope, authority, objectivity, and currency
  • Perform cited reference searches in order to follow a research topic forward and backward in time
  • Conduct a comprehensive literature review for papers/projects, including books, journal articles, dissertations, technical reports, non-print media, etc.
  • Analyze a body of research literature, drawing conclusions and developing new insights
  • Use research collections beyond the local library when needed (e.g., special libraries and archives)
  • Apply ethical and legal principles to the use of information in all formats and contexts
  • Apply acquired information and research skills in new situations and contexts


NOTE: This Checklist was a collaborative work by a team of California State University and California community college librarians. Together, they developed a common understanding of the competencies students should master during their college years. The Checklist is intended to be a succinct list of essential competencies that could encourage collaboration among libraries serving two- and four-year institutions and also serve as a resource for planning and assessing information literacy programs.



  Information Literacy Bibliography: Suggested readings
  • Badke, W. (2009) How we failed the Net Generation. (“Infolitland” column). Online. 33(3) July/Aug 2009, pp. 47-49.
  • Breivik, P.S. (2005) 21st Century learning and information literacy. Change, March/Apr 2005, pp. 20-27.
  • Kasowitz-Scheer, A., & Pasqualoni, M. (2002, June). Information Literacy Instruction in Higher Education. ERIC Digest.
  • Mackey, T.P. and Trudi E. Jacobson. (2006) Information Literacy: A collaborative endeavor. College Teaching, 53(4) pp. 140-144.
  • Mackey, T. P., & Jacobson, T. E. (2004). Integrating information literacy in lower-and upper-level courses: Developing scalable models for higher education. JGE: The Journal of General Education, 53(3-4), 201-224.
  • Nunberg, Geoffrey. "Teaching Students to Swim in the Online Sea." New York Times 13 Feb. 2005. Print.
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