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Information Literacy

This page is intended to support faculty in undertaking annual PLO assessment with a focus on the Information Literacy Core Competency. Faculty should freely use and adapt the definitions, criteria, and rubrics as they see fit to meet their disciplinary priorities. 


The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) adopted a Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education in February 2015.

In the Framework, information literacy is described as a “set of integrated abilities encompassing the

  • reflective discovery of information,
  • the understanding of how information is produced and valued,
  • the use of information in creating new knowledge and
  • participating ethically in communities of learning.”

-- from the Framework

This definition highlights that our interactions with a complex information ecosystem go beyond skill development.  Information literacy growth involves “behavioral, affective, cognitive, and metacognitive engagement” (2).   The Framework’s contents include six frames; these are the big ideas associated with information literacy. Each frame includes a description of the frame along with knowledge practices and dispositions (e.g. persistence and curiosity) representative of individuals who are developing their information literate abilities.

Information Literacy Frames

Authority is Constructed and Contextual

  • Information is created by authors with various levels of expertise and credibility.  Your information need (context) will determine the level of authority you need.   Authoritative resources may come in both traditional and unconventional forms.

Information Creation as a Process

  • Knowing how information is created and produced helps you evaluate the quality of a resource and illuminates benefits (e.g. the peer review process for an article) & constraints (the lack of currency of a book) of those resources.

Information Has Value

  • Information is intellectual property produced for different purposes (e.g. financial, reputational).  The value of information is based on various factors such as the producer, intended audience, and the content.  Both creators and consumers of information have responsibilities to ethically use information.   

Research as Inquiry

  • Research is an ongoing process to uncover and investigate questions – from simple questions to much more complicated ones.  Inquiry extends beyond academia to personal, professional, and societal problems.

Scholarship as Conversation

  • Experts consider and seek out different perspectives and interpretations.  Deeper involvement in scholarly conversations involves increasing your familiarity in a field or discipline including its “sources of evidence, methods, and modes of discourse”.  Paying attention to previous research is a necessary and ethical obligation in this scholarly conversation.

Searching as Strategic Exploration

  • Research is a nonlinear and iterative process that involves finding, accessing, and evaluating sources.   Your information need will influence where you seek out information. Expert searchers may employ more search strategies and investigate more resources than novice searchers. 

Learning Outcomes

The Framework does not formally list outcomes. However, the knowledge practices and dispositions associated with each frame function like outcomes.  Outcomes can also be crafted based on the explanations provided for each frame.

Information Literacy in the Disciplines

The ACRL also provides information literacy standards specific to particular disciplines, including 

Intersections with Other Learning Goals

As a core skill, information literacy can be expected to intersect in important ways with student development and demonstration of research or inquiry related Program Learning Outcomes. ACRL, for instance, encourages institutions to consider the Boyer Commission’s Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America's Research Universities with particular attention to embedding inquiry and Information Literacy into as many courses in undergraduate education as possible.

Similarly, information literacy will likely form an integral component of the student learning in relation to the other four Core Competencies – critical thinking, oral communication, written communication, and quantitative reasoning - the latter as it relates to the ability to evaluate the use of quantitative evidence in argument. 

Assessing Information Literacy

The AAC&U VALUE Rubric is a potential resource for evaluating information literacy though it more easily aligned with the previous ACRL Standards than the current Framework (2000).  Once identifying information literacy outcomes for a program, faculty may wish to use the VALUE Rubric or create and apply their own assessment strategies to evaluate student progress.  Information literacy assessment could involve gathering evidence of both students’ products and process.  For example, evidence could include written labs and argument papers to oral presentations and reflections on the research process.

Library Collaboration

One goal of the UC Merced Library is to create research-ready students. UC Merced librarians are particularly interested in collaborating with faculty to ensure students demonstrate strong information literacy skills at graduation.  

Toward this end, the Library and its instructional librarians are resources for cultivating information literate students. Current instructional activities include in-person library instruction both at the library and in the classroom, online tutorials, workshops and reference services. 

Because students will only become highly proficient users and producers of information through the ongoing instruction, assignments, and interactions associated with their coursework and research experiences, UC Merced librarians are keenly interested in partnering with faculty to support students’ research experiences.  

What can this look like? 

  1. revisiting an assignment and determining how to integrate information-finding
  2. requesting librarians create a online resource (library guide or tutorial) needed for students to successfully complete an assignment
  3. discussing how to scaffold students’ research experiences into a course sequence
  4. inviting librarians to participate in the evaluation of a PLO aligned with information literacy

To request any of these services, please email us or visit Library Instruction Services.


American Library Association. Presidential Committee on Information Literacy. Final Report (Chicago: American Library Association, 1989).

Association of College and Research Libraries. Framework for Infomation Literacy for Higher Education. 2015.

Association of College and Research Libraries. Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. 2000.

Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University. Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America's Research Universities. 1998.

Updated November 27, 2017