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Information Literacy Topics Menu

Concept Descriptions

The following are core ideas in information literacy, as outlined in the ACRL's Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, with wording adapted from Ohio University Libraries. The workshop topics listed under the tabs in this guide work towards developing a fuller understanding of these concepts. If you have questions regarding what might best fit your assignment's objectives, please contact Paul Showalter, Coordinator of Library Instruction and Assessment, at 757-812-8754 or to discuss the possibilities.

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

  • Who we trust as an expert depends on why we need the information & who’s doing the trusting.
  • Authority exists because a community gives it to someone. Beware: sometimes authority comes mostly from “privilege” that can drown out other voices.
  • Good thinkers consider information skeptically, but keep an open mind.

Information Creation is a Process

  • The way information is shared changes the way it is created, and vice versa.
  • Good information can come in any format. Every format has its benefits and drawbacks, including assumptions about quality and authority that may or may not be true.

Information Has Value

  • Information is worth money. It can be bought and sold.
  • It is valuable because seekers learn from it & use it to influence others.
  • Economic, legal, and social forces influence how it is created, used, packaged & traded.

Research is Inquiry

  • Research is seldom a straight line with an answer at the end. It is a spiral of deeper questions that arise as understanding grows.
  • The more a researcher works, the more skill and perspective they gain about the process itself.

Scholarship is a Conversation

  • Researchers talk to one another, even across the centuries, gathering new ideas into old questions. The interplay creates new things.
  • There may be many answers to a single question.
  • A researcher may have to earn the right / learn the rules to speak in a given conversation, depending on who / what is already “in the room.” It might not be fair.
  • When someone adds a new idea, they must say whose ideas they gathered to get that far.

Searching is Strategic Exploration

  • Searching is a skill set: search mechanics matter.
  • The mental flexibility to ask a question in many different ways of many different kinds of sources – and learn as you go – is also necessary.
  • Who you are affects how you search. Learn to stretch.
  • Searching can get convoluted; stay organized.


Concept descriptions:
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Saines, S.; Broughton, K.; Intrator, M.; Schmillen, H.; & Wochna, L. (2017). How information works: ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in lay language. ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox. Retrieved from