Information Literacy

Introduction to Information Literacy

Case study

Meet Jane!

    • Jane is a parliamentary researcher who has been asked by an MP to write a report about use of vaccines in Africa
    • Jane prepares the report… but the MP is not happy
    • He complains that:
–some of it is based on unreliable sources such as anti-vaccine lobby groups
–Some of the data is over ten years old
–Some of the information concerns vaccine use in Europe not in Africa
–Some key sources such as the World Health Organisation have not been consulted
Why do you think Jane did not use better information?

What is Information Literacy?

IL is a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the information needed

“Seven pillars” of Information Literacy

  1. Recognizing an information need
  2. Distinguishing ways of addressing information gaps
  3. Constructing strategies of locating information required
  4. Locating and assessing information
  5. Comparing and evaluating found information
  6. Organising, applying and communicating
  7. Synthesising and creating new knowledge

An Information Literate Person is one who can…

  • Know the extent of information needed.
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently.
  • Critically evaluate information and its sources.
  • Incorporate the selected information into her knowledge base.
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose (eg. solve a problem, add new knowledge).
  • Understand the economic, legal and social issues surrounding the accessed information and so use the information ethically and legally.

Information Literacy involves:

  1. Attitudes
  2. Knowledge
  3. Skills

Lifelong learning

What is lifelong learning?
Do people need to learn how to learn?
Information Literacy is the key to lifelong learning

Gathering information at school

Think back to when you were at school…
Why did you need new information?
Where did you get information from?
Were you encouraged to ask questions?
Did you ‘critically evaluate’ the information from your teacher?
If not, why not?

When we were at school, many of us learnt ‘by rote’
We were not encouraged to ask questions and investigate

Gathering information now

Discuss with a partner
Has your experience at school affected your information seeking behaviour as an adult?
Are you curious to find out new information or do you tend to accept what you are told?
What attitudes prevent you from seeking information?

Asking questions is good.
The first step to being information literate is being curious .
Asking questions and seeking new information is how you will continue to learn and develop.



Introduction to Electronic Resources Management

Using electronic resources


  1. An Electronic Resource is any information source that can only be accessed using a computer
  2. May be electronic version of print
  3. May be electronic version only


  • E-journals
  • E-books
  • Databases
  • Reference material
  • Digital collections
  • Other related materials

Why use e-resources?


  1. Current (very current contents)
  2. Easy and efficient retrieval process
  3. Sharing of resources (can be accessed by many at the same time)
  4. Easy to access related items
  5. Easy to browse
  6. Saves time for both user and staff
  7. No cataloguing  (MARC records are part of the package)
  8. Economic (subscribe or purchase in packages)
  9. Enhanced security (no loses, no mutilation…)

More Benefits

  • Easy to monitor and evaluate usage (publishers provide usage statistics)
  • Access to publishers’ added benefits (training, advanced search tools, friendly platforms, alerts, etc.)
  • Fun

Most important benefit

  • Enhances Research Activities – the benefits listed above enhance access to quality content which leads to more and better research output.


 Effective searching of e-resources


The volume of electronic information is overwhelming. It is not easy to identify and access relevant information. Search skills can assist in retrieving relevant information and saving time.
Librarians hold the key to such competencies. They need to understand effective search strategies

Preparing a search strategy

  • Effective searching is a process
  • Define a search topic
  • Identify possible search terms
  • Refine a search strategy

Defining a Search Topic

Your search topic: Sexual violence in armed conflicts

  1. What do you know about the topic?
  2. Define the scope
  3. Regional coverage (continent, region, country, etc.) e.g. in Africa, in Kenya, in Western Kenya…

Identifying Search Terms

What are the possible terms you can use for searching?
Examples:Sexual violence, Sexual harassment, sexual crime, sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape, Armed conflicts
Regional conflicts, war, armed forces, women in armed conflicts,

Issues to consider

  1. Synonyms (mobile phones, cellular phones)
  2. Plural/singular forms (woman, women…)
  3. Spelling variations (honour, honor…)
  4. Variations of root word (feminism, feminist, feminine….)
  5. Acronyms (CEO, Chief Executive Office…)
  6. Lower/upper case

Where to start the search

  1. Library website
  2. INASP country page
  3. Publisher platform
  4. Google or other search engine
  5. Other logical starting point


  • Any of the identified terms and related terms can be used in the search separately
  • The end results will be overwhelming making selection fairly time consuming
  • To enhance accuracy and save on time, one has to refine the search by combining search terms
  • Predicting results

– How many documents would you like to retrieve?
– A few very specific ones?
– Lots of general ones?

Refining a Search

  • Using the identified search terms separately is a broad search which may result in overwhelming results
  • To refine the search one has to narrow the search
  • Boolean Operators assist a researcher to combine two or more search terms to enhance accuracy

Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators consists of 3 words

These words can be used to combine search terms to narrow or broaden the search

AND: retrieves a document on condition that both search terms used are present
e.g.  Sexual violence AND armed conflicts

OR:  retrieves documents with either of the search terms used
e.g. sexual violence OR armed conflicts

NOT:  Excludes documents with one of the search terms from the results
Sexual violence  NOT  rape



  • Truncation is another strategy for broadening a search.
  • It helps to retrieve related terms in one search.
  • It also solves the problem of singular and plural.

But truncation is used with a code e.g. $ or *  This depends on the search engine used

Search Topic is Economics and development

Economic development will certainly be useful to this topic

Econ*.  Will retrieve documents with both terms


Field searching

Most publisher resources offer advanced search functions

  1. Author
  2. Journal title
  3. Article title
  4. Date ranges
  5. Abstract


Search modifications

  • Learner-centred – alternative spellings?
  • Pedagogical – where should we truncate?
  • Education – what will it produce?
  • Train the trainer – any irrelevant items?  How would you use this?
  • Evaluating a Search Strategy


Too many results?

  • Review strategy
  • Use more specific terms
  • Combine search terms using AND or NOT


Too few results?

  • Review strategy
  • Use broader terms
  • Combine search terms using OR


  • Download documents

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