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What is information literacy?

Information Literacy Logo

With information growing exponentially and traditional publication channels being supplemented by new technologies, we need to develop our understanding and skills, in order to thrive in this changing information environment.

The term information literacy encapsulates the knowledge and skills of identifying when and what information we need, where to locate it, how to manage it, how to authenticate and critically evaluate it and how to use and attribute it appropriately.

We need information literacy throughout our lives. According to UNESCO and others: 

"Information Literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning.  It empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational and educational goals."

It is a key skill for the workplace. In a study of SMEs in the UK1, for example, it was estimated that employees spend 6.4 hours a week looking for information.  37% of searches are unsuccessful, equating to £3.7 billion in wasted time each year.


Information literacy in higher education

Within universities information literacy enables us to take advantage of the ever-expanding range of information resources available and can contribute to our ability to think critically. 

Information literacy is a pre-requisite for successful student-centred learning in a research-led learning and teaching environment.  It helps to ensure academic integrity in the use of information and the avoidance of plagiarism.

Researcher working on her laptop producing a references list.

Information literacy enables researchers to harness new technologies to keep pace with current research and work with information efficiently.

The need for the university community to become more information literate has been highlighted in a number of key UK reports, including the Melville enquiry Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World and CIBER’s Google Generation report.  


Information literacy at Cardiff University

The University has set an objective of embedding information literacy into further courses.  

Specific resources are available for: 


lecturers and tutors 

staff and researchers



1DeSaulles, M. 2007. Information literacy amongst UK SME: an information policy gap. Aslib Proceedings 59(1) pp. 68-79.