Information Literacy

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A binary street sign? Information is everywhere.
Information Literacy empowers and enhances the search and research ability of each student to interpret course outlines, lectures, assignments, etc. to perform satisfactorily in their study. This course enables you to identify and use an information seeking strategy to locate, evaluate and use information in information sources both published and unpublished, in oral, literature and electronic based sources. The conceptual framework is Learning to Read, Reading to Learn and Learning to Learn.

When one is confronted with a problem, whether in school, at home, or any where, finding answers to that particular problem requires information literacy skills. The aim of this unit is to understand the three main concepts which forms the basis of the knowledge and skills of Information Literacy.

Information Literacy is the first of twelve units in the Course "Information Literacy" offered by the Information and Communication Science disciplne at The University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). It is a first-year course aimed at giving students the necessary information search and retrieval skills to assist them in their undergraduate years at UPNG.

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At the end of this unit, you should:
  • Define Information Literacy and relate it to your everyday experience of solving problems by using information
  • Understand the relationship between Information, Literacy and Information Literacy

Sub topics covered in this unit:

  • 1.Information
  • 2.Literacy
  • 3.Information Literacy
  • 4.The Relationship


The first concept to grasp its meaning is Information. What is Information? Information, as a term means slightly differently in different contexts. For example, flight information on TV screens at airport is information for the travelling public. Street signs is information. Odour of flowers is information. Winking and waving is information.

There are many definitions of Information. As a starting point, consider this one from Wikipedia:

Wikipedia svg logo-en.svg  Information
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest historical meaning of the word information in English was the act of informing, or giving form or shape to the mind, as in education, instruction, or training. A quote from 1387: "Five books come down from heaven for information of mankind." It was also used for an item of training, e.g. a particular instruction. "Melibee had heard the great skills and reasons of Dame Prudence, and her wise information and techniques." (1386)

The English word was apparently derived by adding the common "noun of action" ending "-ation" (descended through French from Latin "-tio") to the earlier verb to inform, in the sense of to give form to the mind, to discipline, instruct, teach: "Men so wise should go and inform their kings." (1330) Inform itself comes (via French) from the Latin verb informare, to give form to, to form an idea of. Furthermore, Latin itself already even contained the word informatio meaning concept or idea, but the extent to which this may have influenced the development of the word information in English is unclear.

As a final note, the ancient Greek word for form was είδος eidos, and this word was famously used in a technical philosophical sense by Plato (and later Aristotle) to denote the ideal identity or essence of something (see Theory of forms). "Eidos" can also be associated with thought, proposition or even concept.

This extract is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. It uses material from the article "Information", retrieved 13 August 2008.


The second concept is Literacy. Literacy can be understood and or defined as the human capacity to interpret a given signal and apply it to solving a problem. That's the way I see it.

Here is what wikipedia says about Literacy:

The traditional definition of literacy is considered to be the ability to read and write, or the ability to use language to read, write, listen, and speak. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication, or at a level that lets one understand and communicate ideas in a literate society, so as to take part in that society. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted the following definition: "'Literacy' is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society." In modern times, illiteracy is seen as a social problem to be solved through education. (Source:

Information Literacy

The third concept is Information Literacy. Information Literacy is having or acquiring the necesaary knowledge and skills to retrieve information to solve a problem.

Here is what wikipedia says about Information Literacy: Several conceptions and definitions of information literacy have become prevalent. For example, one conception defines information literacy in terms of a set of competencies that an informed citizen of an information society ought to possess to participate intelligently and actively in that society (from [1]).

The American Library Association's (ALA) Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, Final Report states that, "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information" (1989).

Jeremy Shapiro & Shelley Hughes (1996) define information literacy as "A new liberal art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural, and philosophical context and impact." (from [2])

Information literacy is becoming a more important part of K-12 education. It is also a vital part of university-level education (Association of College Research Libraries, 2007). In our information-centric world, students must develop skills early on so they are prepared for post-secondary opportunities whether that be the workplace or in pursuit of education. (Source:

The Relationship

Being literate basically means acquring some writing and reading skills. Being information literate means acquiring the skills and knowledge to access, analyse, evaluate, synthesis and use information. Thus the relationship is that, one must be literate in a language to become information literate. This means one

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