6 Improving your skills in information literacy (IL)
6.1 Introduction to improving your skills in information literacy
This key skill develops your information literacy (IL) skills in your studies, work or other activities over a period of time. To tackle all of this section you will need to plan your work over at least 3–4 months to give you enough time to practise and improve your skills, to seek feedback from others, and to monitor and evaluate your progress.
Information literacy is not the same as information technology. Information and communication technology skills tend to concentrate on using hardware and software effectively to process and communicate information. Information literacy, on the other hand, is concerned with recognising when information is needed, and locating, critically evaluating, using and presenting the information to suit a specific purpose.
Information literacy skills are important because of the rapid growth of information systems and information resources. In your studies, your work or other activities you are likely to be faced with an increasing range of information sources available through libraries, in online specialist databases, and on the Internet. But all this information raises questions about how to search for and locate what you need, as well as issues about the quality, accuracy and reliability of the information you find. A large quantity of information on its own does not make us better informed; the onus is on us to be critical and skilful users of that information and the sources to which we have access.
The key skill of information literacy is intended to develop your critical awareness and competence in handling information and information systems. Being information literate means being able to:
recognise where there is a knowledge or information ‘gap’, and identify what type of information you need to fill it;
locate appropriate information resources, and arrange access to them;
plan and monitor a search of the resources;
sort and critically evaluate the information you find;
organise and present information to others as required by your situation;
understand the social, legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of information.
Improving your skills in IL involves you planning strategically how you will go about developing your skills, as well as on which skills you should focus. In monitoring your progress you will need to apply and practise your IL skills to achieve the goals you set yourself and to reflect on, and possibly modify, your approach in the light of your own assessment of progress and feedback from others. Evaluating your strategy and presenting results gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your IL skills and assess how successful your strategy was in achieving what you set out to do.