Information literacy – an overview

If one searches for a definition for ‘information literacy’, they might be surprised to find that there are many different definitions of the term. It would appear that the way in which one defines the term differs depending on the context and purpose of the information. Furthermore, as the information environment changes and evolves, so too will the way in which we determine what constitutes information literacy.

The Behaviourist Approach to information literacy is concerned with the acquisition of skills and competencies required to be information literate. These skills include:

  • Recognise a need for information
  • Locate and evaluate the information
  • The ability to retrieve information and store it
  • The ability to use the information in an ethical manner
  • Use the information to create new knowledge and communicate this knowledge with others (Catts & Lau, 2008, p. 12)

On the other hand, the Sociocultural Approach focuses on the construction of knowledge through the interaction with the information environment and a shared experience (Lloyd, 2007). Collaboration and shared ways of interacting are communicating are considered paramount in the development of literacy within this approach (Talja & Lloyd, 2010). This approach challenges the traditional school of thought which assumes that learning is highly individual process.

Perhaps one of the challenges for educators is to use a combination of both approaches to developing informational literacy that will enable their students to become life-long learners and responsible and ethical users of information.


Catts, R., & Lau, J. (2008). Towards Information Literacy Indicators, UNESCO: Paris.

Lloyd, A. (2007).  Recasting information literacy as sociocultural practice: Implications for library and information science researchers. Information Research, 12(4).

Talja, S. & Lloyd, A. (2010). Integrating theories of learning, literacies and information practices. In Talja, S. & Lloyd, A. (2010). Practising information literacy: Bringing theories of learning, practice and information literacy together. WaggaWagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies. pp. ix-xviii.

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