OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

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Undergraduate Information Literacy Competencies

An OSU graduate:

Preamble

Oregon State University's Strategic Plan acknowledges that "at no time in our history has the ability to absorb, understand and evaluate information been so important." Although finding information seems easier now than even ten years ago, many students struggle with the process of research. We want students to see research as a process of discovery - reading, learning, creating new connections. We want them to begin participating in larger intellectual conversations, contextualizing their own ideas and acknowledging the ideas of those from whom they are learning. Finally, we want students to use information ethically and legally, avoiding plagiarism and respecting the intellectual property rights of others.

In this document, Reference and Instruction Librarians at OSU Libraries have laid out a set of four Undergraduate Information Literacy competencies that, taken together, describe an OSU graduate who can do all of this and more. These competencies were developed in collaboration with teaching faculty and others interested in student learning and achievement at OSU. Each competency is a separate, definable step in an iterative research process, emphasizing exploration, discovery and learning.

This document is not a comprehensive list of learning outcomes for teaching research skills. Representative examples are provided that illustrate the full scope of what it means to be information literate. As a companion piece to this document, we are developing additional measurable student learning outcomes. Some of these outcomes address general skills; others emphasize research in the disciplines. The competencies and outcomes should be used by both teaching faculty and instruction librarians as they develop student assignments and activities throughout the curriculum.

We would like to acknowledge all of the faculty members and others, campus-wide, who took time to work with us on the development of these competencies. We look forward to continuing this conversation with the OSU community.

I. Recognizes when information is needed

Successful learners recognize gaps in their knowledge, and seek out information to fill those gaps. Successful learners are aware of the wide variety of information sources available to them, and they understand the social, political, legal and economic contexts in which information is produced.

For example, successful learners:

  • Differentiate between simple questions that can be answered by consulting a single source and complex questions that require them to synthesize information from a variety of sources.
  • Plan their research process, considering economic, social, legal and political factors that might limit their access to information or affect how they can use that information.
  • Predict which sources are likely to hold answers to their questions and understand that different sources are useful in different situations.
  • Articulate their information need, considering their goals as well as the expectations of their intended audience.
  • Identify new lines of inquiry and reconsider their previous work as their understanding of their topic develops.

II. Finds information efficiently

Successful learners know that different kinds of information sources can be retrieved in different ways, and that there are a variety of tools to help them. They find information quickly and effectively because they know how information retrieval tools work, and they use that knowledge to design effective search strategies. They can troubleshoot unproductive searches. They know when to persevere, when to ask for help, and where that help is available.

For example, successful learners:

  • Choose research tools that lead to the types of sources that provide the most relevant and appropriate information for their particular needs.
  • Interpret a citation or reference to a particular book, article or other piece of information and use that reference to find the cited source.
  • Construct effective search strategies, even when faced with unfamiliar research tools.
  • Stay organized as they search for information, keeping track of where they've been and what they've found.
  • Analyze the costs and benefits of retrieving particular information sources, recognizing that there may be economic, social, political or legal restrictions to consider.
  • Identify experts, key concepts and new ideas from the information they find, and use these authors, concepts and ideas to refine and improve their searches.

III. Learns from information gathered

Successful learners analyze and question the sources they find, choosing the most effective information sources for their needs and integrating the information from those sources into their own knowledge base to achieve new levels of understanding.

For example, successful learners:

  • Ask "who created this, and why" when they find new information, knowing that the answers to those questions will help them evaluate the new information's usefulness.
  • Assess the value of different information sources using a variety of criteria related to both relevance and quality.
  • Seek out new ideas and concepts in the information they find, and understand that those ideas might challenge their beliefs.
  • Explore widely during the process of gathering information, recognizing that this exploration contributes to their knowledge, and that they will not directly use everything they read to answer their question.
  • Synthesize ideas from a variety of sources into personal understanding of their research area.

IV. Uses information effectively and ethically

Successful learners consider their purpose, their message, the resources available to them, and the needs of their intended audience to organize and communicate their information effectively and responsibly.

For example, successful learners:

  • Demonstrate how their ideas fit into a larger context by integrating information from outside sources into their work, quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing appropriately and ethically.
  • Select those pieces of information that effectively communicate their message, considering their own purpose as well as the expectations of their audience.
  • Use the information they find to create original intellectual products, reformatting, reorganizing, and rephrasing it as needed to be clear and convincing to their intended audience.
  • Generate complete and accurate references for the sources they use in their work, providing enough information so that others can use their citations to find the original sources.
  • Choose and correctly apply disciplinary or professional conventions for presenting information and documenting sources.