This guide is for instructors interested in integrating information literacy more fully into their classes or curricula. It describes information literacy in relation to the Association for College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy.

Ingram Library's subject librarians welcome you to talk with us about the Framework or about information literacy in the context of your class.

  • Framework
  • Inquiry
  • Conversation
  • Authority
  • Strategic Searching
  • Information Creation
  • Information Value
  • Framework

    Information Literacy and ACRL Framework

    "Information literacy" refers to abilities and understandings needed for finding, evaluating, using, and creating information. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy takes a conceptual approach to information literacy that reflects the context-dependent nature of information practices. The Framework is structured by 6 conceptual "frames," each o which is further outlined by related "knowledge practices" and "dispositions." 

    This guide includes:

    • an overview of the Framework's 6 "frames"
    • teaching ideas and videos
    • "Questions about Your Discipline" intended to help instructors think about a given frame's relevance to their field

    Many thanks to Sara Miller for permission to reuse her work in this guide's "Questions about Your Discipline" sections, as well as to the Univ. of Washington Libraries for their Framework videos.

    • 6 Conceptual Frames

      (The text below is a paraphrase of the ACRL Framework, not direct quotes.)

      • Research as Inquiry - Research is as an iterative process of asking and exploring questions.

      • Scholarship as Conversation - Academic sources and research are reflective of larger lines of inquiry and dialogue.

      • Authority Is Constructed and Contextual - Different communities recognize different kinds of authority. Whether a source is appropriately authoritative depends partly on the context in which the information is used (e.g., intended audience, purpose).

      • Searching as Strategic Exploration - Information searching is an exploratory process that involves ongoing evaluation and revision of strategies and research questions.

      • Information Creation as a Process - The processes used to create, distribute, and use information are reflected in the resulting information source and in its actual and potential uses.

      • Information Has Value - The economic, social, cultural, or political value of information Information affects its production and dissemination.
    • Conceptual Lens

      The ACRL Framework's 6 conceptual understandings are intended to articulate "big ideas" that encourage critical and metacognitive thinking. The document is informed by Wiggins & McTighe's approach to instructional design(1) and by the "theory of threshold concepts"(2).

      1. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004).

      2. "Threshold concepts" are defined in the Framework as "core or foundational concepts that, once grasped by the learner, create new perspectives and ways of understanding a discipline or challenging knowledge domain"Jan H. F. Meyer, Ray Land, and Caroline Baillie. “Editors’ Preface.” In Threshold Concepts and Transformational Learning, edited by Jan H. F. Meyer, Ray Land, and Caroline Baillie, ix–xlii. (Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2010).

  • Inquiry

    Research as Inquiry

    Research is as an iterative process of asking and exploring questions. (paraphrased) 

    From the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy:

    Research as Inquiry: Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field.

    Experts see inquiry as a process that focuses on problems or questions in a discipline or between disciplines that are open or unresolved. Experts recognize the collaborative effort within a discipline to extend the knowledge in that field. Many times, this process includes points of disagreement where debate and dialogue work to deepen the conversations around knowledge. This process of inquiry extends beyond the academic world to the community at large, and the process of inquiry may focus upon personal, professional, or societal needs. The spectrum of inquiry ranges from asking simple questions that depend upon basic recapitulation of knowledge to increasingly sophisticated abilities to refine research questions, use more advanced research methods, and explore more diverse disciplinary perspectives. Novice learners acquire strategic perspectives on inquiry and a greater repertoire of investigative methods. 

    • Assignment Ideas
      • In an upper level course, students trace the development of a scholar’s research agenda following a sequence of presentations, publications (perhaps starting with a dissertation topic), social media presence, etc. The students reflect upon the inquiry underlying these information packages in an e-portfolio assignment.

      • A researcher/guest speaker attends the class and describes a research project from conception to conclusion. Students attempt to diagram the steps reflected in the description, and then work with the speaker to develop a robust conception of the process (recognizing that the process varies from project to project and researcher to researcher). Students then journal about how their research process relates to that of the researcher, and what changes they might make in order to attempt more authentic, knowledge-generating research experiences.

      • Assign students to keep research logs in which they note changes in particular research directions as they identify resources, read, and incorporate new learning. Ask students in professional or career-focused programs to evaluate the role of evidence-based that may move toward changing practice. 

      - From Draft 2 of the ACRL Frameworkp. 15

    • Research As Inquiry Video

      From the University of Washington Libraries

    • Questions About Your Discipline
      • What are common research methods, theories, or approaches in your discipline? How can you recognize these ideas when looking at materials produced in your field? (Do students learn to identify these ideas as well?)

      • Is there a major difference between library research and field research in your discipline? How do the these types of research interact? Do the questions you ask in field research differ from those you ask of previously created information sources?

      • Is there a researcher/practitioner dichotomy in your field? If so, what types of questions which require outside information sources would each of these roles ask in the course of their work?

      • Do typical research assignments that you see in disciplinary courses mirror or contradict these processes? How?

      From Miller, S. D. (2016, May 20). Information Literacy in the Disciplines. Workshop presented at Thinking with Sources in the Disciplines, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI.

  • Conversation

    Scholarship As Conversation

    Academic sources and research are reflective of larger lines of inquiry and dialogue. (paraphrased)

    From the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy:

    Scholarship as Conversation: Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations.

    Research in scholarly and professional fields is a discursive practice in which ideas are formulated, debated, and weighed against one another over extended periods of time. Instead of seeking discrete answers to complex problems, experts understand that a given issue may be characterized by several competing perspectives as part of an ongoing conversation in which information users and creators come together and negotiate meaning. Experts understand that, while some topics have established answers through this process, a query may not have a single uncontested answer. Experts are therefore inclined to seek out many perspectives, not merely the ones with which they are familiar. These perspectives might be in their own discipline or profession or may be in other fields. While novice learners and experts at all levels can take part in the conversation, established power and authority structures may influence their ability to participate and can privilege certain voices and information. Developing familiarity with the sources of evidence, methods, and modes of discourse in the field assists novice learners to enter the conversation. New forms of scholarly and research conversations provide more avenues in which a wide variety of individuals may have a voice in the conversation. Providing attribution to relevant previous research is also an obligation of participation in the conversation. It enables the conversation to move forward and strengthens one’s voice in the conversation.

    • Assignment Ideas
      • Assign an entire class to conduct an investigation of a particular topic from its treatment in the popular media, and then trace its origin in conversations among scholars and researchers.

      • Have students select a seminal work on a topic, and then identify sources that preceded and continued the conversation, analyzing the impact of the seminal work on the field.

      • Create a timeline to track the evolving threads of a continuing scholarly conversation.

      - From Draft 2 of the ACRL Framework, p. 14

    • Scholarship As Conversation Video

      From the Univ. of Washington Libraries

    • Questions About Your Discipline
      Scholarship as Conversation
      • Where, how, and among whom do the conversations in your field take place? 

      • How does one identify those conversations?

      • What are basic expectations for or barriers to participation in the conversations in your field? (e.g. social/cultural capital, financial, prestige, networks, hidden knowledge, ability to “read” the field well enough to contribute in meaningful ways to current conversations)

      • What is an example of a multifaceted scholarly conversation occurring in your field? Can you ID some important contributions to the conversation? (How might you structure an assignment or scaffold curriculum around the development of a conversation?)

      From Miller, S. D. (2016, May 20). Information Literacy in the Disciplines. Workshop presented at Thinking with Sources in the Disciplines, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI.

  • Authority

    Authority Is Constructed And Contextual

    Different communities recognize different kinds of authority. Whether a source is appropriately authoritative depends partly on the context in which the information is used (e.g., intended audience, purpose). (paraphrased)

    From the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy:

    Authority Is Constructed and Contextual: Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.

    Experts understand that authority is a type of influence recognized or exerted within a community. Experts view authority with an attitude of informed skepticism and an openness to new perspectives, additional voices, and changes in schools of thought. Experts understand the need to determine the validity of the information created by different authorities and to acknowledge biases that privilege some sources of authority over others, especially in terms of others’ worldviews, gender, sexual orientation, and cultural orientations. An understanding of this concept enables novice learners to critically examine all evidence—be it a short blog post or a peer-reviewed conference proceeding—and to ask relevant questions about origins, context, and suitability for the current information need. Thus, novice learners come to respect the expertise that authority represents while remaining skeptical of the systems that have elevated that authority and the information created by it. Experts know how to seek authoritative voices but also recognize that unlikely voices can be authoritative, depending on need. Novice learners may need to rely on basic indicators of authority, such as type of publication or author credentials, where experts recognize schools of thought or discipline-specific paradigms.

    • Assignment Ideas
      • Provide students with two different information types (with two different goals) on the same topic by the same unnamed authoritative creator/author (for example, scholarly article and blog post). Use as discussion starter with students about context in relationship to authority. Reveal authorship later in discussion.

      • Ask students in professional or career-focused programs to consider who has authority within their areas of study and the origins of that authority.

      • Have students look at a blog, a video on YouTube, a collection of tweets, or some other type of social media regarding a contemporary event (e.g. demonstrations at Tahrir Square during the "Arab Spring" events). Ask them to describe how they would analyze and evaluate the authority the author(s) of the information. Are there ways to determine whether the individual was an actual witness or participant in the events? Are there ways to identify whether the individual or group that developed a collection of information has a particular political bias? Can they determine whether the author(s) has a particular status within the group he/she represents or is the individual reporting as an "average citizen"?

      - From Draft 2 of the ACRL Frameworkp. 15-16

    • Authority As Contextual Video

      From the Univ. of Washington Libraries

    • Questions About Your Discipline
      • Who are the authorities or power players in the discipline, either specifically or generally? How do they establish that authority?

      • What are current challenges to that authority?

      • How is information disseminated? How does this process contribute to the construction of authority in your field?

      • How does rhetorical style, including visuals, text, styles, conventions, etc. support authority construction through information sources in your field?

      From Miller, S. D. (2016, May 20). Information Literacy in the Disciplines. Workshop presented at Thinking with Sources in the Disciplines, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI.

  • Strategic Searching

    Searching As Strategic Exploration

    Information searching is an exploratory process that involves ongoing evaluation and revision of strategies and research questions. (paraphrased)

    From the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy:

    Searching as Strategic Exploration: Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops.

    The act of searching often begins with a question that directs the act of finding needed information. Encompassing inquiry, discovery, and serendipity, searching identifies both possible relevant sources as well as the means to access those sources. Experts realize that information searching is a contextualized, complex experience that affects, and is affected by, the cognitive, affective, and social dimensions of the searcher. Novice learners may search a limited set of resources, while experts may search more broadly and deeply to determine the most appropriate information within the project scope. Likewise, novice learners tend to use few search strategies, while experts select from various search strategies, depending on the sources, scope, and context of the information need.

    • Assignment Ideas
      • Ask students to brainstorm possible sources that might have relevant information. What tools will they need to locate those resources?

      • Ask students to choose a topic, develop key search terms, and use two different search engines to locate information on their topic. Have them compare the results in terms of quantity, types of sources (e.g., government, educational, scholarly, and commercial), order/sequence of results, and relevance. Pair students who used the same search engine with different topics to compare results.

      • Ask students to write an I-Search paper, whereby they journal their searching processes, including key terms, tools used, and resources/results at each step. They should note how they evaluated their resources, and what information was extracted. Their journal should also reflect their feelings: success, concern, frustration, pride, etc. Pair up students, and ask them to read and comment on each other's journal, and then draw up conclusions and recommendations for their peers. 

      - From Draft 2 of the ACRL Framework,p. 16

    • Searching As Strategic Video

      From the Univ. of Washington Libraries

    • Questions About Your Discipline
      • What information tools/sources are of primary importance in your field?

      • What are typical search behaviors among your disciplinary colleagues?

      • How do the concepts of format, conversation, value, authority, and inquiry impact search processes?

      From Miller, S. D. (2016, May 20). Information Literacy in the Disciplines. Workshop presented at Thinking with Sources in the Disciplines, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI.

  • Information Creation

    Information Creation As A Process

    The processes used to create, distribute, and use information are reflected in the resulting information source and in its actual and potential uses. (paraphrased)

    From the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy:

    Information Creation as a Process: Information in any format is produced to convey a message and is shared via a selected delivery method. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences. 

    The information creation process could result in a range of information formats and modes of delivery, so experts look beyond format when selecting resources to use. The unique capabilities and constraints of each creation process as well as the specific information need determine how the product is used. Experts recognize that information creations are valued differently in different contexts, such as academia or the workplace. Elements that affect or reflect on the creation, such as a pre- or post-publication editing or reviewing process, may be indicators of quality. The dynamic nature of information creation and dissemination requires ongoing attention to understand evolving creation processes. Recognizing the nature of information creation, experts look to the underlying processes of creation as well as the final product to critically evaluate the usefulness of the information. Novice learners begin to recognize the significance of the creation process, leading them to increasingly sophisticated choices when matching information products with their information needs.

    • Assignment Ideas
      • Student will find sources about the same topic in two divergent formats, e.g. newspaper movie review and literary journal movie review or scholarly article and a researcher’s blog. Students will compare and contrast the type of information found in each format, as well as articulate the processes underlying the creation of each format.

      • Have students research the impact of digital formats in scholarly publication, including Open Source initiative.

      • Ask students to transform information they have created in one format to another format, and to write a reflection on what they needed to consider as they went through the process. 

      - From Draft 2 of the ACRL Framework, p. 16

    • Information Creation Process Video

      From the Univ. of Washington Libraries

    • Questions About Your Discipline
      • In what types of formats (i.e. journals, conference presentations, popular forums, etc.) can the conversation in your discipline typically be found? Are some formats considered more authoritative? Is there a continuum or hierarchy of formats?

      • Are there any unique information formats used in your field (i.e. patents, performances, etc.)? If so, what is their importance to your discipline?

      • What counts as evidence in your discipline? Where do you find that evidence? How is it normally presented? What would you use it for – or, why is it important to someone in your discipline?

      From Miller, S. D. (2016, May 20). Information Literacy in the Disciplines. Workshop presented at Thinking with Sources in the Disciplines, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI.

  • Information Value

    Information Has Value

    The economic, social, cultural, or political value of information Information affects its production and dissemination. (paraphrased)

    From the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy:

    Information Has Value: Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world. Legal and socioeconomic interests influence information production and dissemination.

    The value of information is manifested in various contexts, including publishing practices, access to information, the commodification of personal information, and intellectual property laws. The novice learner may struggle to understand the diverse values of information in an environment where “free” information and related services are plentiful and the concept of intellectual property is first encountered through rules of citation or warnings about plagiarism and copyright law. As creators and users of information, experts understand their rights and responsibilities when participating in a community of scholarship. Experts understand that value may be wielded by powerful interests in ways that marginalize certain voices. However, value may also be leveraged by individuals and organizations to effect change and for civic, economic, social, or personal gains. Experts also understand that the individual is responsible for making deliberate and informed choices about when to comply with and when to contest current legal and socioeconomic practices concerning the value of information.

    • Assignment Ideas
      • Ask students to find several images that would enhance the project or paper on which they are working. Then ask them to determine which can be used without asking permission. What would they need to do to use this material?

      • Ask students in professional or career-focused programs to consider what individuals or organizations make money distributing information relating to that profession or career. Have students discuss the usefulness and potential risks behind this information.

      • Discern between the economic processes behind different types of information, e.g. newspaper articles vs. 24-hour TV news, edited academic volume vs. popular title on a top 10 list.

      - From Draft 2 of the ACRL Framework, p. 16-17

    • Questions About Your Discipline
      • How is impact determined, measured, or expressed in your field? How do authority, inquiry, format, searching, and scholarship affect impact?

      • How does open access affect your standing as a scholar?

      • Is access to information in your field privileged? How will students access this information once they are working in their field? Are there suitable alternatives for proprietary resources?

      • What are any particular traits of attribution in your field that might be different from others? What counts as an original idea?

      From Miller, S. D. (2016, May 20). Information Literacy in the Disciplines. Workshop presented at Thinking with Sources in the Disciplines, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI.