There are some commonalities in the various definitions. In their examination of several descriptions of information literacy, Michael Eisenberg and Michael Brown (1992) identify six common themes:

The information literate individual
  • recognizes a need for information,
  • engages in information seeking behaviour,
  • explores, accesses and locates material,
  • interacts with the information to formulate hypothesis,
  • synthesizes, interprets and organizes the information, and finally
  • evaluates the results.

Critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to apply the information to the individual's life are also crucial elements that run through all the definitions.









Information literacy is more than a body of skills and a set of concepts. It is a way of knowing how to deal with information, a way of finding out about information resources, and a way of interacting with information that sets the information literate individual apart. It is not just behavioural skills, cognitive problem solving abilities, or even humanistic attitude changes. It is all three and more.

Although these basic attributes can be seen as a working definition, it is important to realize that there is really no totally agreed upon and standard definition of the term. Information literacy means different things to different people and their definitions may even vary from situation to situation. Differences in the use of these terms make an explanation of national frameworks and their co-ordinated development problematic.


However, our ability to write meaningful goals and objectives for information literacy courses or sessions, to identify appropriate learning outcomes, and to develop criteria by which we can measure if we have succeeded in reaching our objectives are all predicated on what we mean by information literacy.

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 License

Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009