Information literacy skills

During your studies and in your subsequent career, you will need to develop expertise in finding, evaluating and using information effectively and ethically. That expertise is often called ‘information literacy’, or perhaps more narrowly, 'library and information skills'.

What is Information Literacy?

An information literate individual can:

  • recognise and articulate a need for information
  • distinguish ways in which the information need may be addressed
  • construct strategies for locating information
  • locate and access information
  • compare and evaluate information obtained from different sources
  • use information appropriately and ethically.

You can assess your current skills against the minimum level of information literacy skills that you will need with our information literacy checklist.

Why do Bristol students need to be information literate?

Being information literate you are more likely to find and use quality information, with obvious benefits for your project work and other assignments. You will also know how to use this information appropriately and ethically in your work, avoiding plagiarism and any copyright problems.

Beyond the Reading List, your first port of call when looking for information is probably the Internet, and using search engines such as Google. Some quality, academically rigorous, information is available in this way, though you will need to be critical of the information you find and reject huge amounts that is not. Also, you will need to learn the limitations of search engines, and find out how to search the literature of your subject in a more systematic way, probably by using databases. See our Google and beyond page for more advice.

Even after you finish your course, you are likely to find these skills invaluable in your chosen career and in everyday life - Information Literacy helps initiate, sustain and extend lifelong learning.

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How can Bristol students develop their Information Literacy skills?

  • Over 200 general and subject-specific Information Literacy Skills courses are run by Subject and Faculty Librarians, usually in conjunction with academic departments. In many cases these courses are embedded in the academic course and count toward the degree. Details of subject-based training may be available in the subject resources and support section, on either the 'Information for undergraduates' or 'Information for postgraduates' page. Alternatively, you will find details of your Subject Librarian who can be contacted directly to enquire about what is available.
  • Self-paced online materials are available in this finding and using information section of the Library website and a number of Library video tutorials are available.
  • Our Plagiarism: information and advice for students page explains what plagiarism is, how to avoid it, and the consequences of plagiarism.
  • Our Literature references page includes links to a number of online guides to how to cite references.
  • For other types of skills training, including computing, typing, teaching and personal development you will find a wealth of useful information, including FAQs, courses and documentation, on the Training & learning resources website.


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Other ways of gaining these and other skills

External resources which you may find useful include:

  • The informed researcher  (PDF, 1.7 MB) - a 10 page booklet which offers practical approaches for managing and getting the most from information. Requires registration on the site before download.
  • Information Literacy lens  (PDF, 321 KB) - a 2 page summary of information literacy and how developing this skill will help the researcher
  • Engage - an 'interactive research resource for bioscience undergraduates' which could be useful for other subjects.


Note: some of the documents on this page are in PDF format. In order to view a PDF you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader Get Acrobat Reader


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