Information Literacy is the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.
— The National Forum on Information Literacy


Students who are information literate can locate, evaluate and use resources to fulfill their course requirements more easily than students who are not information literate. Information literacy will enable you to define topics better for projects and papers, and develop and use effective research strategies and search techniques. Information literacy will make the entire research process much easier and faster for you. Understanding how to use library resources effectively will lessen your frustration and improve your grades. Information literacy skills will serve you well throughout college and in your career.

“Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their own learning. An information literate individual is able to:


  • Determine the extent of information needed
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally.”1


Information Literacy and Higher Education
Developing lifelong learners is central to the mission of higher education institutions. By ensuring that individuals have the intellectual abilities of reasoning and critical thinking, and by helping them construct a framework for learning how to learn, colleges and universities provide the foundation for continued growth throughout their careers, as well as in their roles as informed citizens and members of communities. Information literacy is a key component of, and contributor to, lifelong learning. Information literacy competency extends learning beyond formal classroom settings and provides practice with self-directed investigations as individuals move into internships, first professional positions, and increasing responsibilities in all arenas of life. Because information literacy augments students’ competency with evaluating, managing, and using information, it is now considered by several regional and discipline-based accreditation associations as a key outcome for college students.

For students not on traditional campuses, information resources are often available through networks and other channels, and distributed learning technologies permit teaching and learning to occur when the teacher and the student are not in the same place at the same time. The challenge for those promoting information literacy in distance education courses is to develop a comparable range of experiences in learning about information resources as are offered on traditional campuses. Information literacy competencies for distance learning students should be comparable to those for “on campus” students.

Incorporating information literacy across curricula, in all programs and services, and throughout the administrative life of the university, requires the collaborative efforts of faculty, librarians, and administrators. Through lectures and by leading discussions, faculty establish the context for learning. Faculty also inspire students to explore the unknown, offer guidance on how best to fulfill information needs, and monitor students’ progress. Academic librarians coordinate the evaluation and selection of intellectual resources for programs and services; organize, and maintain collections and many points of access to information; and provide instruction to students and faculty who seek information. Administrators create opportunities for collaboration and staff development among faculty, librarians, and other professionals who initiate information literacy programs, lead in planning and budgeting for those programs, and provide ongoing resources to sustain them.



Types of Information

Primary Sources provide first hand accounts or experiences of events. Information is generally presented in its original form, whether it is a work of literature or art, or an account of an event or experience, or original documents or research products such as interviews, speeches, questionnaires, letters, diaries, manuscripts, memoirs, etc. Includes books, periodicals, and Web sites.

Secondary Sources provide second hand accounts of events. These sources include materials that have been reported, analyzed, or interpreted by people who do not have first hand knowledge of an event and may be found in books or periodicals, or on Web sites.

Reference Books (Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Handbooks, Yearbooks) provide brief overviews or summaries on any given topic. They can include background information, factual data, key ideas, important dates, and concepts.

Circulating Books (Fiction & Nonfiction) typically provide an in-depth examination of any given topic, usually from a retrospective point of view. Most research-oriented books are works of non-fiction (e.g., textbooks). Fiction works include novels, short stories, and poetry.

Periodicals (Journals, Magazines and Newspapers) are published on a regular cycle throughout the year (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly), provide up-to-date information on the latest developments on various issues or current events and are usually from a contemporary point of view. Articles can be brief & general or in-depth & focused on a very specific or local topic.

Database Articles: A database is a searchable collection of information where you can find journal articles, eBooks and excerpts from books. Each database contains thousands of articles which you can search for relevant articles simultaneously and quickly. Sometimes, you can simultaneously search multiple databases. General databases provide articles on practically all topics; subject databases provide articles on a particular subject such as CINAHL Complete for nursing or EBSCO’s History Reference Center.

Web Resources allow you to access most types of information or multimedia on the Internet with a Web browser, such as Google Chrome. One of the main features of the Web is the ability to quickly link to information. The Web contains information beyond plain text, including images, sound, music, and video. Since anyone can publish on the web, you need to carefully evaluate what you retrieve through search engines such as Google or Yahoo.

Government Sources from all levels of government (international, national, state and local) provide historical and current information, and statistical data.


The Information Cycle is the progression of information created about a particular event. Timing is a large part of what makes a blog different from a scholarly article different from a book different from a newspaper article different from a magazine article, etc. Different types of material take different amounts of time to produce. Each type of material also has its own characteristics and caveats. If you understand The Information Cycle you will better understand what materials are available about an event or topic, and when they are or will be available.
<blockquote">Information is written for:</blockquote">

  • different purposes – to inform, to persuade, to instruct, to entertain, etc.
  • different types of audiences – general, popular, juvenile, scholarly, professional, and
  • is presented in different formats.





Information Types Coverage/Use Retrieval Methods
Reference books:


  • Almanacs
  • Dictionaries
  • Directories
  • Encyclopedias
  • Handbooks
  • Provide overviews on any given topic. They can include background information, factual data, key ideas, important dates, and concepts. Can be general (e.g., TOPICsearch) or specialized (e.g., Health Source – Consumer Edition).
    Use when:


    • You know very little about your topic,
    • To become better informed about your topic so you can make wiser choices as you search for additional resources.
  • Search for online & print encyclopedias with the library catalog..
  • Search online encyclopedias & other reference books with the library databases (e.g., CREDO Ref).
  • Search the Internet for free ready reference resources.
  • Browse the library’s reference shelves for print encyclopedias.
  • Books cover virtually any topic, fact or fiction.
  • Books typically provide an in-depth examination of the given topic, usually from a retrospective point of view.
  • Most research-oriented books are works of non-fiction (e.g., textbooks).
  • Fiction works include novels, short stories, and poetry.
  • For research purposes, you will probably be looking for books that synthesize all the information on one topic to support a particular argument or thesis.


    • For historical or detailed information on a topic such as the civil rights movement in the United States.
    • To put your topic in context with other important issues.
    • For summaries of research.
    • To support an argument.
    • For several points of view in one book such as collected critical essays on Shakespeare’s works.
  • Search for online & print books with the library catalog.
  • Search for online books with the library databases (e.g., EBSCO eBooks Collection).
  • Search the Internet for free books out of copyright protection.
  • Search the catalogs of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide: WorldCat.
Periodical articles:


  • Journals
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Periodicals are published on a regular ongoing basis (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly).
  • Journal, magazine, and newspaper articles tend to be more specific or about certain aspects of an issue compared to books.
  • Periodicals provide up-to-date information on the latest developments on various issues or current events and are usually from a contemporary point of view.
  • Articles can be brief & general or in-depth.
  • They may focused in on a very specific or local topic.
    Use for:


    • Up-to-date information about current issues, popular culture, or international, national and local events.
    • Various points of view or popular opinions (e.g., editorials, commentaries).
    • Scholarly articles or original research.
    • Studies on your topic.
    • References that point to other relevant research (journal articles).
Government Documents


  • Legislative Branch
    • hearings (testimony)
    • congressional reports
    • committee prints
  • Congressional Record
    • records of proceedings and debates
    • statutes
    • bills
    • laws
    • codes
  • Government sources from all levels of government (international, national, state and local) provide both historical and current information, and statistical data.
    Use for:


    • Information from various levels of government or on various social issues.
    • Historical or current data or statistics.
  • Search online & print secondary sources with the library catalog.
  • Search for government sources on the Internet (e.g., America’s Historical Documents, GPO Catalog).
  • Search the GPO Catalog
World Wide Web:


  • web pages
  • images
  • music
  • videos


  • The Web allows you to access information or multimedia on the Internet through Web browsers such as Google Chrome.
  • One of the main features of the Web is the ability to quickly link to information.
  • The Web contains images, sound, music, and video.
  • Since anyone can publish on the web, you need to carefully evaluate what you retrieve through the Internet.
    Use for:


    • News stories on current events.
    • Expert and popular opinions on various issues.
    • Company information.
    • Information from various levels of government.
  • Use search engines such as Google or Yahoo to find web pages and other multimedia on the Web.
  • Other sources on the web include: Amazon, CNN, Wikipedia, etc.


Journals vs. Magazines

Instructors often make assignments that require the use of articles from scholarly or professional trade journals. The terms peer-reviewed, refereed, academic, or research are also used. This handout provides general guidance in recognizing the difference between scholarly journal articles and popular magazine articles.


  • Articles are usually lengthy.
  • Articles usually have cited references at the end.
  • Usually illustrated by graphs, charts, or diagrams.
  • Written and signed by authorities in the field.
  • Purpose – Report on original research or experimentation.
  • Usually contain an abstract, problem statement, and methodology.
  • Use vocabulary requiring some knowledge of the subject.
  • Geared towards scholars, researchers, or professionals.
  • Often published by a professional organization or university.
  • Usually published on a monthly or quarterly basis.
  • Reviewed by panel or board.
  • Contain few advertisements.
  • Limit your database search results to scholarly articles by  the box next to Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals.

Examples of academic journals include: The Journal of Asian Studies, Arkansas Nursing News, Hemingway Review, JAMA


Examples of popular magazines include: Time, People, Psychology Today, Newsweek, Woman’s Day, The New Yorker, Forbes, Popular Mechanics
  • Articles are usually short.
  • Articles seldom have cited references at the end.
  • Frequently illustrated with glossy or color photographs.
  • Usually written by staff or freelance writers. Many times unsigned.
  • Purpose – entertainment and information.
  • Contain no abstract, problem statement, or methodology.
  • Use simpler vocabulary.
  • Written for the general public.
  • Published by for-profit companies.
  • Usually published on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Not peer-reviewed.
  • Contain many advertisements.



Using Internet or Web Sources
The Internet is a worldwide network of computers. The World Wide Web (also called WWW, “the Net” or “the Web”) is an information system that links Internet documents and allows users to navigate through the Web, moving quickly and seamlessly from one source to another via Web links. Documents available on the Web can include text, sound, video, and images.

Image by Joseph Raczynski from “LegalSEC: Shedding Light on the Dark Net” on
One prevailing misconception is that everything is available on the Internet. Only a small fraction of the world of information is available on the free Internet. Think of the Web as an iceberg. Using popular search engines like Google Chrome, anyone can see and access roughly one-third of the information available on the open Web for free. Wikipedia articles, for example, are open Web resources that are available online to anyone who searches for them. In the illustration above, the area above the line represents the open Web, where anyone has easy access to free information.


The other two-thirds of the information available on the Web is hidden from view and is known as the “deep Web.” The deep and dark Web is where information is not free and is not included in popular search engine results. Library databases are deep Web subscription resources that are available online to authorized users, such as students enrolled at UAHT. Books, journals, magazines, and other publications that are commercially available are usually not available for open access on the Internet. So, much of the most reliable information must still be obtained through licensed library databases or traditional print sources. In the illustration above, the area underneath the line represents the deep and dark Web, where it costs money to gain access to higher-quality, reliable information.

The Internet is a great source for finding current news stories, government documents, statistics, working papers, conference proceedings, reports, etc. However, since there is no quality control on the Internet, you need to make sure you check the reliability of sources you find through search engines such as Google and Yahoo!. Here’s a guide to help you Evaluate Your Sources.


  1. Search Strategies for Finding Online Sources
    1. Identifying Search Terms
      Before you begin using a library database or search engine, it is a good idea to write down all the keywords and phrases that describe your topic or the information you are seeking. You should also write down any synonyms or related terms. These keywords and phrases can be your search terms.


      If it is difficult for you to develop a list, check a reference source such as Credo Reference for more terms and other information about your topic.

      Example: Does television viewing encourage aggressive behavior in children?

      simple search: television AND “aggressive behavior” AND children

      complex search: (aggressive OR aggression OR fighting) AND (children OR adolescents)

  2. Subject Heading Search
    A subject search involves searching the subject headings used in a database. Most databases include subject headings that are assigned to each record.
    A list of subject headings, called a database thesaurus, ensures that all items about the same topic have uniform headings. Users can then retrieve all of the items on the same topic using one word or term, even when there may be several other ways to state the concept. By using the subject heading, you will retrieve every relevant item for your topic. Searching with a subject heading retrieves items ABOUT that particular topic, and it is a more precise search than a keyword search.


    Example: Synonyms or other ways to say ‘death penalty’ include:


  3. Death Penalty
  4. Electrocution
  5. Capital Punishment
  6. Hanging
  7. Cruel and Unusual Punishment
  8. Death Row
  9. Lethal Injection

    Many databases use the Library of Congress Subject Headings and other will provide a link to their own thesaurus.

  11. Keyword Search
    A keyword search retrieves words or phrases from the important fields of the database records. In most databases a keyword search finds words in fields that have descriptive content, such as author, article title, source title (book, journal, magazine, or newspaper, subject/descriptor terms, and abstract. In some databases, additional fields may be included in the keyword search. And in other databases, a keyword search will search everything in every record. Some keyword search engines allow you to specify which field(s) are to be searched.


    A keyword search usually retrieves more items than a subject search, but they may not all be relevant. The computer is looking for the exact word you typed, not for the meaning or context of the word.

    For example, a search on AIDS will retrieve items on…

  12. aids for the hearing impaired
  13. school aids
  14. AIDS (the disease)

    A keyword search is the best method to use when:

    • You are beginning your research
    • You are searching for a new trend or concept
    • You are not sure of the correct subject heading
    • The database does not have subject headings
    • You are looking for specific factual information


    • Use only significant words, not common words, such as the, of, an, and that.
    • Avoid using phrases such as “people with diabetes”, or whole sentences, such as “How do people buy cigarettes if they are under 18?”
    Subject Heading Search          vs.          Keyword Search
    • Searches for subject or descriptor field only
    • Controlled vocabulary from thesaurus
    • High degree of relevancy
    • High precision, fewer results
    • Requires knowing, finding subject headings
    • May search multiple fields including subject, title, and abstract
    • May retrieve irrelevant items
    • Low precision, more results
    • Allows grouping terms to expand or narrow search
  16. Searching with Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT
    Boolean searching is based on a system developed by George Boole, a 19th century mathematician. Most online databases and Internet search engines support Boolean searching. The power of Boolean searching is based on connecting keywords with Boolean operators. The three basic operators are AND, OR and NOT. Here is how they work:
  17. AND
    Type AND between your keywords to narrow your search. The database or search engine will only retrieve those articles or web pages that contain both words. Use AND to decrease the number of hits or articles or web pages in your result list.


    Note: Some databases and search engines allow you to type a plus sign (+) in front of a keyword when doing a basic search. This works the same as AND. Example: +school +crime

    Type OR between your keywords to broaden your search. The database or search engine will retrieve those articles or web pages that contain at least one of these words. Using OR will increase the number of articles or web pages in your result list (especially if not used in combination with AND or NOT). Use OR between keywords that are synonyms or have similar meanings.

    Type NOT before a keyword to exclude that keyword from your search. Using NOT decreases the number of articles or web pages in your result list. The best use of NOT is when you are searching for a keyword that may have multiple meanings.

    Combining Boolean Operators
    Use parentheses ( ) to keep combination searches in order. This is called nesting. In the example below, the database or search engine will retrieve articles or web pages that must contain the word law and at least one of the words in parentheses. Example: (ecstasy OR mdma) AND law

  18. Truncation
    Truncation, also known as stemming, uses a character such as question mark (?) or hash tag (#) at the end of a word, which allows you to search for a root form of a word and pick up any ending. Example: typing teen? will find teen, teens, teenage, teenager, teenagers.


    • Be careful not to end the stem or root of a word too early to retrieve too many results. Example: typing cat? will find cat, cats, catalog, catastrophe, catsup, etc.
    • Different databases use different symbols to truncate words. However, most of our popular databases, such Academic Search Elite, are using ? as their truncation symbol. If in doubt, check a database’s “Help” screen for the truncation symbol.
    • Some search engines, such as Yahoo! and Google, automatically use truncation without you having to type a truncation symbol.
  19. Wildcard Symbols
    Wildcard symbols can be typed in place of a letter or letters within a keyword if you are not sure of the spelling or if there are different forms of the root word. Example: wom?n will find both women and woman. Note: Again, check the Help or Tips links available on most library databases and Internet search engines to verify the wildcard symbol that should be used (usually a question mark (?), hash tag (#), or asterisk (*)).

  21. Exact Phrase Searching
    To look for an exact phrase, use quotation marks (“”) around the keywords. Example: “attention deficit disorder”


  • Searching Databases to Find the Information You Need

A database is an organized collection of online records in a standardized format that can be stored and accessed in a variety of ways. UAHT Library has a large collection of full text journals and periodicals that are available online through approximately 65 databases. The databases are collections of published articles, books and other resources that cover the spectrum of college students’ research subjects. Some of the databases provide access to general reference collections and others are specially designed, subject-specific databases: business, history, nursing, etc. The databases are the best place to find scholarly information for your research and they can be used with relative ease from any online computer. You can limit your searches to full-text only, so, you can immediately print, read, or save the best resources you find. You can also send articles to your e-mail account.

Below, you can see what the EBSCO interface looks like. Other databases’ search screens and search processes are very similar to this one.

Database Searching



Enter your search terms in the Search Box on the Basic or Advanced Search screen.


In the Limit your results section, you can limit your search results by:


  • full text,
  • publication date,
  • document type,
  • publication title,
  • scholarly journals,
  • publication type,
  • article length, and image types.


Result List



Click the Search button to see your Result List.

Detailed Record:



Click on an article’s title to see its Detailed Record or click on its PDF Full Text or HTML Full Text link to see the full text of the article.



The Search Box will stay above the Result List and retain your search terms, limiters and expanders, so you can revise your search, as needed.

PDF Full Text






HTML Full Text









On the right side of the Detailed Record there is a Cite link that will show you how to cite the article in your works cited list.



To search additional or different EBSCO databases, click on the Choose Databases link above the Search Bar to see a list of all available EBSCOHost databases. Select the one(s) you want to search, click on the OK button and search your selected database(s).

Choose Databases



To search additional or different EBSCO databases, click on the Choose Databases link above the Search Bar to see a list of all available EBSCOHost databases. Select the one(s) you want to search, click on the OK button and search your selected database(s).


What is a library database? A library database, such as Academic Search Complete and MasterFILE Premier, is an organized collection of electronic information that allows a user to search for a particular topic, article, or book in a variety of ways (e.g., keyword, subject, author, title). Library databases contain thousands to millions of records or articles. The library purchases subscriptions to these databases (similar to purchasing a subscription to a magazine or newspaper).

What types of resources are indexed by library databases?
– scholarly journal, popular magazine, and newspaper articles
– reference materials (e.g., entries from dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.)
– books, pamphlets, government documents, etc.

What types of information do library databases provide for these resources?
– All databases provide citation information about the items they index. A citation typically consists of: author’s name, title of article, title of the book, journal, magazine, and newspaper, publisher, date of publication.
– Many library databases also provide abstracts of the items they index. An abstract is a brief summary of the article.
– Many library databases also provide the full text (the entire article or book) for items they index.

How do library databases differ in what they cover? Some library databases are general – meaning that they index items from many subject areas or academic disciplines. If you’re not sure which database to choose, you may want to start your research with our most comprehensive and general database, Academic Search Complete. Most library databases index items from a specific subject area or academic discipline (e.g., business, health, history, psychology). To locate a database by subject, browse our Subject List of Research Databases.

How do I access and use the library databases? Go to the Library’s homepage and click on Databases A-Z where all of UAHT Library’s databases are listed with a description and the name of their vendor. If you are accessing the databases from off-campus, you will be prompted to login with UAHT Library’s generic login information which is available in the library. The databases are accessible 24/7. If you need help using the databases, schedule a one-on-one research consultation with our librarian.

Can’t I get the same articles found in a library database by just Googling it? In most cases, no. Most of the information retrieved from the open web by using Internet search engines, such as Google, is free. Library databases contain copyrighted, licensed, proprietary information that is not free. JSRCC Library pays yearly subscription fees for its databases just like it pays yearly subscription fees for its print journals, magazines, and newspapers.

What’s wrong with just Googling?
There’s nothing wrong with using Google or another search engine to find information on the web. Just keep in mind that most of the information retrieved from the open web hasn’t been evaluated. It could be inaccurate, biased, or it might not be current. Also, the authors of Web sites might not have the same credentials as the authors of articles found in the library databases. You will need to more carefully evaluate information retrieved on the open web. All of the articles found in the library databases have already been evaluated for accuracy and credibility by discipline-specific experts and publishers.

My instructor told our class we can’t use any (or only a few) Internet sources. Can I still use the library databases? Yes. Library databases use the Internet as a delivery system but they are not considered the Internet. In most cases, your instructor means that they don’t want you using Web sites or Web pages found on the open Web. Most of the published resources found in the library databases are not available on the open web. Always clarify with your instructors what they actually mean when the class is told no (or few) Internet sources.

Guide to the Library’s Catalog

  • The Library’s Catalog is primarily used to find items in the Library’s collection and eBooks from EBSCOHost’s eBook Academic Collection and eBook Collection.
  • To search the catalog, go to the Library’s homepage, click on the link to the catalog, and then click on UAHT Library to go to the catalog’s Basic Search Screen.
    • Perform a basic search of the catalog by:entering  your search terms in the Find box clicking on the appropriate search button (Keyword, Title, Author, or Subject)
    • If you are looking for a specific type of item (i.e., print book, eBook or DVD), open the Material Type menu and select Book, Electronic Book (eBook) or Video (works for DVDs).
    • The Keyword button will perform the broadest search and return the most items that match your search terms.Your search results will be a list of brief records. Each brief record will provide the title, call number, author, and availability for each item that matches your search terms.
    • An item is already checked out if the catalog states 0 of 1 available. Library Staff can tell you when the book is due to be turned in.
  • eBooks are accessed by clicking on the  button. This will open the EBSCOHost login screen. After you login with the Library’s generic login & password, the record for the eBook will open. To open the eBook, click on the  Full Text link that is on the left side of the screen.

How to Read Call Numbers

  • Libraries use classification systems to organize the items on their shelves. Like most academic libraries, UAHT Library uses the Library of Congress Classification System (aka LC or LoC); most public libraries use the Dewey Decimal Classification System (DDC).
  • The classification systems assign a unique call number to each item on the library’s shelves and the call numbers tell you where the item is on the library shelves.
  • The LoC System arranges items alphabetically first and then by number. So, D200 comes before D300 and B800 is before D300. Books with the same LoC number are arranged by author’s name first, and then by year. These sites provide more detailed information about LoC: Library of Congress Subject Classification Guide and the Library of Congress full classification outline.
  • Evaluating Sources is crucial step for a successful research paper. Look at the following tools to carefully look at your potential information sources to determine whether or not they provide the best information and support for your topic.

  • Use the C.R.A.A.P Test to determine the Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose of your sources. You can apply the test to any type of information: journal/magazine articles, books, Web sites, blogs, reports, etc.
    What? What does the work cover? Is it relevant to my topic? If an abstract is available, read it. Scan the full text and look at the thesis, statement and conclusion.
    When? When was the work written? Is the
    information up to date enough for the topic chosen or do you need historical information
    Check the publication date. In fields such as medicine, science & technology, currency is important. In fields such as history & literature, older materials may be just as valuable as newer ones.
    Who? Who is the author or sponsor? What are their credentials or purpose? Type the author’s name in and see if you can retrieve some background information about the author.
    Why? Why was the work written? What was its purpose, to inform or to persuade? What was the bias/perspective/ motivation? Check who publishes or sponsors the source.
    How? How was the work written? Was it written at a level you can understand and use  



“ACRL STANDARDS: Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.” Association of College and Research Libraries News, Vol 61, No 3, 2000.

Many thanks to University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Library and Temple University Libraries for some of the images & information used in this guide.