Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Science and Technology Section (STS): Information Literacy

Information Literacy Standards for Science and Engineering/Technology

Woman typing on computer

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. (2014, Aug. 20). IFLA WLIC 2014 Session 191: Education for Information Literacy Practice.
Retrieved from Used under the Creative Commons License.

The ALA/ACRL/STS Task Force on Information Literacy for Science and Technology developed the Information Literacy Standards for Science and Engineering/Technology. The standards are shown below in an abbreviated format. The complete standards provide more detail about the learning outcomes for each standard. 

The STS Information Literacy Task Force (which is a different group than us -- we are the IL Committee, they are an IL Task Force) is currently updating the Standards to bring them in line with the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.  You can view their work here.

The Standards

Standard One: Identifying information needs

The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Defines and articulates the need for information.
  2. Identifies a variety of types and formats of potential sources for information.
  3. Has a working knowledge of the literature of the field and how it is produced.
  4. Considers the costs and benefits of acquiring the needed information.
Collect/review written sample of research topic in students’ own words. Standard 1.1.a
Use "concept maps" or "mind maps" to break topics down into smaller pieces and begin to examine relationships between those pieces. Standard 1.1.a
Use in-class exercises showing the progress from a broad topic to a specific research question. Standard 1.1.a
Student compares and contrasts the type of information found in encyclopedias, internet, journals, and popular magazines. Standard 1.1.d
Student uses a general science encyclopedia such as the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology to find basic information on the topic.  Standard 1.1.d
Keyword search in DB with broad topic and show how find more focused topic from search results. Standard 1.1.e
Students document a process of search strategies that show a refinement in the search process. Standard 1.1.e
Students use "Concept Maps" or "Mind Maps" to focus and refine their topics. Standard 1.1.e
Focused Listing; Students lists keywords and concepts that describe all aspects of the information need. Standard 1.1.f
Explore need for controlled vocabulary by finding synonyms (chemical compounds and animal/plant names are good for this). Standard 1.1.f
Students handle print versions of each type and identify facets/characteristics of each. Let them see that there is a spectrum to the types of publications available. Standard 1.2.a
Give your students a quiz and ask them to identify whether a resource is popular/scholarly and primary/secondary/tertiary. Choose some examples that are clear and others that are more complex. Discuss. Standard 1.2.a
Search variety of internet search engines and library databases and compare results. Standard 1.2.c
Use GIS to identify natural phenomena/patterns in data. Standard 1.2.c
Ask the students to compare a review article with a primary research article. Discuss the creation and flow of information in science, highlighting scientific review journals and the role they play in synthesizing the literature. Standard 1.3.a
Simple quizzes and exercises putting stages of scientific publication in order are easy to construct and can be fun for students. Standard 1.3.a
The University of Waterloo Library has an easy-to-follow flow chart for the science publication cycle that can be helpful demonstrating these concepts in class: [1] Standard 1.3.a
Students explore websites and publications of relevant associations and report findings to class. Standard 1.3.c
Take to USPTO and European standards websites. Students use SciFinder Scholar and Google patent search to locate patents. Standard 1.3.d
Discussion on the variety of sources. Start by asking, “In your office, what resources (books, magazines, journals, etc.) would you have on your shelf. Why would you want to keep them in your personal library? What kind of information ins in these sources that is valuable to your profession? In what situations would you want to use these different sources?” Standard 1.3.d
Compare Wikipedia, science encyclopedia, primary article, handbook, etc. Learn how to use each. Learn that Wikipedia is just a collective encyclopedia, not a scholarly resource. Standard 1.3.e
Compare similar resources in several disciplines -- how do Chemistry and Physics use spectra? How does the taxonomy of chemical compounds differ from the taxonomy of animals? Why is that? Standard 1.3.e
Introduce papers of famous scientist(s) to demonstrate the importance of historical information. Discuss historical papers in the context of the specific discipline. Standard 1.3.f
Discuss the "half-life of articles" in several disciplines. Standard 1.3.f
During search demo, show ILL, talk about when to use, benefits, length of time, etc. Standard 1.4.a
Discuss rules of ILL when use. Standard 1.4.b
Show multiple methods to find the same piece of information. How library databases/internet can save or waste time.  Standard 1.4.b
Some databases offer suggestions/related terms – other search engines may not. Demonstrate this feature to students. Standard 1.4.b
Complete search strategy worksheet which includes timeline for their research. Standard 1.4.c
Discussion. What if you find the perfect article, but it is in a language that you cannot read. What is translation going to cost you? Are you willing to pay? Discuss the trade off of value and time. Standard 1.4.e
Standard Two: Acquiring useful information

The information literate student acquires needed information effectively and efficiently.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Selects the most appropriate investigative methods or information retrieval systems for accessing the needed information.
  2. Constructs and implements effectively designed search strategies.
  3. Retrieves information using a variety of methods.
  4. Refines the search strategy if necessary.
  5. Extracts, records, transfers, and manages the information and its sources.
Introduce browsing by LC call number as an investigative method. Play a game with students to help them remember LC numbers for their scientific discipline. Standard 2.1.a
Show your students how to access scope and content information for databases. Then have a scavenger hunt for various information about relevant databases. Standard 2.1.b
Conduct a brainstorming exercise with your students. Demonstrate the number and quality of results with only one term as opposed to a collection of synonyms and related words. Standard 2.2.b
Create a short controlled vocabulary worksheet for your students. Use less intuitive examples, where the controlled vocabulary term is less common. For example, the Medical Subject Heading for "bunion" is "hallux valgus." Compare search results from keyword and controlled vocabulary searches to illustrate the effectiveness of controlled vocabulary. Standard 2.2.b
Demonstrate both keyword searching and structure searching in a database of chemical literature, or other discipline appropriate database. Ask the students to compare and contrast results from both kinds of searching. Standard 2.2.c
Demonstrate one database, pointing out universal elements as mentioned in the performance indicator. Then guide the students to a different interface and/or different database, and ask the students to each of the tools in the new interface. Standard 2.2.e
Discuss citation searching as a research strategy. Demonstrate how citations allow you to go both backwards and forwards in time from a particular article to track the development of literature on a subject. Assign students to find a relevant article, and then have them use citation searching to find two additional relevant articles, one from cited references and one from citations. Standard 2.2.f
Create an engaging tutorial about help available from real people in the library. Show a clip in class, or refer students to the tutorial as you emphasize where they can go for help. Standard 2.3.c
Familiarize students with Interlibrary Loan services. Create a game or exercise where students have to determine where to go to obtain specific sources of information. Standard 2.3.c
Ask your students to compare two databases on one or more of the above criteria (quantity, quality, accuracy, currency, and relevance). Discuss their findings as a class, and help them understand the advantages and disadvantages of each source. Standard 2.4.a
Assign your students to complete a bibliography using bibliographic management software. Standard 2.5.a
Construct a matching exercise with citation elements and their names. Mix up citation elements and have your students match them to the correct name and correct order for the discipline citation style. Include a variety of sources in the matching game. Standard 2.5.c
Standard Three: Evaluating information

The information literate student critically evaluates the procured information and its sources, and as a result, decides whether or not to modify the initial query and/or seek additional sources and whether to develop a new research process.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Summarizes the main ideas to be extracted from the information gathered.
  2. Selects information by articulating and applying criteria for evaluating both the information and its sources.
  3. Synthesizes main ideas to construct new concepts.
  4. Compares new knowledge with prior knowledge to determine the value added, contradictions, or other unique characteristics of the information.
  5. Validates understanding and interpretation of the information through discourse with other individuals, small groups or teams, subject-area experts, and/or practitioners.
  6. Determines whether the initial query should be revised.
  7. Evaluates the procured information and the entire process.
Assign articles to be summarized by the student and shared with the others in the class.  Standard 3.1.c
Provide quotes from science articles written in the popular media, ask students to decide if they are based on fact, point of view or opinion. Ask them to back up their answer with another source or a counter example. Standard 3.2.b
Break class into groups, assign a resource for evaluation. Book, journal article, web site, reference source. Have them report back their decision re. above criteria.  Standard 3.2.c
Ask students to find an article on a science topic in the popular press (radio, TV, or newspaper), then to verify the data from a different source.  Standard 3.2.e
Have the students find out what else has been written by an author, using various finding tools.  Standard 3.2.g
Have students decide and report how they would test the validity of results, i.e. what activity would convince them the article results are valid.  Standard 3.4.d
Demonstrate an iterative searching process with new keywords found in abstracts or subject headings of original results. For a medical topic, perhaps use the Medical Subject Heading "neoplasms" as an example of another term for cancer.  Standard 3.6.b
Have students do a search at the beginning of a semester and at the end as well. Ask them to compare their results and how they may have changed their strategy over the course of the semester.  Standard 3.7.b
Standard Four: Effective, ethical use of information

The information literate student understands the economic, ethical, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and its technologies and either as an individual or as a member of a group, uses information effectively, ethically, and legally to accomplish a specific purpose.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Understands many of the ethical, legal and socio-economic issues surrounding information and information technology.
  2. Follows laws, regulations, institutional policies, and etiquette related to the access and use of information resources.
  3. Acknowledges the use of information sources in communicating the product or performance.
  4. Applies creativity in use of the information for a particular product or performance.
  5. Evaluates the final product or performance and revises the development process used as necessary.
  6. Communicates the product or performance effectively to others.
Construct a lesson on scientific publishing and open-access journals. Have the students look up journal prices for several titles. Explore sites like PLoS, BioMedCentral, and PubMedCentral and discuss how these fit within the realm of scientific publishing.  Standard 4.1.b
Introduce citation style of appropriate discipline, perhaps in context of a bibliographic management software package. Have the students sign up for their own account, transfer citations into the software, and format a bibliography in the appropriate style.  Standard 4.3.a
Discuss a variety of resources within the appropriate discipline. Demonstrate one journal article database and then provide an exercise for the students to do in another database to transfer their skills. Require the students to find at least one book, website, encyclopedia entry, journal article, conference proceeding, patent, and any other relevant resource on their topic. Standard 4.4.a
Standard Five: Lifelong learning

The information literate student understands that information literacy is an ongoing process and an important component of lifelong learning and recognizes the need to keep current regarding new developments in his or her field.

Performance Indicators:

  1. Recognizes the value of ongoing assimilation and preservation of knowledge in the field.
  2. Uses a variety of methods and emerging technologies for keeping current in the field.
Teach students about Web of Science/Scopus/Google Scholar tracking of citations and cited references. Give them an assignment to look up their professor in a cited reference search.  Standard 5.2.a
Demonstrate resources like Faculty of 1000 Biology and Medicine, and discuss their value in relation to traditional databases.  Standard 5.2.a
Introduce students to email alerts in a database of choice. Give them time to set up an alert themselves.  Standard 5.2.a
Present the students with two issues, one from a review journal and one from a regular journal. Have the students compare the two issues and discuss the differences between them and how they might be useful.  Standard 5.2.b
Instruct the students about citation management tools, like the “print, email, save, export” options in EBSCO and programs such as RefWorks and EndNoteWeb. Give the students an assignment to create a bibliography with bibliographic management software, using three sources.  Standard 5.2.c
Web of Science, Compendex ,and SciFinder Scholar all have good affiliation searching that can provide examples for exercises on this topic.  Standard 5.2.d

Interdisciplinary and disciplinary standards & sources

Teaching class

Knight Foundation. (2011, Oct. 12). Knight-Crane Convergence Lab. Retrieved from Used under the Creative Commons License.


ALA logo        ACRL logo

©2021 American Library Association.  50 E Huron St., Chicago IL 60611 | 1.800.545.2433Copyright Statement | Privacy Policy