Information Literacy | Definition, Guide & Examples

Information literacy refers to the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources effectively. The term covers a broad range of skills, including the ability to:

The term is often used interchangeably with digital literacy, but digital literacy may refer to a broader range of skills, including creating and sharing digital content. Information literacy is more closely focused on the skills that make you a competent researcher.

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Boolean Operators | Quick Guide with Examples

Boolean operators are words and symbols, such as AND or NOT, that let you expand or narrow your search parameters when using a database or search engine. When you search using these operators, it is known as a Boolean search.

You can use Boolean operators such as AND, OR, and NOT alongside keywords to create a Boolean string that will refine your search to find the most relevant results and sources.

Boolean operators

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How to Quote | Citing Quotes in APA, MLA & Chicago

Quoting means copying a passage of someone else’s words and crediting the source. To quote a source, you must ensure:

  • The quoted text is enclosed in quotation marks or formatted as a block quote
  • The original author is correctly cited
  • The text is identical to the original

The exact format of a quote depends on its length and on which citation style you are using. Quoting and citing correctly is essential to avoid plagiarism.

How to Quote

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How to Paraphrase | Step-by-Step Guide & Examples

Paraphrasing means putting someone else’s ideas into your own words. Paraphrasing a source involves changing the wording while preserving the original meaning.

Paraphrasing is an alternative to quoting (copying someone’s exact words and putting them in quotation marks). In academic writing, it’s usually better to paraphrase instead of quoting. It shows that you have understood the source, reads more smoothly, and keeps your own voice front and center.

Every time you paraphrase, it’s important to cite the source. Also take care not to use wording that is too similar to the original. Otherwise, you could be at risk of committing plagiarism.

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Evaluating sources with the CRAAP test

The CRAAP test is a method to evaluate the credibility of a source you are using.

When conducting research, it’s important to use credible sources. They ensure the trustworthiness of your argument and strengthen your conclusions.

There are a lot of sources out there, and it can be hard to determine whether they are sufficiently credible, but doing so is an important information literacy skill. To help, librarians at California State University developed the CRAAP test in 2004.

The CRAAP test has 5 main components:
  • Currency: Is the source up to date?
  • Relevance: Is the source relevant to your research?
  • Authority: Where is the source published? Who is the author? Are they considered reputable and trustworthy in their field?
  • Accuracy: Is the source supported by evidence? Are the claims cited correctly?
  • Purpose: What was the motive behind publishing this source?

Asking yourself these questions should give you a good idea of whether your source is credible or not.

Here are some examples using different sources.

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Credible sources and how to spot them

A credible source is free from bias and backed up with evidence. It is written by a trustworthy author or organization.

There are a lot of sources out there, and it can be hard to tell what’s credible and what isn’t at first glance.

Evaluating source credibility is an important information literacy skill. It ensures that you collect accurate information to back up the arguments you make and the conclusions you draw.

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How to write a summary

Summarizing means giving a concise overview of a text’s main points in your own words. A summary is always much shorter than the original text.

Writing a summary does not involve critiquing or analyzing the source—you should simply provide a clear, objective, accurate account of the most important information and ideas, without copying any text from the original and without missing any of the key points.

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Primary and secondary sources

When you do research, you have to gather information and evidence from a variety of sources.

Primary sources provide raw information and first-hand evidence. Examples include interview transcripts, statistical data, and works of art. A primary source gives you direct access to the subject of your research.

Secondary sources provide second-hand information and commentary from other researchers. Examples include journal articles, reviews, and academic books. A secondary source describes, interprets, or synthesizes primary sources.

Primary sources are more credible as evidence, but good research uses both primary and secondary sources.

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How to block quote: a step-by-step guide

A block quote is a long quotation, set on a new line and indented to create a separate block of text. No quotation marks are used. You have to use a block quote when quoting more than around 40 words from a source.

In APA and MLA styles, you indent block quotes 0.5 inches from the left, and add an in-text citation after the period. Some other citation styles have additional rules.

Block quote example

Although Brontë lived an isolated life, she writes about human emotion with remarkable insight, as exemplified by Heathcliff’s impassioned speech:

Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you – haunt me, then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul! (Brontë, 1847, 268)

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