Information, Digital, and Media Literacy

First-year writing (FYW) is the first point of contact UConn undergraduate students have with the University’s Information Literacy Competency, one of several General Education Requirements.

UConn defines information literacy as a general understanding of how information is created, disseminated, and organized. Students who meet the information literacy competency have the ability to access, evaluate, synthesize, and incorporate information into written, oral, or media presentations.

Together with staff from the UConn Library, first-year writing course instructors introduce students to information literacy throughout the semester. Through these tasks, students develop the habits of mind needed to evaluate arguments, make decisions about authority, and purposefully select information.

Today, the information world is more important than ever. Scholarship occurs in virtual communities, in collaborative groups, and in online conversation and debates. Therefore, information literacy in FYW and beyond increasingly encourages collaboration, creativity, and the use of digital tools and digital literacies.

Defining Information Literacy

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy defines information literacy as "the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”

The Framework for Information Literacy establishes six concepts, which consist of knowledge practices and dispositions:

  • Authority is Constructed and Contextual. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.
  • Information Creation as a Process. The iterative processes of researching, creating, revising, and disseminating information vary, and the resulting product reflects these differences.
  • Information Has Value. Information possesses several dimensions of value, including as a commodity, as a means of education, as a means to influence, and as a means of negotiating and understanding the world.
  • Research as Inquiry. Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field.
  • Scholarship as Conversation. Communities of scholars, researchers, or professionals engage in sustained discourse with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations.
  • Searching as Strategic Exploration. Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops.

Information Literacy in First-Year Writing

All FYW instructors should include elements of information literacy throughout the semester. Additionally, instructors should schedule at least one session in a hands-on classroom for students to experience doing academic research. The purpose of these sessions is to introduce students to the research databases available to them, and prepare them to conduct research across a wide variety of fields.

The session should provide a general overview of the main sections of the UConn Library website. It should also cover how to find and/or request materials in many disciplines and touch on common terminology and services (e.g., Interlibrary Loan).

We encourage instructors at the Storrs campus to use the Homer Babbidge Library’s Undergraduate Research Classroom (Level 1) for these sessions. The room includes a projection system and computers for all students. Instructions for how to schedule a classroom are located in the resources section of the Storrs Introduction Week Resource Book.

Regional campus instructors should check with their regional coordinator for campus library liaisons.


Information literacy skills can be broken into several groups of activities that encourage higher-order thinking, outlined below. First-year writing students should apply these activities to required readings and research projects.

Evaluate and Reflect

  • Determine the purpose of an item: inform, sell, persuade, etc.
  • Locate author credentials, expertise, and authority.
  • Learn to skim strategically for relevance and topic.
  • Examine sources for generalizations, misrepresentations, and/or bias.
  • Learn about publication processes: peer-reviewed, edited, and self-published.
  • Verify information using multiple or respected sources.
  • Take into account the publication date and currency, if appropriate.
  • Assess the quality of the references cited.
  • Determine what kinds of sources will be useful in the context of the assignment.


  • Place ideas within the discourse of other texts; find and join a critical conversation.
  • Choose a lens or perspective as a starting point or focus.
  • Forward or challenge ideas and texts.
  • Learn to skim strategically for relevance and topic.
  • Synthesize concepts from research into a cohesive individual project.

Seek, Inquire, and Find

  • Learn to search strategically.
  • Make effective use of library search tools.
  • Decide among subject-specific databases.
  • Understand call numbers and the layout of the library.


  • Integrate a range of voices/texts into a cohesive project.
  • Learn to paraphrase, quote, and cite appropriately and effectively.
  • Keep track of materials, documents, and citations.