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Introduction information skills

Page history last edited by FOLIO Team 12 years ago


 October 2005


An introduction to information skills and information skills training


What are Information Skills?

Information skills are often confused with information technology skills (1). Although information technologies are often essential to enable users to access information resources, the two concepts are distinct (1). Information technology skills are concerned with the ability of users to use computer hardware, software and applications such as email and the internet. However, information skills are concerned with the ability of users to locate information sources and to evaluate, navigate, organise and communicate the information that they find (1).


Why is information skills training important?

"Information professionals have long provided help and instruction to their clients, but many now experience     rising demands for information skills training. A number of factors are encouraging a move towards greater self-sufficiency" (2). Technological developments enable health services employees and students to access information resources at a time and location convenient to their needs (2). In addition, "new approaches to working, such as evidence-based practice, place an emphasis on information and knowledge" (2). Evidence based practice (or evidence based medicine) "is the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients" (3). Those working and studying in the health field require information skills such as literature searching and critical appraisal in order to enable them to make decisions that are based on evidence.

For more information about the information skills requirements for NHS staff members, see the NHS Information Authority document, 'Health Informatics Competency Profiles for the NHS' (4). It provides details about the level of information skills that NHS staff members need to support the "Information for Health" and the "Building the NHS Core" strategies.


It is important to remember that patients and their carers, as well as those in the health services, require information skills training to enable them to access accurate, timely and high quality health information and to critically appraise the information that they retrieve. Further, information professionals also require information skills training in order to meet the needs of their users and provide training to users.


What types of information skills training can be provided?

Examples of information skills training courses include:

  • Library inductions

  • Library catalogue/ intranet training

  • Copyright and plagiarism issues

  • Citing bibliographic references

  • Using electronic resources

  • Internet searching

  • Literature searching

  • Bibliographic database searching

  • Critical appraisal

  • Reference management


How can information skills training courses be delivered?

Information skills training courses can be delivered using a variety of teaching methods and formats. Some training courses require more of an input from trainers than others. The following examples require trainers to be present during the training course:

  • One-to-one training

  • Group training

  • Demonstrations

  • Lectures/ presentations

  • Online information skills training

However, the examples below show instances where students are encouraged to learn information skills independently and at their own pace:

  • Online tutorials

  • CD Rom based tutorials

  • Handouts/ Work sheets

  • Training workbooks

The InfoSkills2 course will concentrate on face-to-face training courses. If you are interested in online information skills training courses, the InfoSkills2 course will be highly relevant for you, but for further information and advice, you may also want to visit the archived website for a previous FOLIO course on e-learning; 'An introduction to e-learning (e-FOLIO)'.


What is information literacy?

In the wider context, information skills training is important because it helps to increase information literacy (1). Sheila Webber and Bill Johnston (University of Sheffield, Information Studies department) define information literacy as follows (5):

"Information literacy is the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to identify, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, leading to wise and ethical use of information in society".

For more information about information literacy, see CILIP's 'A short introduction to information literacy' webpage (6).


The seven pillars model for information literacy

SCONUL (the Society of College, National and University Libraries) has identified seven types or 'pillars' of information skills. These are as follows (1):

  1. The ability to recognise a need for information

  2. The ability to distinguish ways in which the information 'gap' may be addressed

    For example

  • knowledge of appropriate kinds of resources, both print and non-print

  • selection of resources with 'best fit' for task at hand

  • the ability to understand the issues affecting accessibility of sources

  1. The ability to contract strategies for locating information 

    For example

  • to articulate information need to match against resources

  • to develop a systematic method appropriate for the need

  • to understand the principles of construction and generation of databases

  1. The ability to locate and access information

    For example

  • to develop appropriate searching techniques (e.g. use of Boolean)

  • to use communication and information technologies

  • to use appropriate indexing and abstracting services, citation indexes, databases

  • to use current awareness methods to keep up to date

  1. The ability to compare and evaluate information obtained from different sources

    For example

  • awareness of bias and authority issues

  • awareness of the peer review process of scholarly publishing

  • appropriate extraction of information matching the information need

  1. The ability to organise, apply and communicate information to other in ways appropriate...

  • to the situation

  • to cite bibliographic references in project reports and theses

  • to construct a personal bibliographic system

  • to apply information to the problem at hand

  • to communicate effectively using the appropriate medium

  • to understand issues of copyright and plagiarism

  1. The ability to synthesise and build upon existing information, contributing to the creation of new knowledge


The following information literacy model was developed by SCONUL and it presents the way in which basic library and information technology skills can lead to the development of information literacy through the 'seven pillars' of information skills that are listed above (1). The model shows that as a user becomes more knowledgeable in each of the 'seven pillars', their information skills competencies (from novice to expert) increase until they achieve information literacy (1).




Examples of information skills training courses:



  1. SCONUL. 2003. Information Skills in Higher Education: A SCONUL Position Paper. [Online] [Accessed October 2005]

  2. Alison Hicks. Training the Users. Chapter 14. In: (eds) Andrew Booth and Graham Walton, Managing Knowledge in Health Services. London, Library Association publishing; 2000  [Online] [Accessed October 2005]

  3. David L Sackett, William M C Rosenberg, J A Muir Gray, R Brian Haynes, W Scott Richardson. Evidence-based medicine: what it is and what is isn't. British Medical Journal 1996. [Serial Online] 312:71-72[Accessed October 2005]

  4. NHS Information Authority. 2001. Health Informatics Competency Profiles for the NHS. [Online] [Accessed October 2005]

  5. Sheila Webber and Bill Johnston. 2003. Information Literacy: Definitions and Models. [Online] [Accessed October 2005]

  6. CILIP. 2004. A short introduction to information literacy. [Online] [Accessed October 2005]













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