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Information Literacy: A Conceptual Framework

About This Guide

This guide is for instructors interested in integrating information literacy more fully into their classes or curricula. It describes information literacy in relation to the Association for College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy.

Ingram Library's subject librarians welcome you to talk with us about the Framework or about information literacy in the context of your class.

Information Literacy & ACRL Framework

"Information literacy" refers to abilities and understandings needed for finding, evaluating, using, and creating information. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy takes a conceptual approach to information literacy that reflects the context-dependent nature of information practices. The Framework is structured by 6 conceptual "frames," each o which is further outlined by related "knowledge practices" and "dispositions." 

This guide includes:

  • an overview of the Framework's 6 "frames"
  • teaching ideas and videos
  • "Questions about Your Discipline" intended to help instructors think about a given frame's relevance to their field

Many thanks to Sara Miller for permission to reuse her work in this guide's "Questions about Your Discipline" sections, as well as to the Univ. of Washington Libraries for their Framework videos.

6 Conceptual Frames

(The text below is a paraphrase of the ACRL Framework, not direct quotes.)

  • Research as Inquiry - Research is as an iterative process of asking and exploring questions.

  • Scholarship as Conversation - Academic sources and research are reflective of larger lines of inquiry and dialogue.

  • Authority Is Constructed and Contextual - Different communities recognize different kinds of authority. Whether a source is appropriately authoritative depends partly on the context in which the information is used (e.g., intended audience, purpose).

  • Searching as Strategic Exploration - Information searching is an exploratory process that involves ongoing evaluation and revision of strategies and research questions.

  • Information Creation as a Process - The processes used to create, distribute, and use information are reflected in the resulting information source and in its actual and potential uses.

  • Information Has Value - The economic, social, cultural, or political value of information Information affects its production and dissemination.

Theoretical Lens







The ACRL Framework's 6 conceptual understandings are intended to articulate "big ideas" that encourage critical and metacognitive thinking. The document is informed by Wiggins & McTighe's approach to instructional design(1) and by the theory of threshold concepts(2).

1. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004).

2. "Threshold concepts" are defined in the Framework as "core or foundational concepts that, once grasped by the learner, create new perspectives and ways of understanding a discipline or challenging knowledge domain"Jan H. F. Meyer, Ray Land, and Caroline Baillie. “Editors’ Preface.” In Threshold Concepts and Transformational Learning, edited by Jan H. F. Meyer, Ray Land, and Caroline Baillie, ix–xlii. (Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers, 2010).