SCONUL Seven (7) Pillars of Information Literacy-Core Model

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In 1999, The SCONUL Working Group on Information Literacy published “Information skills in higher education: a SCONUL position paper” (SCONUL, 1999), introducing the Seven  Pillars of Information Skills model. Since then, the model has been adopted by librarians and teachers around the world as a means of helping them to deliver information skills to their learners.

The developers of the Seven Pillars model explain that an individual can be more expert in some areas than others, and has the ability to increase their expertise. But interestingly, they also mention that people can become less expert in the areas designated by the pillars. How might that be? If you learned something, and then learned more, you become more adept, right? They make the point, however, that because the information environment shifts all the time, it is possible people won’t keep up, and thus become less proficient. So just as someone can climb one of the pillars, so too can he or she slip down.

Each of the seven areas incorporates both abilities and understandings. The abilities include what an individual can do. The understandings cover both attitude and behaviours. For example, someone might be aware that they should carefully evaluate the information  they find and know how to go about it, yet not care enough to actually do it. Abilities and  understandings work together to enable information literacy

1. Identify-Understanding your information need.

Able to identify a personal need for information


  • That new information and data is constantly being produced and that there is always  more to learn.
  • That being information literate involves developing a learning habit so new  information is being actively sought all the time
  • That ideas and opportunities are created by investigating/seeking information
  • The scale of the world of published and unpublished information and data

Is able to:

  • Identify a lack of knowledge in a subject area
  • Identify a search topic / question and define it using simple terminology
  • Articulate current knowledge on a topic
  • Recognise a need for information and data to achieve a specific end and define limits to the information need
  • Use background information to underpin the search
  • Take personal responsibility for an information search
  • Manage time effectively to complete a search

2. Scope -knowing what is available.

Can assess current knowledge and identify gaps


  • What types of information are available
  • The characteristics of the different types of information source available to them and how they may be affected by the format (digital, print)
  • The publication process in terms of why individuals publish and the currency of information Issues of accessibility
  •  What services are available to help and how to access them

Is able to:

  • “Know what you don’t know” to identify any information gaps
  •  Identify which types of information will best meet the need
  •  Identify the available search tools, such as general and subject specific resources at different levels
  • Identify different formats in which information may be provided
  •  Demonstrate the ability to use new tools as they become available

3. Plan- developing research strategies

Can construct strategies for locating information and data


  • The range of searching techniques available for finding information.
  • The differences between search tools, recognising advantages and limitations
  •  Why complex search strategies can make a difference to the breadth and depth of information found
  •  The need to develop approaches to searching such that new tools are sought for each new question (not relying always on most familiar resources)
  • The need to revise keywords and adapt search strategies according to the resources available and / or results found
  • The value of controlled vocabularies and taxonomies in searching

Is able to:

  • Scope their search question clearly and in appropriate language
  •  Define a search strategy by using appropriate keywords and concepts, defining and setting limits
  •  Select the most appropriate search tools
  •  Identify controlled vocabularies and taxonomies to aid in searching if appropriate
  • Identify appropriate search techniques to use as necessary
  •  Identify specialist search tools appropriate to each individual information need

4. Gather-finding what you need

Can locate and access the information and data they need


  • How information and data is organised, digitally and in print sources
  • How libraries provide access to resources
  • How digital technologies are providing collaborative tools to create and share information
  • The issues involved in collecting new data
  • The different elements of a citation and how this describes an information resource
  • The use of abstracts
  • The need to keep up to date with new information
  • The difference between free and paid for resources
  • The risks involved in operating in a virtual world
  • The importance of appraising and evaluating search results

Is able to:

  • Use a range of retrieval tools and resources effectively
  • Construct complex searches appropriate to different digital and print resources
  •  Access full text information, both print and digital, read and download online material and data
  •  Use appropriate techniques to collect new data
  •  Keep up to date with new information
  • Engage with their community to share information
  •  Identify when the information need has not been met
  • Use online and printed help and can find personal, expert help

5: Evaluate assessing your research process and findings

Can review the research process and compare and evaluate information and data


  • The information and data landscape of their learning/research context
  •  Issues of quality, accuracy, relevance, bias, reputation and credibility relating to information and data sources
  •  How information is evaluated and published, to help inform personal evaluation process
  • The importance of consistency in data collection
  • The importance of citation in their learning/research context

Is able to:

  • Distinguish between different information resources and the information they provide Choose suitable material on their search topic, using appropriate criteria
  • Assess the quality, accuracy, relevance, bias, reputation and credibility of the information resources found
  •  Assess the credibility of the data gathered
  •  Read critically, identifying key points and arguments
  •  Relate the information found to the original search strategy
  •  Critically appraise and evaluate their own findings and those of others
  • Know when to stop

6. Manage -organizing information effectively and ethically.

Can organise information professionally and ethically


  • Their responsibility to be honest in all aspects of information handling and dissemination (e.g. copyright, plagiarism and intellectual property issues)
  • The need to adopt appropriate data handling methods
  • The role they play in helping others in information seeking and management
  • The need to keep systematic records
  • The importance of storing and sharing information and data ethically
  • The role of professionals, such as data managers and librarians, who can advise, assist and support with all aspects of information management

Is able to:

  • Use bibliographical software if appropriate to manage information
  • Cite printed and electronic sources using suitable referencing styles
  • Create appropriately formatted bibliographies
  •  Demonstrate awareness of issues relating to the rights of others including ethics, data protection, copyright, plagiarism and any other intellectual property issues
  •  Meet standards of conduct for academic integrity
  • Use appropriate data management software and techniques to manage data

7: Present -sharing what you’ve learned.

Can apply the knowledge gained: presenting the results of their research, synthesising new and old information and data to create new knowledge and disseminating it in a variety of ways


  • The difference between summarising and synthesising
  • That different forms of writing/ presentation style can be used to present information to different communities
  •  That data can be presented in different ways
  •  Their personal responsibility to store and share information and data
  • Their personal responsibility to disseminate information & knowledge
  • How their work will be evaluated
  • The processes of publication
  • The concept of attribution
  • That individuals can take an active part in the creation of information through traditional publishing and digital technologies (e.g. blogs, wikis)

Is able to:

  • Use the information and data found to address the original question
  •  Summarise documents and reports verbally and in writing Incorporate new information into the context of existing knowledge
  • Analyse and present data appropriately
  •  Synthesise and appraise new and complex information from different sources
  • Communicate effectively using appropriate writing styles in a variety of formats
  • Communicate effectively verbally
  • Select appropriate publications and dissemination outlets in which to publish if appropriate
  • Develop a personal profile in the community using appropriate personal networks and digital technologies (e.g. discussion lists, social networking sites, blogs, etc.)