Information Literacy Articles in Science Pedagogy Journals

Cara Bradley


Objective – This study sought to determine the extent to which articles about information literacy-related topics have been published in science pedagogy journals. It also explored the nature of these references, in terms of authorship, Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) information literacy competency standards addressed, and degree of emphasis on information literacy topics. In addition to characterizing information literacy in the science pedagogy literature, the study presents a methodology that can be adopted by future efforts to explore representations of information literacy in the literature of additional academic disciplines.

Methods – The 2011 Journal Citation Reports® Science edition was used to identify the 15 journals with the highest impact factor in the “Education—Scientific Disciplines” subject category. Initially Web of Science was searched to identify occurrences of “information literacy” and related terms in the journals of interest during the 10 year period 2002-2011. This was supplemented by a title scan of the articles to ensure inclusion of relevant items that did not include library-centric terminology. Abstracts and, where necessary, full papers were reviewed to confirm relevance. Only articles were included: editorials, news items, letters, and resource reviews were excluded from the analysis.

Articles selected for inclusion were read in their entirety. Professional designations for each author were identified to characterize the authorship of this body of literature. Articles were also classified according to levels developed by O’Connor (2008), to indicate whether information literacy was a “Major Topic,” “Substantive Focus,” “Incidental Mention,” or “Not Explicitly Named.” Further analysis mapped each article to the ACRL information literacy competency standards (2000), to provide more detailed insight into which standards are most frequently addressed in this body of literature.

Results – Articles on information literacy-related topics appear only sporadically in science pedagogy journals, and that frequency varies depending on the specific subject area. Overall, librarians contribute a relatively small proportion of these articles, and are more likely to co-author with teaching faculty/graduate students than to publish alone or with other librarians. The degree of focus on information literacy topics (O’Connor level) varies depending on article authorship, with librarians more likely to treat information literacy as the “Major Focus” of their work. Additionally, the articles tend to cluster around ACRL information literacy standards two, three, and especially four, rather than addressing them equally.

Conclusions – The presence of some articles on information literacy-related topics in science pedagogy journals suggests that there is a willingness among these journals to publish work in this area. Despite this, relatively few librarians have pursued this publication option, choosing instead to publish articles on information literacy topics within the library and information studies (LIS) literature. As a result, librarians are missing out on the opportunity to share their published work in venues more likely to be seen and valued by subject faculty, and on the chance to familiarize science educators with information literacy topics. Future research should focus on: librarians’ rationale when selecting target publications for their information literacy writing; science educator interest in writing and reading about information literacy topics in their pedagogical journals; and the impact of articles about information literacy in these journals on subject faculty perceptions of the topic’s importance.

The methods used in this research have implications for the study of information literacy in other academic disciplines, and demonstrate that the study of information literacy in the literature of academic disciplines can provide valuable insights into representations and characterizations of information literacy in diverse fields of study. A better understanding of how subject faculty think and write about information literacy in their scholarly literature could have a significant impact on how librarians approach and collaborate with faculty in all fields of study.


academic librarianship; information literacy; pedagogical journals

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