full circle
Spring 2019

Feature: Basic Fluency

where to search

Getting started on the path toward Information Fluency requires a first step. What to do first isn't entirely clear. There are many ways to start.

Information Fluency is a journey rather than a destination. There are milestones, however. The competencies that define fluency, and differentiate it from literacy, are a combination of strategies and techniques for exploring the unknown.

Think about that: what does it mean to be fluent exloring the unknown? The unknown doesn't have known answers. Answers are discovered and verified by experimentation, trial and error, applying past successes to present problems. The strategies and techniques don't always work. Failures are commonplace. One size doesn't fit all. No book tells you everything you need to know.

Information Fluency belongs in the same category as "Learning How To Learn." These are life skills, not just academic ones.


Unless you already know what you are searching for, you have to speculate: where to look and how to get there. Some tasks don't require speculation, especially if you've done them before, for example, where to look for the current temperature or where to meet friends online.

Information Fluency makes it possible to encounter an unknown situation and know what to do when it involves speculation. Managing speculation transcends information literacy. It is higher level functioning on a par with higher order cognition.

Speculation centers on three competency clusters:

  1. What Am I Looking For?
  2. Where Will I Look?
  3. How Will I Get There (and Know When I've Arrived?)

Each one of these is a subject of extensive discussion on this site. For more detail on the Digital Information Fluency Model and Standards, see Information Fluency Competencies


Once information has been located, the question becomes, "is it any good?" The difference between speculation and investigation is that information is known but not verified. Unfortunately, this step is often overlooked. In the excitement of discovery, the average searcher forgets to evaluate the credibility of information. This is due to a combination of expediency (I don't want to take the time) and lack of techniques (I don't know what to do).

Investigation centers on five or six competency clusters:

  1. Who is the Author and/or Publisher?
  2. Is the information accurate?
  3. Is the information biased?
  4. What do experts say about the information?
  5. How fresh is the information?

Again, more detail is included in the Information Fluency Model and Standards: Information Fluency Competencies

Ethical Use

The "full circle" of Information Fluency concludes with citation--giving credit to whom credit is due. A large part of this 'competency' is investigation: using investigative skills to track down necessary information for a citation. Citation Wizards make the task of formatting easy. This site provides five different formatting Wizards:

  1. MLA
  2. APA
  3. Chicago Style
  4. CSE
  5. Harvard Style
For an index of all the formatting styles, see Citation Wizards

Getting Started

The world of Information Fluency can seem overwhelming, not unlike like the vastness of online information. The question is, "Where do I start?" There is no front door by which to enter.

Until now.

A new feature on this site is the 15 Challenges, interactive tutorials that introduce speculation and interaction in step-by-step fashion. This is a good way to start the journey and opens the way to additional tutorials in each area. Here's an overview of the challenges:

  1. Browse Hyperlinks: Find Author’s Name
  2. Truncate URL: Find missing info
  3. Search Engine: Optimal Keywords
  4. Search Engine: Operator Basics
  5. Search Engine: Finding Better Keywords in Snippets
  6. Database: Searching Appropriate Databases
  7. Competency Search: Applying All Techniques
  8. Evaluate the Author: Credentials and more
  9. Evaluate the Publisher: Domain Checking
  10. Evaluate Bias: Critical Reading
  11. Evaluate Reputation: Backlinks, critical thinking
  12. Fact Checking Content: Fact Checking
  13. Evaluate Freshness: Date Checking
  14. Format a Citation: Retrieving Necessary Information
  15. Format a Citation: Using a Citation Wizard

By completing the 15 Challenges, the user is introduced to basic information fluency strategies and techniques.

Start the Challenges here

Action Zone: 15 Challenges

Curriculum: Connections

Suggested curricular uses for the 15 Challenges. Go

Assessment: What Students Know

Using the 15 Challenges to measure students' competencies. Go

Back to Menu