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Assessing information literacy skills using the ACRL standards as a guide

Ada Emmett (University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA)
Judith Emde (University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 15 May 2007




The purpose of this study is to obtain preliminary evidence over a three‐year period on the efficacy of a curriculum designed to foster information literacy skills in graduate students in a chemistry bibliography course.


Specifically, the researchers examined the application and results of an assessment tool and its connectivity to instructional strategies for improving literacy outcomes. ACRL's “Information literacy competency standards for higher education” provided the basis for the construction of the assessment tool. The instrument was given to chemistry graduate students enrolled in the course at the beginning and at the end of the semester.


The assessment results from all three years indicated marked improvements in the average student score from the pre‐ to the post‐test. The assessment provided evidence of skill development over the course of the semester for specified outcomes.

Research limitations/implications

The research would have been strengthened by the use of a valid control group of graduate students in related chemistry majors who were not enrolled in the class. The extended study would have supplied rates of improvement in the control group over a given period of time compared with rates of improvement of students enrolled in the class.

Practical implications

The paper provides methods for approaching the assessment of information literacy skills by focusing on tool development based on desired learning outcomes.


The study developed, refined and applied a methodology to assess student information literacy skills based on learning outcomes over a three‐year period. The literature lacks reports of studies looking at the assessment of information literacy development of graduate students in the sciences as well as the use of “backward design” in creating evaluative tools.



Emmett, A. and Emde, J. (2007), "Assessing information literacy skills using the ACRL standards as a guide", Reference Services Review, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 210-229.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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