Centre for Information Literacy Research (CILR)

Launched in July 2007, the mission of CILR is to explore, illuminate and develop the field of information literacy through the conduct and stimulation of research and related activities.


Information literacy is a field of increasing interest worldwide. Webber and Johnston have defined it as follows:

The adoption of appropriate information behaviour to obtain, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, together with critical awareness of the importance of wise and ethical use of information in society.

Webber and Johnston

Definition of information literacy

Research centre aims

The CILR aims to:

  • Develop the research agenda for information literacy
  • Carry out research, with particular attention to the priority areas listed under the CILR: Research Priorities and Projects drop-down menu on this page
  • Pursue opportunities for research funding
  • Develop research capacity, in particular through inquiry-based educational programmes
  • Share discoveries, through scholarship, learning, teaching, innovation and other activities, and encourage take-up by the practitioner community
  • Extend and develop alliances and collaboration with the international community of information literacy and information behaviour researchers in furtherance of these aims

We are building on existing research and teaching excellence in the fields of information literacy and information behaviour within the Information School. This activity includes funded research projects, publications, research events, invited talks and seminars at national and international conferences, and participation in specialist networks and associations.

Our webpages provide you with more information about our aims, activities and the people in the Centre.

If you would like to know more please contact:

People involved with CILR

Director: Sheila Webber

Sheila Webber is a Senior Lecturer and Head of the Information School’s Libraries & Information Society Research Group. She has been Principal Investigator for Information Literacy projects funded by the AHRC and the Higher Education Academy. She has been an invited speaker on information literacy in many countries, including Australia, Canada, Singapore and Germany.

Deputy Director: Emeritus Professor Nigel Ford

Professor Ford’s research interests focus on information seeking and information behaviour, and in particular the relationship between these and a range of human individual differences including cognitive styles. He has directed a number of research projects in these areas, funded by the DfES, the British Library and the AHRC. He has published widely in the field, including Introduction to Information Behaviour (Facet Publishing).

Dr Pamela McKinney

Dr Sophie Rutter

Dr Laura Sbaffi

Dr Peter Stordy

Research priorities and projects

Priority areas for research

  • Conceptualising information literacy as a field of research and study
  • Exploring the relationship between information behaviour and information literacy
  • Developing and evaluating research methodologies appropriate to investigating information literacy and information behaviour
  • Investigating the nature and impact of pedagogy for information literacy (teaching, learning, assessment and curriculum design)
  • Exploring information literacy and information behaviour in the workplace
  • Illuminating the experience and practice of information literacy in the information society, through all stages and ages of life

Research projects

(Ongoing) Information worlds of non-residential informal carers. Investigators: Sheila Webber, Pamela McKinney and Mary Crowder. Read more.

(Ongoing) Food logging: an information literacy perspective. Investigators: Pam McKinney, Andrew Cox, Laura Sbaffi and Paula Goodale.

Deep Critical Information Behaviour. 2010-2012. Principal Investigator Nigel Ford, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Understanding The Dynamics Of Information Seeking: Analysing Researchers’ Strategic Changes Over Time. 2005-2007. Principal Investigator Nigel Ford, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

  • Ford, N., Eaglestone, B., Madden, A. & Whittle, M. (2009). Web searching by the “general public”: an individual differences perspective. Journal of Documentation, 65(4), 632-667. https://doi.org/10.1108/00220410910970285
  • Madden, A.D., Eaglestone, B., Ford, N.J. and Whittle, M. (2006). Search engines: a first step to finding information: preliminary findings from a study of observed searches. Information Research, 12(2). http://InformationR.net/ir/12-2/paper294.html

Education for evidence-based citizenship: improving pupils' information seeking skills. 2001-2004. Principal Investigator Nigel Ford, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Outputs:

  • Madden, A.D. Ford, N.J., Miller, D. & Levy, P. (2006). Children’s use of the internet for information-seeking: What strategies do they use, and what factors affect their performance? Journal of Documentation, 62(6), 744-761. https://doi.org/10.1108/00220410610714958
  • Madden, A.D. Ford, N.J. & Miller, D. (2007). Information resources used by children at an English secondary school: Perceived and actual levels of usefulness. Journal of Documentation, 63(3), 340-358. https://doi.org/10.1108/00220410710743289
  • Madden, A., Ford, N., Miller, D. & Levy, P. (2005). Using the Internet in teaching: the views of practitioners (A survey of the views of secondary school teachers in Sheffield, UK). British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(2), 255-280. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2005.00456.x

UK academics’ perceptions of, and pedagogy for, information literacy (collaboration with University of Strathclyde). 2002-2005. Principal Investigator Sheila Webber, Co-Investigator Bill Johnston, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Study and research with us

There are opportunities at Research and Masters degree level to join with us in researching and learning about information literacy and information behaviour.

Research students

We welcome applicants for research degrees in the areas of information literacy and information behaviour.

Current students include:

  • Laura Barber: “Researching online, blended, and face-to-face teaching methods of Information Literacy within Higher Education institutions”
  • Stefan P. Hodson: “Investigating information literacy in the Civil Service workplace”.
  • Evanthia Tramantza: “A longitudinal comparative case study of Engineering students' Information Literacy perceptions and needs in the UK and in Greece.”

Successful graduates include:

  • Dr Syeda Hina Batool (Assistant Professor, Department of Information Management, University of the Punjab, Pakistan) “Exploring Information Literacy practices in primary schools: a case of Pakistan” (Supervisor: Sheila Webber) http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/15534
  • Dr Phussadee Dokphrom: (Assistant Professor, Graduate School, Silpakorn University, Thailand). “An investigation into information literacy of undergraduate studies: a case study of the Faculty of Arts, Silpakorn University Thailand.” (Supervisor: Sheila Webber)
  • Dr Jess Elmore (Researcher, Learning & Work Institute, UK) “Information sharing in ESOL classes: People, objects and places”. (Supervisors: Sheila Webber, Dr Peter Stordy) http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20026
  • Dr Joseph Essel: “A study of Ghanaian teacher trainees' conceptions of information literacy” http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/14360 (Supervisors: Sheila Webber, Professor Philippa Levy).
  • Dr Allen Foster (Reader, Information Management, Libraries and Archives, University of Aberystwyth) 'A non-linear model of information seeking behaviour' (Supervisor: Professor Nigel Ford)
  • Dr Yazdan Mansourian (Lecturer, Charles Sturt University, Australia) 'Information Visibility on the Web and Conceptions of Success or Failure in Web Searching' (Supervisors: Professor Nigel Ford, Sheila Webber) http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/15101/
  • Dr Robinah Namuleme. “Information and HIV/AIDS: an ethnographic study of information behaviour” (Supervisors: Professor Peter Bath, Professor Nigel Ford) http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/3772/
  • Dr Maryam Nazari: (Founder, High Impact Researchers Program) “Information Literacy for online distance learning GIS programmes.” (Supervisor: Sheila Webber)
  • Dr Shahd Salha: The Variations and the Changes in the School Librarians' Perspectives of Information Literacy. (Supervisor: Sheila Webber) http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1538
  • Dr Kondwani Wella: (Librarian, Kamuzu College of Nursing, Malawi & Visiting professor, “Experiencing HIV and AIDS information: a phenomenological study of serodiscordant couples in Malawi”. (Supervisors: Sheila Webber, Professor Philippa Levy) http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10743

If you wish to study with us, you will need to know to apply for research, and whom to approach as a potential supervisor. You should therefore find the following links useful:

Apply for research study

Masters students

People studying for either the MA Librarianship or the distance learning Library and Information Services Management programmes take a core module Information Literacy (coordinated by Sheila Webber).

Students on any Information School programme can choose any information or library related subject for their dissertation, and dissertation topics of masters students who graduated in January 2019 included:

  • Students' Experiences of Peer-Led Information Literacy Training in the NICE Evidence Search Student Champion Scheme (Kathryn Aylward)
  • Embedding Information Literacy within the Primary School Curriculum: an Ethnographic Investigation (Danielle Stewart)
  • The Research of Game Purchasing Behaviour in Final Fantasy XIV (Minxiao Cao)
  • Texts, Lies and Literacy Debates: Conceptions of Information Literacy, Pedagogy, and the Discourse of Fake News (Christopher Thorpe)
  • Exploring the information seeking behaviour of international students studying in the UK (Jiawen Guo)
  • An exploration of the information seeking behaviour of information professionals whilst looking for CPD opportunities: a phenomenographic analysis (Radhika Jones)
  • Information behaviour in the game Civilization (Jiahao Lu)
  • Planting seeds: A study of information behaviours of vegans in Birmingham, UK on social media (Hannah Hickman)

Apply for our Masters programmes

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