Internet information literacy: A study of older adults

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Information Science and Technology


Ruth V. Small


Computer interaction, Internet, Information skills, Internet information literacy, Older adults

Subject Categories

Library and Information Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Internet Information Literacy (IIL) is the ability to critically evaluate the content, structure and type of information found on the Internet, and presumes the basic operational skills needed for computer and Internet literacy. IIL is embedded in modern school curriculum and standards based education. Having been taught technology-based information-seeking skills in school, students develop confidence in their ability to find information using computers and/or the Internet. Senior adults, however, had no computers or instruction in how to find information on the Internet during their schooling, and may have difficulty learning to do so.

Senior adults who wish to learn how to use the Internet as a source of information may take an Internet course. Those who take these courses may have age-related physical difficulties while interacting with a computer, or other special needs when in a training situation. Yet they are motivated to learn and have information needs to fulfill.

The value of information skills instruction and its effectiveness in providing school students with skills for lifelong learning and information literacy (including IIL) has been validated by research. This study focused on senior adults taking introductory Internet courses: the skills being taught, the motivational strategies used to enhance information skills instruction, and how these skills align with established information skills models and contribute to IIL. Physical interactions with computers and how these impact the ability to conduct Internet research are also reported.

Data for this multi-method study were collected through observational field notes, pre- and post-course questionnaires, document analysis and interviews. Content analysis of data identified computer, Internet and information literacy skills, human computer interaction and age-related issues, and motivational strategies used to enhance instruction.

The study contributes to the field of Internet information literacy by identifying components from computer, Internet and information literacy that are needed in order to teach older adults how to effectively meet their information needs by using computers and the Internet.


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