, Volume 98, Issue 3, pp 2311–2329 | Cite as

Viewing information literacy concepts: a comparison of two branches of knowledge

  • María Pinto
  • Antonio Pulgarín
  • M. Isabel Escalona


An integrative approach is taken to mapping the field of research on information literacy in health sciences and social sciences. The objective was to identify the conceptual structure of these areas, and to determine their main research fronts and descriptors, and the relationships between them. A further objective is to determine whether information literacy is a consistent area. The basis of the study is the use of the program VOSViewer to analyse the co-occurrence of the areas’ descriptors, grouping them into clusters and generating a map of their connections. Information retrieval was by retrospective searches of the Web of Science (Thomson Reuters) and Scopus (Elsevier). The results for the health sciences area yielded four clusters. The centralmost descriptor was Education (with a total link strength of 1,470), which was strongly linked to the descriptor “Information retrieval”, and weakly linked to “Information skills”, “Information seeking”, and “Information Science”. In social sciences, there were six clusters. “Information literacy” was now the descriptor with most occurrences (812) as well as having the greatest weight—a total link strength of 2,340—followed by “Education” with 839 occurrences. The resulting maps provide a graphical identification of the main research issues and trends in information literacy in these two areas of expertise which, according to the data of the present study, correspond to lesser (health sciences) and greater (social sciences) scientific production. Information literacy was seen to be conceptually more consistent in health sciences than in social sciences. However, at least for the moment, it is a still growing conceptual space that is in need of solider indices of consistency and specificity.


Information literacy Health sciences Social sciences Visualization of similarities 


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • María Pinto
    • 1
  • Antonio Pulgarín
    • 2
  • M. Isabel Escalona
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Information and Communication, Facultad de Comunicación y DocumentaciónUniversity of GranadaGranadaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Information and Communication, Facultad de Biblioteconomía y DocumentaciónUniversity of ExtremaduraBadajozSpain
  3. 3.Servicio de Biblioteca, Archivo y DocumentaciónUniversity of ExtremaduraCaceresSpain

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