UoL Library Blog

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Teaching reference management

Posted by knockels on 22 June, 2010

Or perhaps, teaching using reference management.  I went yesterday to the second Innovations in Reference Management event, organised by the TELSTAR project, in Birmingham.   It was all very useful and interesting, but a couple of things caught my eyes and ears.  Here is one.

Helen Curtis, of the University of Wolverhampton, spoke about the University’s inclusion of digital literacy in the list of attributes of a graduate, and the opportunities that this afforded the Library.   I was very interested in how they taught and assessed reference management, trying to concentrate not on teaching one particular tool but on more generic skills.   

One example was an assessment that got the students looking at a list of references and transferring the data into EndNote.  This needs them to be able to identify what the parts of a reference are, and shows them which fields in EndNote are the most important. 

Another example was where students had to include in their project a piece of writing that reflected on their use of information sources, and this had to be submitted alongside the project and the actual EndNote library.    No more finding all the references at the last moment to make sure that no one thinks you are plagiarising!

A third example was the use of virtual reading groups (using EndNote Web).   Students had to add material to a shared folder and then add summaries and comments.  They had to indicate what they had been able to find out about the authors, as well as how they would describe the information source, as well as why the source was useful.   (This reminded me of the exercise that Sarah and I were involved in with Alan Cann, where second year biological science students had to use Cite U Like to store relevant papers and their own appraisal of those papers).

Of course, in the midst of this the students are learning the use of a particular software tool, but they are seeing it in a larger context.

2 Responses to “Teaching reference management”

  1. selinalock said

    Thinks this fits in well with the LILAC session Katie went to about how to incorporate higher level skills into software teaching etc. Something for us to review in terms of our teaching?

  2. Thanks very much for the write-up, I am glad that people found the talk interesting.

    A lot of our work in this area is in its infancy but I hope that it can be developed. The main focus has been trying to move us away from the association we have with a certain level of support, i.e. “training on EndNote” or “showing databases”, and to talk about the input we can have in terms of learning activities associated with using information. This helps to make connections between the tools/software and the skills more meaningful for staff and students.

    The presentation is available at I would be very interested in any comments or other ideas people have for working with reference management in this context.

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