Sunday, 14 April 2013

Writing and ethical use of sources in students’ work


Breakout Session by Solveig M L Kavli from University of Bergen Library, Arts Library

Solveig Kavli introduced and analysed the construction of Search & Write (or Søk & Skriv), an online information literacy tool for students. Kavli discussed the theoretical and pedagogical framework of the tool, focusing on writing, evaluating sources, and ethics. She also discussed the evaluation process that took the tool from its first to its final version.

The strengths of this tool come from the collaboration between librarians and the academic writing unit, creating a coherent tool that blends the teaching of information and writing skills. Search & Write was firmly aligned with the ethical integrity of the university, with Kavli taking a quote from the student handbook:
It is your duty as a student to learn the rules that apply to how you should refer to sources of different kinds in written work. This duty is not limited to learning how to include references; it also includes you following the rules and referring to sources in a proper and honest manner. University of Bergen
Search and Write provides students with the tools to learn not only how to cite sources correctly, but also to learn how to do this in the 'proper and honest manner', while using evaluation tools that allow students to explain why they have relied on certain sources and to take a stance on these sources. As Kavli explained, the tool teaches these skills rather than relying on the old assumption that if students read the academic texts of others, they will learn how to refer to sources in their own work. A key aspect of the tool is that students are taught how to evaluate the work of others with the same criteria that they are then asked to apply to their own writing, encouraging students to develop a critical eye as well as an academic style of writing.

Between the first and final versions of Search & Write (Kavli warns that the English translation of the final version is still a work in process) Kavli highlighted the following improvements:

  • The final version moved away from separate sections for basic and advanced skills after discovering that students found these divisions confusing. I found this interesting as it is often tempting to create these divisions to avoid information overload for new students while still offering in-depth information for postgraduates.
  • The first version was very process based, divided into the following objectives: 'task initiation', 'obtain an overview', 'find and combine keywords', 'search and write', and 'closure'. However, these were not seen to work in practice, so Search & Write was redesigned to incorporate these objectives but to turn them into a tool rather than a linear process. The new sections were clearly divided into 'searching', 'reading', 'writing', and 'sources and referencing', with a clear diagram on the first page showing how different topics fall under the headings.

The final tool is very clearly structured and has received very positive feedback from users. One student commented: "as a student I just wanted to say that the way Search and Write now appears is close to perfection" - I'm not sure you can get a more positive response than that! I found Kavli's talk to be very informative, especially as someone currently involved in a similar project, and the Search and Write tool is a model for good practice in this area.

Search & Write is a collaboration between the libraries at Bergen University College, Norwegian School of Economics (NHH), University of Bergen and University of Oslo, and Academic Writing at the Department of Philosophy, University of Bergen.It has been funded by the National Library of Norway.

The slides for this presentation can be found here.

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