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3.1 Information Literacy and referencings

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) define Information Literacy as “knowing when and why you need information, where to find it and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner.” (http://www.cilip.org.uk/get-involved/advocacy/learning/information-literacy/pages/definition.aspx)

CILIP goes on to list aspects of citation and referencing as skills that are required to be ‘information literate’, including:

“Knowledge of citation style”

“Use of appropriate software (spreadsheet / database / statistical / reference management / etc)”

Ensuring students understand how and when to reference is a key factor in combating plagiarism. A report commissioned by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in 2001 identifies several reasons why students plagiarise including the following statements:

“The most common cause of minor plagiarism is a lack of understanding of how to cite material from other sources.”

“Perhaps the most common reason people plagiarise is bad time management skills”

Unfortunately the complexity of practices in referencing and citation increase the barriers to students following good practice. Dr John Sanders, a tutor for the Open University, typified the current practices for referencing and citation as follows:

“Obscure rules, arcane vocabulary, a closed club remote from the experience and concerns of everyday folk, a system which only the insiders know how to work” (http://intranet.open.ac.uk/making-connections/abstracts-C.shtm)

Two key potential benefits of providing tools which make it easier to reference accurately and appropriately, and which integrate good practice in the collation, management and use of references into the students’ learning environment are:

  • Improve students’ information literacy
  • Reduce plagiarism caused by ignorance and lack of time

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