The search for the Skunk Ape: studying the impact of an online information literacy tutorial on student writing

Randall McClure, Rachel Cooke, Anna Carlin
2011, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 26-45

Abstract


This paper examines the impact of an online information literacy tutorial on source selection, evaluation, and use in essays written by English Composition students. More than 250 students participated in this research, and the essays written by a sample of 60 students are examined. Citation analysis is used first to determine the average number of citations per paper, frequency of source/format type, currency and authority of sources, frequency and length of in-text citations, and frequency of correctly formatted in-text and end-of text documentation. Textual analysis is used second to determine which essays have more frequent, correctly-formatted intext citations, more paraphrases and summaries of their sources, fewer long quotes, and more source variety, among others. The results of this analysis suggest that online information literacy instruction may increase the number of sources that students locate and use. The textual analysis in this study also highlighted some deficiencies in students’ citation practices, such as discrepancies between in-text citations and sources listed in bibliographies, and these problems were present despite information literacy instruction. These results point out areas of instruction, such as integrating sources into writing, to be improved upon in future versions of the online tutorial. The findings offered here should help information literacy professionals planning to develop online tutorials hone the content of the programmes.


Keywords


Information literacy; undergraduates; citation analysis; online instruction; assessment; academic libraries; student performance; writing; textual analysis

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