17 May 2010

Referencing made easy

The Open University (OU) and its partners have developed a new piece of free software to help students and universities manage academic references more easily.

Funded by JISC, and made in collaboration with RefWorks, the web-based research management, writing and collaboration tool, the OU has developed MyReferences which is part of the Technology Enhanced Learning supporting STudents to achieve Academic Rigour (TELSTAR) project.

Nicky Whitsed, Director of Library Services at the OU, said: “For students, this means helping them to adopt good practice in organising and managing references and using citations appropriately in their work. And for universities this new and easy reference management system will help to tackle plagiarism by making referencing easier; encourage information literacy; and help libraries to improve reference management for courses”.

MyReferences integrates tools from the widely-used RefWorks reference management software into the Moodle virtual learning environment which is used in academic institutions across the UK to support online learning. The MyReferences software is open source, making it free for any institution to download, tailor to their own needs and integrate into their own learning environments.

Owen Stephens, TELSTAR Project Manager, said: “These new tools are invaluable to the 21st century educational institution and student. There is an ever increasing wealth of resources available and hence a real need for students, course and programme teams to be able to create, manipulate, organise and store a range of citations and bibliographic references for easy use.

There are already a number of general referencing tools available to students, but MyReferences takes the usability of these tools a step further by integrating them into online courses so the materials students commonly need to reference are already available in the format they need. Students simply select the sources they need to reference, the referencing style their institution requires and then copy and paste the result into their assignment.

Owen continued: “From now until July we’ll be working with other institutions to implement the software, as well as continuing to pilot it with staff and students at the OU. The response we’ve had so far from students and staff alike has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re looking forward to working with more and more organisations in the UK and across the world to spread the benefits of this new referencing tool.”

Colleen Stempien, Executive Director of Operations, RefWorks-COS, said: “RefWorks is proud to be a part of the MyReferences project – it not only provides users with an effective and easy-to-use research management tool, but it takes another step towards educating them about information literacy. Any institution that currently subscribes to RefWorks may easily adapt the added Moodle integration functionality using the RefWorks API.”

For a visual demonstration of MyReferences, click on the following link:

Lawrie Phipps, programme manager at JISC, says: “Writing up references can be a really time-consuming activity for the student and researcher – but it’s essential to avoid plagiarism, develop robust scholarship and lead the reader to other relevant work. This resource is one aspect of a huge investment from JISC which aims to spark innovative solutions to issues like referencing that affect people working up and down the country, in order to inspire and help other UK colleges and universities.”

The TELSTAR team will be organising events for the UK higher education community in order to share information about TELSTAR and related developments in the field of Reference Management. For more information, go to:


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