How do I reference an article again? – Information Literacy & E-Learning

E-Learning, Literacy & Writing skills

Brief description

This project involved researching and creating a web-based module which concentrates on research and writing skills, helping students make the transition from A-level directed work to university self-directed study. This entirely web-based module (for on-campus students) achieves this through on-line assignments which are undertaken in conjunction with library assignments.


First-year students in the Department of English at the University of Newcastle take the compulsory 10-credit module Writing Skills. This weekly module consists of seminars on, for example, how to use punctuation, how to reference, etc. Student resistance to this module has been high – not because of the content but because of the form. To this end, in Spring 2005, a Writing Skills working party, made up of staff and students, was set up to figure out how to make this module more viable. It was resolved that students were unhappy with the module for two reasons:

  • Not enough detail was provided on the skills necessary to succeed at university.
  • Seminar-based sessions were not appropriate for the attainment of these skills.

Project design

The proposed solution was a web-based module which allows students to manage their own learning. Students would work through the hands-on assignments on the web, ensuring that they have actual experience of how to, for example, use a footnote properly. The site consisted of five components, the titles of which were somewhat conscribed by the university’s chosen Virtual Learning Environment, Blackboard: Announcements; Module Information; Learning Units; Web Resources; and, Discussion Board.

The 9 Learning units contain a short document to read and an assignment to complete (one for literature students and one for language & or linguistics students). The 9 learning units are available for you to download and reuse under a Creative Commons licence (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike) for: England & Wales / Scotland.

  1. Unit 1 – Introduction to Academic Research – MSWord 127kb
  2. Unit 2 – Essay Planning – MSWord 119kb
  3. Unit 3 – Library Resources – MSWord 128kb
  4. Unit 4 – Web-Based Research – MSWord 321kb
  5. Unit 5 – Referencing and Bibliographies – MSWord 142kb
  6. Unit 6 – Paragraph Structure – MSWord 128kb
  7. Unit 7 – Essay Structure – MSWord 126kb
  8. Unit 8 – Grammar and Punctuation – MSWord 129kb
  9. Unit 9 – Writing Style – MSWord 124kb

Key findings

Overall the project /module was a success though there were some lessons learned in the first year of running the module. Official student feedback found the site both helpful and relevant.

Future changes which will improve the running of the course were highlighted as being:

  • Remodelling of the assessment guidelines
  • Closing of the ‘re-sit’ loophole
  • Streamlining of the site (within BlackBoard to assist the postgraduate markers )
  • Creation of a submission sheet to aid identification of students
  • Establishment of a database to manage and track student submissions

Issues identified for the future included:

  • The degree of e-learning expertise required by the convenor
  • Ongoing maintenance of the website – who is responsible?
  • Heavy workload for the course convenor

You can read more in the project report below..

I do not consider this project to have ended – each year the site and the module will need to be adjusted and maintained.  The long-term impact on student essays remains to be seen although informal discussions with colleagues indicate that the first-year essays have been uniformly strong this year. E-learning and flexible learning are both here to stay, as are the challenges posed by students entering with little knowledge of the demands of university-level information literacy.


Project Leader

Dr Stacy Gillis
University of Newcastle

Research Period

September 05 – April 07