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Collaborating for information Literacy.


This article describes a faculty-librarian collaborative project to help students develop information literacy and research skills and apply those skills to their education research project. Information literacy components and course-specific library resources were integrated seamlessly into a graduate level research seminar. Technologies were also utilized to enhance teaching and learning, including the Blackboard Learning System, online discussion boards and the Turnitin plagiarism prevention system.


With the boom in information technology, there has arisen the widespread practice of plagiarism and the use of essentially Internet sources for research assignments (Liles & Rozalski, 2004; Cheney, 2004). Study conducted by the Center for Academic Integrity finds levels of cheating and plagiarism remain high, with 70% of students admitting to some cheating (McCable, 2005). Although students today have access to vast sources of information, many lack information literacy and library skills to find, critically evaluate, synthesize and apply information in a meaningful way (Cooney & Hiris, 2003; Fitzgerald, 2004; Lampert, 2005). Violations of academic honesty on the one hand, and the opportunities offered by the library of having access to sources of doing work of a high quality now require that librarians and faculty work together.

To have the most effective impact, librarians need to collaborate with faculty in integrating information literacy into the curriculum (Lampert, 2005; McCulley and Hare, 2005; Ward, 2006). The benefits of such collaboration have gained a lot of attention in recent literature. Raspa and Ward (2000) showed how librarian-faculty collaboration on information literacy initiatives led to increased communication, greater alignment, and improved learning outcomes. Lampert (2005) presented a faculty-librarian collaborative model for incorporating information literacy instruction into preservice programs for future educators that fosters information literacy and life-long learning. Auer and Krupar (2001), and Lampert (2004) emphasized the need for faculty-librarian collaboration in developing effective approaches to educate students about plagiarism. This article describes how a faculty from education department joined forces with a librarian to build an effective teaching alliance to help students develop information literacy and complete a literature review paper for a capstone education research course.


The faculty and librarian began to plan the library instruction program prior to the Fall 2005 semester. Course requirements, learning objectives, and students' characteristics were discussed. The course required each student to conduct a literature review on an educational technology topic. Students were required to select at least 15 research-oriented journal articles to support their research paper and write the paper in APA format. The main objectives of the teaching alliance were to help students conduct effective research using library resources and avoid plagiarism. To help achieve the objectives, the faculty and librarian decided to implement these strategies:

* Integrate information literacy and library instruction into the course curriculum.

* Develop course-specific library resources and incorporate them into the Blackboard course website.

* Provide two library instruction sessions that covers the use of library databases, Turnitin plagiarism prevention system, and APA style.

* Use Blackboard, especially its discussion board feature to facilitate learning outside class.

The main components of the library instruction sessions; planning, implementation and evaluation of the faculty-librarian collaboration are discussed below:

Online Resources and Support

The faculty and librarian worked together to develop a Blackboard course website that contained course content and course-related library resources. They included library databases related to education, writing resources, APA style guides, plagiarism prevention resources, as well as flash animated tutorials to help students to access library resources from home and register for the Turnitin system. The students were able to access these resources within the course website under Library Resources folder. Various online discussion forums were also created to provide opportunities for students to discuss and ask questions related to the course and the research paper. Both the faculty and librarian were responsible for moderating the discussion forums.

The First Library Instruction Session

The objective of the first library session was to teach students how to use the library's subscribed databases to locate peer-reviewed, research-oriented journal articles. This session was scheduled in the fourth week of the semester so that the students would be better prepared. By the fourth week, the students were introduced to the fundamental principles of educational research and developed potential topics for their research paper. To help students distinguish between using Internet search engines and library databases, the faculty asked the students to search for articles related to their research topic using the Internet before attending the first library session.

During the first library session, the librarian guided the students to the Library Resources folder. Following the links in the folder, the librarian introduced the students to different resources and services, then she moved on to show the class how to use different library databases like Wilson Education full-text and ERIC. After the demonstration, students conducted research on their own topics in class. The librarian would be available to assist them throughout the semester online via the course website and in-person at the library. Through the experience of searching the Internet and the library databases, the students were quick to see the advantages of using library resources for research assignments. They learned from experience that they were able to locate a large number of research-oriented journal articles for their papers only by searching the library databases. Providing the students with opportunity to experience both the Internet and the library databases helped them better understand the need for verifying and critically evaluating information found on the Internet.

The Second Library Instruction Session

Timing was an important factor for offering the second library session, which was scheduled in the tenth week. The objective was to teach students how to cite sources properly using APA style and how to use Turnitin to avoid plagiarism. At this point of time, all students had completed the first draft of their research paper. The experience of locating sources and writing their papers helped them understand the reasoning for using sources and giving credit to those sources that had helped them develop their papers. As the students were working on their final papers, they started to ask how to develop the references section of their papers. This second session was offered just in time to answer these questions. The librarian developed a resource page, Avoiding Plagiarism, and uploaded it into the Library Resources folder. The webpage had two parts. Part one contained resources for preventing plagiarism, including links to the University's academic integrity policy, guidelines for citing sources in APA style, and Tumitin's research resources on preventing plagiarism. Part two contained information about Turnitin: what Tumitin is, why we use it, and how it works.

When the class started, the librarian took the students to the Avoiding Plagiarism page on the course website. Following the links to various topics related to plagiarism, the librarian discussed with the students what plagiarism is, the different kinds of plagiarism, and how to use APA style properly and compile their references list. After that, the librarian introduced the students to Tumitin, a plagiarism prevention system subscribed by the College. Turnitin is an online system that can help identify papers containing suspect plagiarized materials. The system works by checking submitted paper against Internet content, Tumitin's database of submitted student papers, and commercial databases of journal articles. Any matching text found by the system is detailed in an Originality Report and sent to the instructor, as well as to the student if the instructor chooses to do so. The librarian made sure that the students understood that the purpose of using Tumitin in this class was not to "catch anyone", but to help them identify potential sources of plagiarism so that they could correct it. Guided by the librarian, the students registered with Tumitin and submitted a sample paper to the system. This was to prepare the students for submission of their final papers to Turnitin. Before the class ended, the librarian told the students that library instruction would continue via Blackboard, and she encouraged the students to post their questions to the online discussion forums.


Pre-Assessment At the beginning of the semester, a pre-test consisted of ten questions adapted from Diana Hacker's (2004) online research exercises, "Avoiding Plagiarism in APA Papers" was given to the students to assess their prior knowledge of plagiarism and APA style manual usage. The test asked the student to read a passage and the information about its source, and then decide whether each student sample is plagiarized or used the source properly. The pre-assessment revealed that the class had a low level of prior knowledge regarding plagiarism and APA style manual. The students were not clear about what constituted plagiarism, and had difficulty paraphrasing or determining whether plagiarism was committed in the student samples. In addition, the survey at the end of the first library instruction session revealed that sixteen out of twenty students had no prior training in conducting educational research utilizing library resources, especially using the library databases.

Post-Assessment After a semester-long faculty-librarian collaboration to help students learn to conduct research using library resources, and to avoid plagiarism by citing sources properly, students showed significant gains in database search skills, as well as their ability to avoid plagiarism. The students' final research papers demonstrated not only a good selection of research-oriented journal articles in their references, but also their ability to integrate sources into their papers and cite them correctly. Overall, the faculty found that the quality of papers submitted by this class was higher than those submitted by classes in previous semesters. As part of the course requirements, all the students submitted their final paper to Turnitin to be checked for plagiarism. After careful examination of the Turnitin Originality Reports on the students' papers, the instructor concluded that no students committed plagiarism. One student paper, however, was found containing four suspect sources. Closer inspection of both the student paper and the suspect sources found that the Turnitin system failed to tell properly attributed quotations in her paper from two suspect sources. The other two suspect sources were due to improper citing of sources. The instructor met with the student to go over her paper, and helped her understand and correct the problems identified by Turnitin. As stated by many students in the class, the course not only helped them improve research skills and avoid plagiarism, but also allowed them to use the knowledge and skills they gained to educate their students about plagiarism and how to avoid it.


With plagiarism on the rise, instructors need to commit to a "new form of education--one that incorporates ethics, vigilance, collaboration, and technology" (Bowman, 2004, xi). Educators should focus more on plagiarism prevention than punishment, spend more time helping students improve their research skills, and make sure that they understand what plagiarism is and how they can avoid it. In recent years, there are more articles encouraging librarians to take on more active roles in plagiarism prevention, and to form partnerships with faculty to integrate plagiarism education into the curriculum (Auer & Krupar, 2001; Jackson, 2006; Lampert (2004); Wood, 2004). The studies by Burke (2006) and Martin (2005) confirmed our belief that students' awareness of plagiarism prevention system such as Tumitin and its use by faculty and students could serve as a deterrent to plagiarism. However, we believe that careful pedagogy is the key to preventing plagiarism. The library instruction session on plagiarism and Turnitin described in this article represents a joint effort by librarian and faculty to educate students about plagiarism and how to avoid it instead of policing them. In light of the fact that these students are teachers themselves, it becomes even more important to give them the tools and resources so that they can help their students understand what plagiarism is, why it is wrong and how to avoid it.

The implementation of course management system such as Blackboard on college campuses has created new opportunities for librarians to collaborate with faculty to integrate library resources into the curriculum (Cox, 2002). As more faculty use Blackboard to enhance traditional college courses, having a library presence in these faculty-created course websites becomes strategically important (Cohen, 2002; Shank & Dewald, 2003). Shank and Dewald recommended that librarians be "proactive in inserting links to library resources within the courseware domain." (p.38). They proposed two methods of involvement for librarians: Macro-Level and Micro-Level Library Courseware Involvement. At the Macro-Level, librarians would be working with software developers to incorporate "a generic library presence" into the system. At the Micro-Level, a librarian would collaborate with a faculty to develop "a customized library instruction and resources component for the courseware-enhanced course." (p. 38). This is exactly the method the librarian and the faculty took for this course. Library instruction components and course-specific library resources were incorporated seamlessly into the course website, and the students were able to access these resources anytime from anywhere. Instead of relying on Intemet search engines to locate sources for their research papers, the students used the library databases placed within the course website to locate scholarly journal articles. Although the class met only once a week, the use of discussion board allowed the students, the faculty, and the librarian to stay in touch and continue working on the papers. By the end of the semester, a total of 187 messages were posted on the various discussion forums in Blackboard. Implementing Blackboard helped to facilitate the development of effective faculty-librarian teaching alliance and enhance students' learning experience.

Students also found the support from both the faculty and librarian important in developing and writing their research papers. Out of the twenty students in the class, sixteen were first-time users of library databases. Having the faculty who acted as their content expert and the librarian as their library liaison made them feel more comfortable to use library's resources or seek help. Students commented that it was nice to have a librarian dedicated to work with them, and to have both the faculty and librarian readily available to assist them not only in class, but also through email, online discussion boards, and one-on-one consultation. All students went above and beyond the course requirements for having 15 research articles to support their research paper.


Successful faculty-librarian collaboration helps students learn research skills and methods to prevent plagiarism. In contrast to giving students a one-time library instruction and trying to teach them all the concepts within one session, the building of the faculty-librarian teaching alliance has enabled the students to learn, practice and apply information literacy and research skills successfully to their research papers. This is made possible because of the planning process prior to the semester, the collaboration between faculty and librarian throughout the semester, and their commitment to helping students succeed. The use of Blackboard, especially its communications tools, have allowed faculty and librarian to have continued dialog with the students, to provide research assistance at students' point of need, and to adopt a more collaborative approach to learning and teaching. All of these components have contributed to the successful completion and high quality of the students' research projects. Through pre-semester planning, providing online resources and support, and library instruction, the objectives of building a faculty-librarian teaching alliance for information literacy were achieved.


Auer, N. J., & Krupar, E.M. (2001). Mouse Click Plagiarism: The Role of Technology in Plagiarism and the Librarian's Role in Combating It. Library Trends, 49(3), 415-432.

Bowman, V. (Ed) (2004). The Plagiarism Plague: A Resource Guide and CD-ROM Tutorials for Educators and Librarians. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.

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Raspa, D. & Ward, D. (Ed) (2000). The Collaborative Imperative: Librarians and Faculty Working Together in the Information Universe. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

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Judy Xiao, College of Staten Island, City University of New York

Doris Choy, National Institute of Education, Singapore

Xiao, MA, MLS, is Assistant Professor/Coordinator of Periodicals Services, and Choy, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in Learning Sciences and Technology Academic Group, formerly Assistant Professor at the College of Staten Island.
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Author:Choy, Doris
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 2006
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