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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Articles

Referencing Science: Teaching Undergraduates to Identify, Validate, and Utilize Peer-Reviewed Online Literature


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 37 No. 1, p. 8-13
    Received: June 1, 2007

    * Corresponding author(s): bill.berzonsky@ndsu.edu
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  1. William A. Berzonsky *a and
  2. Katherine D. Richardsonb
  1. a 370G Loftsgard Hall, Plant Sciences Dep., North Dakota State Univ., Fargo, ND 58105
    b Agricultural Sciences/Serials Librarian, Rm. 218A Library, North Dakota State Univ., Fargo, ND 58105


Accessibility of online scientific literature continues to expand due to the advent of scholarly databases and search engines. Studies have shown that undergraduates favor using online scientific literature to address research questions, but they often do not have the skills to assess the validity of research articles. Undergraduates generally are deficient in information literacy. A partnership between a faculty member and librarian can often help overcome information literacy deficiencies. In this article, the development of a faculty–librarian partnership and online tutorials is explained. This partnership and the tutorials helped students identify peer-reviewed sources and assess their validity. Undergraduates taking a senior-level capstone plant sciences seminar over 5 years were surveyed regarding their understanding of peer-reviewed literature. Surveys were administered at the beginning of the course and again after they completed the tutorials. The responses given on the surveys suggest that students lacked a firm understanding of what constitutes peer-reviewed scientific literature until after meeting with the librarian and participating in the tutorials. Before development of the partnership, undergraduates had difficulty finding and effectively utilizing online scientific resources. Introducing assignments related to information literacy throughout the curriculum should help teach important scientific literacy skills. Faculty can collaborate with librarians to implement assignments similar to the ones described in this article.

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