A Simple Way to Cultivate Referencing Habits in First Year Biology Students

Prasad Chunduri, Lesley J. Lluka, Genevieve Kinna, Jonathan Good, Kirsten Zimbardi, Kay Colthorpe

Abstract


Scientific writing skills are an important aspect of undergraduate science curricula, and science careers. Learning activities and assessment tasks that are designed to enhance students’ scientific writing skills place emphasis on the students’ existing ability to search and cite valid references. This can sometimes be an intimidating expectation, especially for international students. This study investigated a simple way to cultivate and sustain appropriate referencing habits in first year undergraduate science students, and related these habits to academic performance. The students were enrolled at The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia, but studying at Taylor’s University, Malaysia, as part of a twinning arrangement between the two institutions. This study found that careful scaffolding of practical reports and the inclusion of one challenging question per practical report was enough to significantly improve student skills in referencing and academic performance. It further found that students generally preferred to use the course textbook as their major reference, followed by a variety of sources including journal articles.

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