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Vol 39  No 5
Nov. 2, 2006


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RefWorks takes the stress out of organizing references

Library tools for the 21st century

by Jillian Terry

Second-year Arts student Tim Callanan using the RefWorks program. (Photo by Jillian Terry)
For many students and faculty members, the process of creating and properly formatting citations and bibliographies can be a problematic addition to the already-stressful task of academic writing. Last month, however, libraries at Memorial campuses implemented RefWorks, a web-based bibliographic database manager that may help to ease the anxiety around organizing references.

Many North American universities have RefWorks available for use to faculty and students. Memorial acquired RefWorks this fall as part of a consortium of Atlantic Canadian universities that bought the program, and it was officially launched at the beginning of October. The program is web-based, and is therefore available at the QEII and off-campus though the library's off-campus login.

Karen Lippold, RefWorks co-ordinator and head of the Information Services Division at the QE II Library, says there are several reasons why the library bought the program. "We knew both (faculty and students) have to spend a lot of time and effort formatting citations and bibliographies," she said, adding that she has "never met a student who loves doing this." RefWorks extends its use to faculty as well, helping to eliminate the "make-work task" of reformatting citations and reference lists for manuscript submission to various journals.

English professor Shane O'Dea agrees with the utility of RefWorks, saying that instead of taking away from the process of learning about how to correctly identify sources, it "could be used as another approach to creating bibliographies.

"Students still have to be careful that they gather all the correct information," he said, and providing sources involves "care and attention that RefWorks will help with."

Prof. O'Dea cautions, however, that students should continue to "pull books off the shelves and read pages not just screens."

Aside from the bibliographic database manager, RefWorks contains another module, RefShare, that Lippold said "allows people to share folders of references," a feature that may be particularly useful for collaborations between faculty and students, and to professors for sharing course reading lists.

For more information about RefWorks, visit any university library or log on to www.library.mun.ca/guides/refworks/index.php.

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