Playing Games to Improve the Quality of the Sources Students Cite in their Papers

Karen Markey, Chris Leeder, Charles L. Taylor


This study seeks to determine the effectiveness of the BiblioBouts information literacy game for improving the quality of the sources undergraduate students cite in their written papers. BiblioBouts was incorporated into a second-year English class of 45 students in which about half played the game from start to finish (i.e., players) and the other half failed to play all or part of the game (i.e., nonplayers). The authors hypothesized that the quality of the sources players cited in their papers would improve as a result of playing BiblioBouts and players would cite more scholarly sources in their final-paper bibliographies than nonplayers. About 90 percent of the sources players’ cited in their in-game bibliographies were scholarly sources. When players transitioned to their final papers, the percentage of scholarly sources they cited in their final papers dropped in half (44.6 percent); however, it surpassed the percentage (35.2 percent) of scholarly sources nonplayers cited in their final papers. The authors suggest that players put scholarly sources into play and cited them in their in-game bibliographies knowing that they would earn high scores for their actions. The authors also raise the question of whether the second-year students in this class and whether underclassmen generally understand scholarly sources well enough to integrate them into their papers. BiblioBouts players benefited in several other ways including being exposed to many more sources than they would have found on their own, becoming familiar with the library portal and its many available databases, and mastering citation management software for saving online sources’ citations and full-texts.

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