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Integrating RefWorks and BlackBoard
by Jody Fagan

Citing resources and creating properly formatted bibliographies is not usually a researcher's favorite part of academic work, but for any finished academic product it's critical to have done both these things well. And anyone who's written a thesis or dissertation knows that organization of references is key. For these reasons, faculty and students alike have begun singing the praises of RefWorks (http://www.refworks.com), a fully online bibliographic management system.

RefWorks logo

RefWorks allows researchers to import references from online databases, organize and store them into appropriate folders, and then format a paper and bibliography in any scholarly style with the click of a button. While JMU has had access to RefWorks since October 2004, as of this summer, faculty and students will now be able to create and share lists of research citations through Blackboard's direct connection to RefWorks.

Like all JMU databases, RefWorks is available on and off campus, as long as you have set up your web browser properly for off campus access.

Faculty may wish to create reading lists in RefWorks, since citations will be correctly formatted, and LinkFinderPlus allows direct access to full text of those references, if available through JMU Libraries. A "Read-only" access option allows faculty to share personal folders with students without fear of losing their own work. Students that are working in groups may wish to store their group's work in a shared folder, so that group members can see each others' work. When final references are chosen, formatting a bibliography and paper will be a snap.

Blackboard.com logo

RefWorks is listed on the Blackboard "Tools" menu in all student and faculty courses. This is just an easy way to get to RefWorks from Blackboard, without having to open a new window and launch RefWorks. If it's a first time RefWorks access through Blackboard, the user is asked to choose whether to use an existing RefWorks account or whether to create a new account.

An instructor can also create links to a specific RefWorks account from any of the following areas of BlackBoard: Course Information, Course Documents, Assignments, and External Links. RefWorks links are added the same way as other documents and links—just be sure to choose "Link to RefWorks Database" from the pull-down menu. Since RefWorks will always open in a new window, you will need to hold down CTRL if you have a pop up blocker when accessing RefWorks through Blackboard.

Because there's no limit on the number of RefWorks accounts an individual can have, faculty can create one or more RefWorks accounts for each course taught. If faculty don't want students to add, edit, or delete, a read-only password can be used. This might be useful for sharing a reading list. Read-only passwords are set by logging into RefWorks, then clicking Tools, then Update User Information. Using a regular password might be useful for collaborative projects. For example, each student could create his or her own RefWorks account and use Tools, Export References, RefWorks Tagged Format to export records from a database into their account folder, and then import those references into their group's folder in a shared class account that was created by the instructor.

RefWorks and the new RefWorks-Blackboard connection are both new to JMU, and offer new possibilities for individual and collaborative research projects. If you have comments or questions about these technologies, or would be willing to share how you've used them with success, please let your library liaison or the Digital Services Librarian, Jody Fagan, know!

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