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SLIS Alumna Creates Online Game to Fight Plagiarism

Posted Dec. 5, 2012

Kent State University School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) alumna Michelle Foss Leonard, ’95, came up with an idea to create a free online, interactive game that will help Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) graduate students recognize and avoid plagiarism and fabrication of data.

Michelle Leonard, M.L.S. '95Leonard (left), originally from Ontario, Ohio, received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and her M.A. and M.L.S. from Kent State. Currently she lives in Gainesville, Fla., where she is the associate university librarian, Science and Technology, at the Marston Science Library at the University of Florida.

In 2010, Leonard was asked by the University of Florida Dean of Students’ office to conduct workshops on how to avoid plagiarism. Other departments asked Leonard to come and speak to faculty and graduate meetings about responsible conduct of research, including plagiarism, fabrication of data, authorship issues and data management.

“Originally I was the Interlibrary Loan and Course Reserves librarian,” she said. “In this capacity, I often conducted workshops on copyright and fair use. When my responsibilities changed and I became a science and technology librarian and moved to the Marston Science LibrarGaming Against Plagiarismy in 2009, I taught plagiarism, copyright and fair use classes. My colleagues at the Marston Science Library were already teaching basic plagiarism workshops and created a plagiarism module to use in classes.”

But Leonard thought there had to be a more engaging way to teach these important topics. “Research shows that gaming among college students is ubiquitous, so it only made sense that we could use an interactive, online environment to make learning about plagiarism, falsification of data and fabrication of data more fun and interesting,” she said.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) agreed, and awarded a $298,000 grant to create this game, with Leonard as the principal investigator. She coordinated with her department chair, the library grants manager, dean of the college and the university’s division of sponsored research before submitting the application. The team was notified of the award in September 2010 and they began the game-creating process in October 2010.

“To determine the tyGaming Against Plagiarismpes of games we would ultimately create, we held focus groups of gamers and non-gamers. The feedback from the focus groups assisted the grant team in the initial development stages of the game design process,” she said.

Once the games were designed, usability tests were conducted to determine playability and engagement of the game, and to verify if the content made sense as a learning tool.

“Once the game was in beta, the evaluation phase consisted of 12 partner universities that agreed to have their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) graduate students take a pre-test, play the game and take a post-test to ascertain if any new knowledge was created by playing this game,” said Leonard.

Players receive a certificate after playing the game, so they are required to register to play. In class settings, students can be divided into groups to play against each other. It’s a fun alternative to a lecture on plagiarism, Leonard said.