Building games students want to play

Karen Markey was the principal investigator on this project that designed, developed, tested, and evaluated a computer game, Bibliobouts, to teach incoming undergraduate students essential information literacy skills.

Start date: 10/1/2008
End date: 9/30/2012

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Most undergraduates enter college with limited experience in scholarly research. Beyond Google and Wikipedia searches, many students are unfamiliar with academic libraries or library databases. BiblioBouts was developed as an online social game that can be adopted on any campus to teach students the information literacy skills and concepts that they need to know to research and write academic papers. 

BiblioBouts was designed to tap into students' competitive nature by offering a fun and interactive way of finding academic sources and learning research skills. The game could be incorporated into the syllabus of any course where critical research skills and information literacy were needed. The game put professional research tools into students' hands and gave them repeated practice in using these tools to find, evaluate, and select high-quality information for their papers. Students searched for sources online, chose their best results, rated and tagged their opponents' sources, and compiled a final list of the best citations for their topic from a pool of all players' sources. At the end of the game, students ended up with the resources for writing their paper: a high-quality bibliography, online citations, and digital full texts.

Findings from the evaluation of BiblioBouts were promising:  

  • Players cited more sources in their final-paper bibliographies than non-players.
  • Players felt that they would be better at and more confident about performing various research tasks than they felt before playing the game.
  • Students rated their motivation and perseverance at playing the game at high and very high levels.
  • Students cited many gameplay benefits such as getting a head start on research, finding relevant sources from classmates’ submissions, becoming a more confident researcher, and being better prepared to write their papers.

Five institutions—Chicago State University, Troy University Montgomery, Saginaw Valley State University, the University of Baltimore, and the University of Dubuque—field tested and evaluated the Bibliobouts program. Project members Karen Markey, Chris Leeder, and Soo Young Rieh wrote a book that incorporated their research and findings on this project, Designing Online Information Literacy Games Students Want to Play, that is scheduled for publication in December 2013. The book focuses on online information literacy games and enlists BiblioBouts as a case study to demonstrate how to design, develop, deploy, and evaluate such games.

For more information on BiblioBouts and to view the objectives, methods and findings of the research, please visit the project website.


National Leadership Grants for Libraries—Building games students want to play, Institute of Museum and Library Sciences: $649,941


The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences' National Leadership Grants for Libraries program enhances the quality of library services nationwide by supporting innovative projects that can be widely replicated. Areas of funding include education, research, digitization, and library-museum collaboration.

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