September 16, 2006

Overquoting

Excerpts from a note to a class after grading one set of quizzes:

There were two reasons why the quiz scores were lower for this quiz than for the others. First, the material is more difficult, and most of you haven't had experience with legal opinions. I wouldn't be surprised at all if this quiz had the lowest measures of central tendency in the entire semester. (I hope so!)

In addition, many of you turned to quoting chunks of the opinion, ... Reading an answer that is mostly a quotation frustrates me, because my obligation is to evaluate your understanding; did you understand it and select an appropriate excerpt, or did you get lucky? It's also very hard for me to give you any constructive feedback if you don't use your own words; if we agree that quoting is appropriate, then any feedback would consist of, "Well, select a better quotation next time." I hope you'll agree that wouldn't be very helpful!

Because of my experience reading the quiz answers this week, I strongly advise you to avoid quoting in your answers for the rest of the semester.


I can't mandate the no-quotation rule for quizzes (though I will next time!), because I didn't put it in the syllabus. But does anyone else get frustrated with the fallout of coming after teachers who do reward the extensive quoting of source materials in lieu of paraphrasing?

One well-known writer in education (whom I'll call Dr. Overquote) has a habit of quoting other sources for a good chunk (sometimes more than half!) of the typical Dr. Overquote article. Dr. Overquote is a nice soul and does a very nice job of synthesis when it's Dr. Overquote's own words, but, sheesh, it's sometimes as frustrating to read a Dr. Overquote article or book as the student answers that prompted my note quoted above. Some years ago, Dr. Overquote was lured away from Grand University to Big State University, and Grand University then proceeded to bid him away from Big State University, to return to their genteel and loving climate. Since then, I've had the idea to prepare a joke article manuscript that would be a ransom note in Dr. Overquote's style, if just a bit exaggerated.

"Dear" (Overquote, 198x, p. n) "Grand" (Overquote, 199x, p. n) "University" (Overquote, 200x, p. n),

"We" (Overquote, 198x, p. n) "have" (Overquote, 199x, p. n) "Overquote" (Overquote, 200x, p. n) "and" (Overquote, 198x, p. n) "will" (Overquote, 199x, p. n) "not" (Overquote, 200x, p. n) "return" (Overquote, 198x, p. n) "your" (Overquote, 199x, p. n) "perfesser" (Overquote, 200x, p. n) "until" (Overquote, 198x, p. n) "you" (Overquote, 199x, p. n) "give" (Overquote, 200x, p. n) "either" (Overquote, 200x, p. n) "us" (Overquote, 198x, p. n) "or" (Overquote, 199x, p. n) "Overquote" (Overquote, 200x, p. n) "3.2" (Overquote, 198x, p. n) "gazillion" (Overquote, 199x, p. n) "dollars" (Overquote, 200x, p. n).

"P.S."* (Poobah1, quoted in Overquote, 198x, p. n) "Don't" (Poobah2, quoted in Overquote, 199x, p. n) "go" (Poobah3, quoted in Overquote, 200x, p. n) "to" (Poobah4, quoted in Overquote, 198x, p. n) "the" (Poobah5, quoted in Overquote, 199x, p. n) "fuzz" (Poobah6, quoted in Overquote, 200x, p. n) "or" (Poobah7, quoted in Overquote, 198x, p. n) "you" (Poobah8, quoted in Overquote, 199x, p. n) "will" (Poobah9, quoted in Overquote, 200x, p. n) "be" (Poobah10, quoted in Overquote, 198x, p. n) "sorrie" [sic] (Poobah 11, quoted in Overquote, 199x, p. n).

The key, of course, would be that the references section would be about seven times as long as the "article."

*—I'm doubtful that I could find a "P.S." in an article except as first and middle initials, and I'd have to be lucky. Everything else I'm sure I could find some version of.

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Posted in Teaching on September 16, 2006 9:59 AM |