June 2, 2008

Do not copy and paste

This morning (or at least now), I am reviewing the syllabus for the course that starts this Saturday. In reality, the term began last month, but we are meeting for the first time on Saturday. I sent the students several e-mails over the past few weeks after uploading the syllabus to the relevant Blackboard (ick! I know) page. I also gave students an opportunity to note errors or omissions from the syllabus, with an incentive that is meaningful to at least several students. So today, I finish the minor revisions on the syllabus based on feedback (version 1.1) and upload it. (For students who read my blog, don't worry: I just changed the last assignment to a 50-page paper requiring original research. Just kidding!)

Revising the syllabus also gave me the chance to look at my standard "class policies" language before I create syllabi for the fall. I've decided I very much like the advice I give on avoiding plagiarism:

If you are not sure what the standard is for online materials, maybe a rule of thumb will help for this course: Do not copy and paste. Do not copy and paste without citing at all: that is plagiarism. Do not copy and paste, fail to put in quotation marks, but put the author(s) and publication date in parentheses: that is awful citation mechanics. Do not copy and paste, put in quotation marks, and cite properly, because you are wasting precious space. I do not grade students for how well they quote sources. The highest grades are earned by thoughtful evaluation and synthesis. You cannot meet that standard by copying and pasting.

I know that teachers sometimes socialize students into the string-the-quotations-together school of writing a research paper, but a paper where 60% is quoted material drives me bonkers. If they cared about improving their writing, students would understand they need to avoid quoting. What feedback do students want on weak papers: "Next time, pick better quotations"?

Addendum: Yes, I will be cleaning up the colloquial language for the fall. You now see the warts in the current version.

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Posted in Teaching on June 2, 2008 9:02 AM |