B.01 "CopyCats: Open-Source Approaches to Plagiarism"
Reviewed by Bruce Kovanen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chair: LauraAnne Carroll-Adler, University of Southern California, Granada Hills
Valerie Seiling Jacobs, Columbia University, Westport, CT, "Beyond Plagiarism: Using Sources Responsibly in an Increasingly Open-Source World"
Stephanie Roach, University of Michigan–Flint, "The Disservice of ‘Just Say No’ Approaches to Plagiarism"
Despite missing two of the four panel speakers, Valerie Seiling Jacobs and Stephanie Roach filled the room with their discussion of plagiarism and the citation of sources.
In her talk titled "Beyond Plagiarism: Using Sources Responsibly in an Increasingly Open-Source World," Valerie Jacobs discussed her experience helping students incorporate sources into their written work. In her work with students, Jacobs noticed several groups of problems: students had problems summarizing and interpreting a source, problems involving the quality or nature of sources, problems with conflation, problems with paraphrasing, and other miscellaneous citation problems such as failing to maintain original punctuation or failing to indicate deleted or added language.
After outlining the problems her students faced, Jacobs then suggested a range of potential pedagogical interventions to support students. To help students having problems summarizing sources, Jacob suggested that instructors should teach students to choose the correct "signal phrase," to recognize the difference between correlation and causation, and to read to the end of the article. Too often, Jacobs noted, students would quote from the abstract or the beginning literature review of an article without finishing their reading. This led students to make erroneous conclusions, and, in the most extreme cases, reach conclusions opposite of the article they had cited. To help students having problems evaluating sources, Jacob recommended instructors teach students the distinction between an academic source and a nonacademic source, teach students to recognize potential areas of author bias, and teach students to check whether their cited data is current. By doing this, students in Jacobs’s class had a better understanding of what kind of sources they were working with. This allowed the students to notice "gaps" in their sources and prompted them to seek out new sources to help them create a fuller picture of the topic at hand. Jacobs urged students having problems with conflation to learn to avoid "nesting" sources and thus avoid quoting someone quoting someone else. Quoting a source within a source is oftentimes too many lenses for a student to work with, and student writing quickly becomes muddled and confusing. Other students who had trouble with paraphrasing should, according to Jacobs, be taught how to use good "research hygiene," that is, they must learn how to distinguish between quotes and summaries during the note-taking stage, and should be taught how to avoid "patchwriting" by using concrete examples and citation software like Zotero. In addition, Jacobs suggested that students get in the habit of double checking quotations and any reported numbers, statistics, or dates present in a source. Lastly, Jacobs recommended helping students learn grammatical conventions for indicating deletions and additions when they quote from sources.
The intended outcomes for Jacobs’s pedagogical interventions are students who understand how to summarize sources, how to evaluate sources, and how to punctuate sources correctly.
In the next talk, "The Disservice of ‘Just Say No’ Approaches to Plagiarism," Stephanie Roach of University of Michigan–Flint outlined the similarities between the "Just Say No" approach towards drug use and the "Just Say No" approach instructors often take towards plagiarism. Roach argued that this approach was unhelpful because it promoted a moralistic approach and focused on punishment over education and prevention. Viewed this way, students who plagiarize are considered evil students who should be thrown from the academy. They are perceived as willful wrongdoers, rather than students in need of citation instruction.
Roach pushed further and argued that "Just Say No" is essentially a gimmick that’s a part of the plagiarism problem because it promotes an illusion of progress. It’s an oversimplification of a complex process. Everyone can pat themselves on the back about a no-tolerance policy, but, as Roach said, very little is actually changing. As a substitute, Roach suggested the "Just Say Know" policy. This program still places individual responsibility on students, but teachers are now expected to offer instruction on how to cite and use sources correctly. Teachers and students work together to prevent plagiarism, intentional or accidental. Teachers and students have to work together because students do not have the option that typical "Just Say No" adherents have: they simply cannot stop using other people’s texts. Because abstention is not an option, meaningful instruction needs to happen—not handouts or warnings of what will happen if students break the rules.
Each talk focused on problems of plagiarism and working with sources. Both speakers noted how an increasingly open-source world will further complicate the processes regarding citation and sources. Each speaker offered pedagogical interventions and programmatic responses to student writing regarding source use.