I was relieved to see that Jenkins seemed much more focused on teaching, and saw catching plagiarism not as an active pursuit, but as something to be dealt with when an obvious case arises.It also seemed to me that the design of the 110 course really makes life difficult for students.
I do wonder if I should be talking about plagiarism more in my class. I mentioned it the first week of class and have explained the crucial role of properly attributing quotations and paragraphed passages in academic papers. But I certainly haven’t, as Jenkins suggests, “[begun] by explaining clearly what [plagiarism] is, because a surprising number of students honestly don’t know.”
I wouldn’t like to think I’ve been naive in not dedicating more classroom time to discussing plagiarism, but I can’t help but echo Jenkins when he suggests “either you can be a teacher or you can be the plagiarism police.” Has anyone yet had to deal with a case of plagiarism this semester? How did you go about it?
I think part of my luck (thus far) in seemingly avoiding cases of plagiarism is directly related to Jenkins’s proposition that assignment design is the key to cutting plagiarism off at the root. After all, the first two writing assignments I gave required students to critically engage with their own cultural upbringings, necessarily causing them to go into detail about their own upbringings and historical influences on their families–there simply isn’t much room for plagiarism here, even when citing sources.
Moving on to Wikipedia, the favorite weapon of armchair academicians everywhere: I found Purdy’s article smart. Though I can’t say I’ve seen any students try to cite Wikipedia, the temptation is there among many students and I appreciate the practical approach here: don’t deny the obvious, but instead channel student familiarity with Wikipedia into something constructive. What better way, for example, to demonstrate writing a process of revision or as academics as a conversation than that Purdy suggests? I think this might even be more useful than Gaipa in moving students to consider their academic work as part of a conversation–Gaipa, for all the good his drawings can do, doesn’t manage to move the idea of a writing as a conversation beyond the abstract. With Wikipedia, students can see the conversation, not ready about it.
But one thing that continues to trouble me is helping students distinguish quality sources (a vague term) from poor scholarship. On page 211, Purdy brings us an example of a student who knows not to trust Wikipedia as a source, but uses it to generate ideas and “a general background” on her subject. While Purdy claims it allows students to grasp the terms of conversatino around a subject, what if a Wikipedia article (as they often are) is flagged for extreme bias? Couldn’t the keywords potentially lead one down the wrong path? I think about an entry on the Dream Act–written by a fanatical member of the Minutemen, the keywords would likely be “illegal alien” and the conversation framed around the supposed public assistance the undocumented use; written by someone who advocates for undocumented immigrants (already we see two starkly different key search terms that would yield wildly different results), the conversation is much more likely to revolve around worker rights.
Perhaps I’m not giving Purdy enough credit here–does anyone have a success story about showing students how (if at all) Wikipedia should be engaged.