Monday, March 31, 2008

And another thing...

(I'm actually feeling pretty happy...but there are a couple of things getting under my skin...)

It is appalling to me, what students do with citations. I know I posted, moaning, about this in November when I was grading papers. But I'm back to it because I'm grading research papers again. And I just can't get over this.

I've always directed students, in the syllabus, to the citation style I require. I provide them with a link to its online presence. I also refer them to X Manual of Style in the library, if they prefer. The syllabus says that they will lose marks if they do not correctly use the style. Because really, how hard is it to look it up and follow the directions??!!

This term, with my FOURTH-YEAR class, I required proposals/bibliographies. They came in with almost nobody - about 2 of 10 students, I think - doing the citations correctly. I was so frustrated. But then I decided, okay, I'll spoon-feed them. I photocopied the bloody citation instructions for them!! I just didn't want to deal with this nonsense anymore.

Now I have the final essays. Has one of the four I've read so far done all the citations properly?? NO!!! When I handed them out examples! And they're upper-year students!!!! Most of them are doing positively kooky things that have no relation whatsoever to any style.

You know, this just strikes me as the plainest example of the handbasket-hell equation.


Dr. Crazy said...

If they're doing this, I suspect it's because they think that there won't *really* be a penalty for not doing it... that they think that as long as they have some sort of citation and don't plagiarize that you'll cave and say it's good enough.

My advice? A few ways you can go, but that don't necessarily help for this time:

1) option #1: be really explicit that it will be impossible to get an A in your course - not just on the paper but in the course - if they don't cite properly. And stick to it. And as word gets around about you, you'll find that you no longer have the problem.

2) option #2: When they do citations improperly on the annotated bib, give them a required revision - don't just take points off for things not cited properly. Make them redo the citations. And if they don't give you the revision, give them a zero on the assignment. If they do turn it in, you give them a real grade based on the work that they did without explicit penalty for having to revise, although if they turn in an unrevised or barely revised document (some will try to pull that fast one) they also get a zero. This is the approach that I use, and it's a bit softer than option #1 but pretty much has the same effect if people just blow off the revision. And my students do learn how to cite according to a style in my courses.

But yes, this is irritating and maddening.

Belle said...

As usual, Crazy's right on. I run into this all the time. I tell them (and I'm not the only one) that I have a zero tolerance policy. And I carry through. They then take their silly little games elsewhere.

I do one class where we spend a whole term on doing things right. By the time they get out of there (it's required for majors) they know how to do citations the right way. Or they don't pass. Period. Nail 'em.

Hilaire said...

Thanks for your comments, you two!

Yeah, I definitely dock marks when citations aren't correct, but it's more like just a few percentage points. Not enough. I don't think I could handle the "you get a zero" thing. But I was thinking I could specify a high percentage - say, like 15 or 20% - that would come off if citations weren't correct. That, I could do.

You are ever helpful, both of you!

JustMe said...

i hate when people cite incorrectly! of course, i also don't like endnotes and think that's dumb too. but i think it's field specific. or informational footnotes in the end, i have to flip back and forth all the time. do people not read those in end notes, or am i just a lazy reader for complaining about the constant flipping?

Hilaire said...

I find informational endnotes irritating, too - don't like the flipping either! I much prefer footnotes...too bad nobody else seems to!

Belle said...

Oh, in my own writing I use footnotes, and prefer it when I'm reading a book or article; I hate flipping! Also on my list of don'ts: parenthetical notes. Hate 'em. Had what would have been a fascinating book on primate behavior, but every sentence ended with a long list of useless references. (Smith, 1978a. Jones, 1992b.) Totally messed up the flow of the text, and you didn't know what they were talking about without flipping back and forth the whole time. Grr. Argh.