Not such a bad idea?

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It’s a convoluted story.

First, a memorandum was leaked (shortly before the recent UK general election) which was apparently an account of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon saying, in private conversation, that she would prefer that David Cameron won the election and stayed on as Prime Minister, rather than Ed Miliband, the then leader of the Opposition.

Given that SNP and Miliband’s Labour party have much in common – especially in their joint opposition to Cameron’s Conservative party – and they seemed to be natural allies, and given that there had been much scare-mongering about the stranglehold which the SNP would have if Labour won the election, this was a hugely damaging allegation. It was damaging for the SNP as well as for Miliband’s party.

Sturgeon denied making the comment.

Then it was announced that the leak had been authorised by Alistair Carmichael, a Lib-Dem member of Cameron’s coalition government.

Carmichael denied authorising the leak.

Since the election, which the Conservative party unexpectedly won handsomely, there has been a Cabinet inquiry into the leak of the memorandum. It seems that Carmichael did authorise the leak. We still do not know whether the allegation was true or not, although Carmichael is now on record as saying that he no longer believes the story. We do know that Carmichael lied. He said he had not authorised the leak – but he did. He admits that he authorised the leak and that he lied about his role in the incident.

What makes the story interesting from an ethical point-of-view is a comment made by one of Carmichael’s colleagues, Malcolm Bruce, the former deputy leader of the Liberal-Democrat party. In an interview on BBC Radio 4, Bruce declared, ““If you are suggesting every MP who has never quite told the truth or even told a brazen lie, including cabinet ministers, including prime ministers, we would clear out the House of Commons very fast, I would suggest.” (Reported in The Guardian, 26 May 2015: Sir Malcolm Bruce: Commons would empty very fast if lying MPs had to quit.

And I cannot help thinking, MPs who tell the truth, maybe that’s not such a bad idea?

 

 

Vested interest

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Just a follow-up to earlier posts (1) on shale gas drilling (fracking) Still wrong to be forgotten and (2) on the problems of research performed on the behalf of companies with vested interests in a process or a product Flattering flaws

In the first, I discussed a heavily redacted report which had been released by the UK government on problems associated with fracking; the report, evidently, was intended to present the facts and so promote  unbiased discussion and informed argument – difficult when so much of the paper was censored.

The post on research and vested interest discussed, inter alia, unsubstantiated claims made in a press release posted by the plagiarism software company iThenticate.com, the company behind Turnitin and Plagiarism.org. The press release stated “the number of retractions in scholarly publications doubled between 2010 and 2011,” and cited the well-respected blog Retraction Watch as the source of this information. There was and is nothing in Retraction Watch to this effect (confirmed by one of the blog’s authors), and I made the point that, even if the statement about the doubling of the number of retractions was true, there is nothing to suggest that the retractions due to plagiarism had doubled; on the other hand, iThenticate.com might possibly be thought to have a vested interest in promoting plagiarism hysteria, the better to sell its products.

[It was verifying this for the present story which led to my discovery that iThenticate has since removed the erroneous claim that plagiarism doubled in scientific papers in the years 2010-2011. In its stead is an equally erroneous post regarding a ten-fold increase in the rate of retraction of scientific papers over the past 20 years. This second claim is attributed to an article in Nature – which had indeed reported on a study which demonstrated a ten-fold increase in the rate of retraction, but the period under review was more than 36 years, not the 20 years of the iThenticate story (see Memory hole).]

I have Retraction Watch to thank again, for a report which draws together these threads, fracking and vested interest. In the post Undisclosed industry funding prompts correction of fracking paper, Adam Marcus reports on a research paper published in Environmental Science & Technology. The abstract of “Methane Concentrations in Water Wells Unrelated to Proximity to Existing Oil and Gas Wells in Northeastern Pennsylvania” states that the researchers “found no statistically significant relationship between dissolved methane concentrations in groundwater from domestic water wells and proximity to pre-existing oil or gas wells” – and had suggested that the difference in findings to earlier studies (which found significant differences) was because the data-sets used in the EST study were far larger than those used in the earlier studies.

As may be. According to Inside Climate News, “Industry welcomed the Siegel study, the largest ever evaluating methane in water near gas development, as evidence of the safety of hydraulic fracturing.”  Well, it would, wouldn’t it?

But, as Retraction Watch reports, the journal has now published a correction, signed by the authors, which states that the data-sets they used were supplied by the Chesapeake Energy Corporation (a company which might be thought to have vested interest in the outcome of the research?) – and that the lead author of this research paper “was funded privately by Chesapeake for this work,”  a declaration of interest which had not been declared in the original paper.

What is more, again according to the Inside Climate News report, another of the authors was employed by Chesapeake for some of the time the study was taking place, and has since taken up permanent employment with Chesapeake.  This too was not disclosed when the paper was submitted.

The authors are reported as claiming that their connections with Chesapeake did not influence their research and their findings, and that they did not breach Environmental Science & Technology‘s requirements regarding disclosure of bias, funding, relationships or other interest.

May be.

It matters not how honest and accurate and complete the study is; when those with vested interests are too closely involved in data-collection, analysis, interpretation and conclusion; when possibly-vital pieces of information are hidden and facts are withheld, there are bound to be suspicions, it seems there is something to hide.

Full disclosure and complete honesty is essential. In my earlier post, I mentioned Bad pharma, a book in which Ben Goldacre described the problems for doctors and for patients when – for whatever reason – only positive results of drug trials are published and negative results are falsified or are not published at all. Goldacre makes the point, right at the start of his book:

Before we get going, we need to establish one thing beyond any doubt: industry-funded trials are more likely to produce a positive, flattering result than independently-funded trials … this is one of the most well-documented phenomena in the growing field of ‘research about research’ (Goldacre, Bad pharma, p. 1).

Controversies regarding shale gas drilling suggest that fracking is just as much a matter of life-and-death, the potential for disaster on a local scale and further is huge. The public and those in position to make decisions need the full facts. When those with vested interest present information which might be tainted, wise decision-making is not well-served.

For us, the public, the reader, the consumer (the consumed?), vigilance is necessary. When we are told how good something is, it always behooves us to wonder, how do we know, who is behind the research, what aren’t we being told? Who stands to benefit?

Complete disclosure and independent review are essentials, else we may be shackled and hoodwinked.

Caveat emptor.

Memory hole

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Yesterday, halfway through writing my next post, I needed a quotation I had used in an earlier post.  I quickly found the quotation, clicked on the link so that I could check and then cite the original source – and, horror, although part of the passage I wanted to use was still there, – the words of the vital sentence were not. They had been replaced, the evidence  I wanted to support my claim was no longer there.

The quotation in question was from the post Flattering flaws. I was commenting on a press release put out by iThenticate.com, promoting their then-recently published study Survey Shows Plagiarism a Regular Problem in Scholarly Research, Publishing, But Action to Prevent Falls Short. I pointed to several questionable statements in the press release, statements which were not always reflected in the actual study.

The paragraph in question reads:

Editors at scholarly publications were the exact opposite, with a majority reporting routinely checking submitting authors’ work for plagiarism. The web site Retraction Watch estimates that the number of retractions in scholarly publications doubled between 2010 and 2011 (iThenticate Press Release, 2012 December 5).

and, amongst other things, I questioned the second statement. There is no evidence in the study to indicate that “the number of retractions in scholarly publications (had) doubled between 2010 and 2011″ – and there was nothing on the Retraction Watch website to suggest this either. Where, I asked, had iThenticate found this statement?

I still don’t have an answer to this question. It might not even be a valid question any more, because the statement is no longer there. Instead, what I see now when I go to the press release is

Editors at scholarly publications were the exact opposite, with a majority reporting routinely checking submitting authors’ work for plagiarism. A Nature article reported a 10-fold increase in the rate of article retraction over the past 20 years.

The statement regarding Retraction Watch has disappeared, is not there. There is no proof that my original statement was correct. I could be accused of telling lies, falsifying evidence, sued for defamation, What’s worse, Internet Archive‘s first record of this page is 27 March, 2014 – by which time the change has been made. The paragraph refers to a claim made in Nature, not the claim claimed to have been claimed by Retraction Watch.  If Internet Archive had made any earlier captures, they had been removed.

Fortunately (your honour), I had scrapbooked the original press release; I have a copy on my hard-drive. There, phew, we see

Editors at scholarly publications were the exact opposite, with a majority reporting routinely checking submitting authors’ work for plagiarism. The web site Retraction Watch estimates that the number of retractions in scholarly publications doubled between 2010 and 2011.

just as I claimed in my original post – which was published on 22 March 2013.

For a moment, I was reminded of the scene in George Orwell’s 1984, where, in the middle of a demonstration against Eurasia, the enemy suddenly became Eastasia, and without a blink, the crowds changed the object of their hatred. Eurasia was the ally, and always had been.

Change the record, nobody will know – especially in this digital age when we keep all our records in the cloud, when our secrets can be shared behind our backs, where files are corrupted – not necessarily for corrupt reasons – and our memories are changed and/or disappear. At least, in the scientific community and often elsewhere, when edits are made, when mistakes are corrected, there is a note in the paper that corrections have been made.

Memory hole, NewSpeak, DoubleThink …

I’ll get off my soapbox, to point to one more twist to this tale.  For whatever reason, iThenticate has changed their statement, no longer citing a claim which they attributed to Retraction Watch. Now they state in their press report (originally) published in December 2012)  “A Nature article reported a 10-fold increase in the rate of article retraction over the past 20 years.

What the article in Nature (published 1 October 2012) says, is

The latest study shows a ten-fold increase (to about 0.01%) in the proportion of papers retracted owing to fraud since 1975.
Zoe Corbyn, Misconduct is the main cause of life-sciences retractions, Nature, 1 October 2012.

What the “latest study” on which the Nature article was based says is

The percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased
∼ 10-fold since 1975
Ferric C. Fanga, R. Grant Steenc and Arturo Casadevall, Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications, PNAS 109 (42), 16 October 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1212247109.

 

One of the questions I raised in my original blog article was to ask whether and how the (alleged) doubling of the number of retractions compared against any increase in the number of articles published? Was there any change in the ratio of number of retractions against number of papers published?

Not only can the same kinds of question be asked of iThenticate’s revised claim regarding the rate of retraction.  We can also ask, does it make a difference to the shock-horror alarm generated by the factoid regarding the “10-fold increase in the rate of article retraction over the past 20 years” if we realise that the ten-fold increase is over 36 years, not over 20 years?

You can prove anything with statistics, especially if you misreport or make them up.  Hey, iThenticate, is another retraction called for?

(Addendum: the article I was writing, before I got diverted … coming soon!)

Less is more (in this case)

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An interesting post in the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) Projects discussion forum on the OCC just recently: “if a student uses both MLA and APA throughout the report” would this be regarded as demonstrating “substantial research skills” (for middling marks) or “excellent research skills” (for top marks)?

My two penn’orth was that this was and is not good practice. While I could not comment on interpretation and application of criteria in an MYP assessment (since my experience is mainly with Diploma Programme (DP) students, several years older, and in any case I am not an examiner), good practice is the use of one recognised referencing style, not a mixture of two or more different styles. After some thought, I added that a DP examiner might look more closely at an essay which used two or more referencing styles, as this could be an indicator of plagiarism.

It is that afterthought which earned me a personal message – is it plagiarism to use a mix of citation or referencing styles?

My answer: No. It is not plagiarism to use several different styles, just as it is not plagiarism to make formatting mistakes in citation and referencing. If the writer signals that “this” is not her/his own and indicates direct quotation if direct quotation has been used, then it is not plagiarism. Formatting mistakes, including the use of different citation styles, are not plagiarism.

It’s the use of two different styles which might indicate less than original thought and suggest that further investigation might be necessary.  It might indicate Continue reading

Harvard on my mind – 3

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I made a mistake in my last post. I criticised the SQA document Advanced Higher Chemistry Investigation Guidance for candidates 2014-15 for giving misleading information regarding citation and referencing, information which was either misleading in terms of academic convention or which require students to plagiarise. Possibly both.

Not just required – demanded, in that the examples are headed by an instruction which states that this is “the only acceptable method of citing and listing references.

I made a mistake.

The mistake was not in publishing the criticism. My mistake was to follow advice given in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA).  The manual suggests Continue reading

Harvard on my mind – 2

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In Part 1 of this post, I looked at referencing style guides in general, and Harvard in particular. Unlike most referencing styles, Harvard does not have an authoritative published handbook or manual. As a result, many versions of Harvard exist and the opportunities for confusion are rife. In Part 2, we look at confusion writ large.

This investigation started when studying responses to a survey (on citation and referencing) conducted in a school in Scotland. Many teachers and many students commented that they were often confused, having to deal with too many referencing styles. That was odd. Although this school follows the curriculums and syllabi of three different examinations boards, IB, IGCSE, and SQA, the school promotes and uses just one referencing style.  Harvard.

And then the plot thickened.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

Not all examinations boards publish detailed curriculum documentation or guidance on the open Internet.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority does.  Much SQA documentation is available.  It might be typical of other examinations boards, it might be totally untypical. But it is accessible – which is why it comes under the spotlight here. Continue reading

Harvard on my mind – 1

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Harvard does not exist.

The referencing style, I mean, not the University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The University exists.  Harvard, as a referencing style, does not.

Most referencing styles, certainly the most widely-used styles, do exist, in that there is one authorised version, sometimes with an authorised version-lite, an adapted version for use in schools and academia. There is a manual to which we can refer,

The Modern Language Association, for instance, publishes the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (in its 3rd edition as of 2008) for professional writers and for scholars and the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition, 2009)  for universities, colleges and schools.

The American Psychological Association publishes the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition, 2010), designed primarily for writers submitting papers to APA journals, but adopted by schools and universities and other publishers too.

The University of Chicago Press first produced its own style manual in 1891 to ensure consistency of style in its publications; the Chicago Manual of Style is now in its 16th Edition (2010).  Its offshoot for scholars at school and university, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations : Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, originally compiled by Kate Turabian, is in its 8th edition (2013).

So it is with many other styles. The publisher, university, association or other body responsible for the style guide usually publishes a definitive manual, and gives the manual its name. Continue reading

Isn’t it ironic?*

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Congratulations, the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad.  According to The News International (27 March 2015), the university has won a Turnitin Academic Integrity Award.

 

It is the third paragraph which catches the eye. It reads:

 

 

Turnitin claims to be the global leader in evaluating and improving student writing. The company’s cloud-based service for originality checking, online grading and peer review saves instructors time and provides rich feedback to students. One of the most widely distributed educational applications in the world, Turnitin and Ephorus is used  by more than 15,000 institutions in 140 countries to manage the submission, tracking and evaluation of scholarly work online.

Now, this seems so very similar to Turnitin’s description Continue reading

The three legs of research

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As promised in my last post, Hang on…, here is a two-minute take on Ken Vesey’s “three legs of research.” It’s an analogy that works, especially when we try to wean students away from internet-only research, when we get them to demonstrate use of a wide range of sources.

Picture the milking stool. It’s a three-legged piece of furniture, and it’s been around for thousands of years.  Just imagine an 8-year old girl… it’s four o’clock in the morning, it’s dark outside, the girl is asleep, the cow she is milking is asleep, swaying from side-to-side, occasionally knocking into the girl as she milks away…  The girl does not fall off her milking stool because a milking stool has three legs.  Three legs make for a stable form of furniture, it is very difficult to knock it over. It’s better than furniture with one leg or two legs, and it’s better than four legs or five legs or six or .. It has stood the test of time.

Three legs are good, three legs are stable. Think about the modern camera, many many thousands of dollars worth of equipment.  Photographers and movie-makers put them on three-legged tripods. They trust their expensive to a three-legged piece of equipment, because three legs are stable.

It’s the same with research. Research based on three legs makes for stable research… Continue reading

Hang on …

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As noted in my last post, Kardinia International College library has disposed of 60% of its book collection. Manchester Central Library has recently disposed of 240,000 books, passed on to other institutions – or pulped.  Priceless and irreplaceable.  These are not isolated cases; it’s been happening for years, and the pace is increasing. Do we still need print? Is print dead?

A few days ago, I posted this on the librarians’ pages of iSkoodle, the ECIS listserv/ bulletin board, a discussion of print versus online resources, a plea to hold on to print:

I ended with a mention of Ken Vesey’s milking-stool analogy in an article for Teacher Librarian in 2005, “Eliminate “Wobbly” Research with the Information Resource Tripod.”  I invited iSkoodlers to track down Ken’s article. As yet, nobody has written to claim success.

Where would you go? Can you find it? Continue reading

What’s better than a book … ?

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A LinkedIn alert this morning caught my eye.  The heading reads Do you have a ‘Learning Commons’ at your school? You should! and it’s been posted by Maxine Driscoll.

“Meeting the needs of 21st Century learners.
I had an amazing experience last week. I was invited to visit the new Learning Commons at Kardinia International College a K-12 school in Australia and was blown away by what I saw! 21st Century thinking, creativity, courage and conviction! Here is…”

I like the learning commons concept. It’s exciting, it enables a refreshingly different approach to teaching and to learning. It makes learning more enjoyable, and reports promise great things. It may well be too early to say if the benefits are real, but there are aspects of learning commons that any library can use to advantage.

The post to which Maxine Driscoll’s LinkedIn alert refers is, Continue reading

Ironic

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An email came today, a comment for this blog that I was asked to approve:

Want to copy posts from other websites rewrite them in seconds and post on your website, or use for contextual backlinks?
You can save a lot of writing work, just search in google:

Daradess’s Rewriter

I don’t think so, thank you …

Citing sources makes you think…

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One reason I like an author-date style of citation and referencing is the date element: sometimes it is important to know just when a cited source was published. The standards and formality of academic referencing are not expected in non-academic settings such as blog posts or journalism or popular science – and perhaps, more’s the pity?

Regular readers will know my bugbear, that oft-quoted statement, “Recent studies indicate that approximately 30 percent of all students may be plagiarizing on every written assignment they complete.”  Not only is this statement absolute balderdash not least because the claimed studies never existed, the repeated use of “recent” is an irritation in itself. As noted in an earlier post, Thirty percent, the claim was first made in 2001, and fourteen years hardly qualifies as “recent,” not when we are talking internet history. This particular claim is regularly attributed to Continue reading

Elusive allusions

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Coincidences, again. This morning, in a post to a listserv forum, I included a sentence: “The guide’s the thing…” and then, unsure whether the allusion would be recognised, I added: “as Shakespeare so nearly said.

I was still pondering whether the second part of the sentence was necessary when my daily “plagiarism” alert popped into the inbox, pointing me to an article In praise of plagiarism by Paul Greenberg, published in Arkansas Online, 26 January 2015.

Most of the page is hidden behind a paywall, but the first paragraph is open – and, like the title, intriguing.

Could I find the article anywhere else, a page which was open and free? Copy-and-paste the article title, in quotation marks, in a Google search box, add Greenberg, hit ENTER and bang! The first authentic hit (after the paid-for ad) was also behind a paywall, the second led me to the full article, on Townhall.com

The first two paragraphs read: Continue reading

Nice like you, Ivi … Part 3

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The story so far: I am trying to learn the meaning of Ivi when used in a footnote. The only instances found so far are in four papers written by Dr Marco Soddu, all published online in Foreign Policy Journal.  At least two of Soddu’s papers are academically dubious to the point of plagiarism – and beyond.

Meanwhile, We are no closer to working out what Ivi means or how it is used.  Now read on:

The search for Ivi

Ivi is used – at least, it is used by Marco Soddu, Continue reading

Nice like you, Ivi … Part 2

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In part 1 of this post, I related the background to this quest, trying to find the meaning of Ivi, when used in a footnote.  I did not know, and my searches were unsuccessful.

In her letter, Ruth had pointed to “Kennedy and Macmillan by Dr. Marco Soddu;” this was the source that her student wanted to use. She wanted to quote a quotation used in the paper, a quotation footnoted as Ivi. page. but who was Ivi?  Did this have the same meaning as Ibid, same source as the immediately previous citation but on a different page?

It took just a few seconds to find the paper.  It is published online in Foreign Policy Journal, and in several formats, Continue reading

Nice like you, Ivi… Part 1

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This journey started innocently enough. It started with a simple question.

Ruth set me off (thank you, Ruth). She emailed to ask what Ivi means, in a footnote. I don’t know – I didn’t know.

She said that she knows Ibid. (which she suggested means: same page in the same source as the last source/footnote) and she knows Op. cit. (full details given in an earlier footnote), but she hadn’t come across Ivi before. She asked if it means the same source as in the last footnote, but on a different page?

It was important to know. Ruth had a student who wanted to use a quotation she had found in an academic paper. This makes it a secondary reference or indirect source, a quotation of a quotation. The student needed to know the author of the original quotation as well as the author of the paper in which she had found the quote. The student wanted to write something like Continue reading

Tied up in knots

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DOIs? Duh! No problem!!

No problem?

Web page URLs are notoriously unstable. Authors may make changes between one view and the next; hackers may make changes too. Page contents of a URL may change completely, or the original document might be moved somewhere different, on the same site, or to a different site. The MLA style guide no longer requires a URL as a matter of course, arguing that a good search engine will find a document, if the reference is accurate: knowing the author/s, title and publisher should be enough.

DOIs are different, and many style guides recommend the use of the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) when one is available, instead of the URL (Uniform Resource Locator). The DOI will lead to a stable version of a document. (More-or-less stable. The DOI Foundation recommends that minor changes need not be identified, although papers with major changes should be assigned a new DOI. Frequently Asked Questions about the DOI System #7. Should be.)

Curiously, MLA does not mention DOIs Continue reading

Getting ahead of ourselves

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I recall an IB extended essay examiner’s report in which the examiner deplored the number of essays which appeared to have been written at the last minute; all the URLs of websites in these essays had been accessed on the same day (presumably different same days for different essays). There was no indication as to whether these essays had been marked down because of this, possibly as part of the criterion which takes in holistic impression. Nevertheless, the tone of the comment suggested that the examiner/s disapproved.  Perhaps he thought that the dates of access should provide evidence of continued research?

Curious.

This examiner’s report came to mind as I tried to work out a reference for A geometric realisation of 0-Schur and 0-Hecke algebras by Bernt Tore Jensen and Xiuping Su.  Authorship, title, journal title, volume number and issue, even the pages in the print journal, they are all clear enough.
The problem comes with the date of the journal. Here we are, it’s December 2014, and the paper I want to cite is dated February 2015. How do I cite a paper which hasn’t been published yet? Except … it has been published, there it is, on the internet, and it even has a DOI. Continue reading

Of serendipity and procrastination

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Some call it “procrastination,” some call it “following your nose.” Maybe it’s a bit of both. Especially when you should be doing something else, anyway.  Following your nose can lead you to places you did not know you wanted to go.  That’s serendipity for you. And for me.

As well as (instead of?) what I should be doing today, I am also writing a follow-up piece to my earlier post, Not just honesty. It’s getting longer and longer, and I might well make two more articles out of it. My fact-checking for this follow-up piece took me to the bibliographic management tool EndNote. Wow! It claims to offer more than 6,000 bibliographic styles,  and while many of them are surely very similar, there will be some major differences too. Continue reading

Not so easy does it

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Since this was posted, the company critiqued has addressed a few, but by no means all, of the issues detailed here. Some of the links in this post may now lead to pages different to those listed and illustrated. The editing process has not been thorough, and the reader will soon find other errors and inconsistencies throughout the site. It is, however, not my job to proof-read their site, nor to debug the software. JRR – 30 January 2015.

I was recently asked my opinion of the EasyBib add-on for Google Docs.  I don’t – didn’t – have an opinion. I haven’t tried it.  But, pushed by the request, I took a look.

First, though, I had a look at EasyBib itself, to see if an issue I had noted before had been addressed.  It hadn’t.  While checking, I found a lot of features new to me – and many more issues to add to my list of concerns.

So, let’s go over these first.

Auto-citation generation

The first thing I looked at was whether EasyBib had improved the way it handles dates, in its automatic citation generator mode. I have remarked before [Getting it wrong] that it seems to convert (some) British dates to US dates.  Nothing has changed.

 

Here, 1 December 2014 is interpreted as 01-12-2014 and so becomes January 12 2014.

Anyone relying on auto-citation might, or might not, notice that something is wrong.

There are other details that EasyBib’s auto-cite feature cannot always find or identify, such as the author, the title, the publisher, even when they are plainly there… Some omissions are highlighted, and users are invited to complete the missing details themselves.  I understand (anecdotally) that few students do. They tend to accept whatever EasyBib gives them, and few check what is missing or the actual citation generated. Some omissions are highlighted, some entries are just plain wrong.  It’s a quick-and-easy route to disaster. Continue reading

Not just honesty

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I am loathe to accuse anyone of plagiarism, especially a fellow-professional, but sometimes it is a close call.

In the case of the two sites I am looking at in this post, it is a very close call. In one case, it’s not a call, it’s a shriek.

I have mentioned my alert before, my Google alert for the phrase “every written assignment they complete” (see Thirty percent).

My alert came up with two hits today. One was a Prezi with the title “Effective Research and Avoiding Plagiarism” and the other is a blog, “How to avoid plagiarism…“.   If my suspicions are correct, Continue reading

Three times – but still not true!

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Three times just recently I have been told that mathematicians do not need to know about citation and referencing because they do not cite other people’s work.

Three times is more than coincidence.  But, for mathematicians as for any other academic discipline, this is just not true! Mathematicians do cite. A look at any mathematics journal shows that mathematicians cite their sources. Papers with 50 and more references are common, and they all cite the sources in the text.

But these looks at mathematics journals do reveal something curious. Mathematicians do not always cite their sources, by name, in the text.  Is this where the myth originates?  What mathematicians commonly use is Continue reading

Seriously, though…

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One of the most telling moments during my recent “tour” came in a Q&A session with year 11 students.

I had already had one 50-minute session with this group.  The session had gone well, although I sensed that not every student had been giving me their full attention. was attentive. There had been some restlessness, some murmuring, some clearly not looking at the screen unless provoked by direct question.

The telling moment came right at the start of a 30 minute follow-up session.  When I asked the group if anyone had any questions, one hand went up. When given the nod to go ahead, this particular 11th grader asked, “Do they take plagiarism as seriously at university as they do at high school?” Continue reading