Good for a hangover

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Speaking through the Dean in Hogfather, Terry Pratchett remarked that what is good for a hangover is drinking heavily the night before.

I get that feeling thinking about Cite This For Me (a Chegg product).  It works, every time, and I don’t even need the alcohol.

Join me on this voyage of serendipity (if you dare).

It starts with the May 2018 subject report on the IB MYP Personal Project.  On page 3 we read

Those candidates who did not include an evaluation of their sources (which could be done through a CARRDS or OPVL tool) limited their achievement; there was often insufficient identification and evidence of other research skills

I know that OVPL is an evaluation tool often used in history and similar disciplines; you consider the Origin, Purpose, Value and Limitation of sources.  I could not recall meeting CARRDS before, but the context suggests that it is similar to the CRAAP tool, the acronym standing for Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Authority and Purpose.

A quick search Google on Google confirms this:

Hit #1 appears to be irrelevant but hits #2, #3 and #5 (the hit just below the selected images results) look to be good. These are PDFs, each of which uses the term “evaluating” and “web (sources or sites)” either in the page title or the short extract beneath the URL.  Sure enough, this is just what they are – checklists to aid evaluation of web pages and websites.  CARRDS is a mnemonic for remembering Credibility, Accuracy, Reliability, Relevance, Date, Scope and Purpose.

I am not impressed – at least, not by the sub-questions suggested on these checklists. They ask questions about the source material, but none of them encourage users to look elsewhere to ascertain or verify the source and information being evaluated; only one (the Clifton Public Schools) explicitly suggests looking further on the same website for more information.  This approach, as I discussed in Not just CRAAP-3, is limiting.  You will often, usually,  get better impression of the authority and credentials of authors and of the bias and purpose of websites and of the organisations behind them (and so on) by looking at what others say about them than you do on the page or site you are actually evaluating.

But it was a hit further down the Google results list which really caught my eye and attention:

the entry Bibliography & CARRDS – Chemistry bibliographies – Cite This For Me looked interesting. I was drawn to see if this was a demonstration of how the CARRDS tool could be used to evaluate bibliographies, or maybe it was a bibliography of CARRDS-type tools.  If neither of these turned out not to be the purpose of the page, then I still wanted to find out what it was.  So, to the Cite This For Me (CTFM) site I went, following the link that Google gave me. This is what I got:

It appears to be a 10-item list of sources used as the basis of a bibliography. The page is headed:

These are the sources and citations used to research Bibliography & CARRDS. This bibliography was generated on Cite This For Me on Wednesday, October 28, 2015

but none of the items listed has anything to do with CARRDS.  They are all connected with spectrometry and/or drugs.  The right-hand column suggests that the student (?) used 9 websites and one journal in compiling this list, though a quick glance at the bibliographic references as listed on this page suggests that a range of types of source, from encyclopedia entries and chemistry sites to articles or papers in at least three academic journals was more likely to have been used.

Several of the bibliographic entries look wrong, even on the briefest of glances. This got me wondering why Cite This For Me has posted this list.  It seems pretty poor advertising if the list was generated by a CTFM staffer – though that in itself would not surprise me given the experience I relate in Double-dipping.  Cite This For Me is not the best reference generator on the market, far from it.  But chances are, I thought, it’s a list compiled by a student.  More digging needed.

The URL suggests that this page is curated in a section of the site called “Topic Ideas” so I right-clicked on the “Topic Ideas” tab.  This leads to a page with the banner

See what topics our users are researching and their bibliographies

and an invitation to Search for essay title / Or view by subject.

One of Chegg’s purposes is to enable students at all levels of education to share their work – and it looks as if CTFM subscribers do.  I put this part of my investigation aside until later, making mental notes to check on the extent of the sharing and also to look into CTFM’s terms and conditions (more below).  I wanted first to think through the Chemistry bibliographies & CARRDS list.

I wondered if Bibliography & CARRDS was a classroom exercise: first compile a bibliography of 10 items which you might want to use in your project, then evaluate each of these items using the CARRDS protocol and rank the 10 items accordingly.   It might be that students were asked to use CTFM to compile their lists; it might be that it was this one student who chose to use CTFM.  (A search for CARRDS in the essay titles search box pulls up just the one item, so there is no quick way of telling.)

Did the student use the CTFM auto-reference generator or did s/he complete a form manually?  I suspect the auto-reference generator was just too tempting – and I also suspect that whatever it came up with was accepted with no further checking or editing.

Here for instance is the original source used for bibliography entry #1:

At the foot of the page we can clearly see the name of the author and the date of publication:

Did our student just put the page URL into the CTFM auto-reference generator and accept what came up, without adding the author?  I strongly suspect that s/he did, for this is what I got when I did this, use CTFM’s auto-reference generator:

The author is apparently not found.  Nor is the title of the site (CHEMGUIDE).  CTFM uses the domain as the main entry (and the student accepts this).

This is not the only entry in the bibliography which uses domain as the author, several more do.   This is what CTFM does.  It is not when most bibliographic style guides suggests, but CTFM seems to be coded to do the unconventional.

CTFM does find a date of publication in the metadata, and this might explain why the student entry (compiled in 2015) found 2000 while my check was on a version which had been modified in 2019.

Note too that lower case t and full title given in the Page Information. These are  replicated in the CTFM reference, though the page itself uses only the short title, THE MASS SPECTROMETER.  That’s what I would have used, if I had been building my reference manually.

But never mind the quality, just feel the speed.

I will detail just one other bibliographic entry here, because it would seem further to confirm that this student was using the auto-reference feature.   Feel free to look at the others yourself – or if you’re a librarian or teacher, maybe get your students to do it?

The entry headed FLIKKA K, E.A. is for a journal article.

The student found it in PubMed, a search engine which indexes biomedical literature.  Apparently he did not need the actual article – note the button on the right and the DOI link at the foot of the abstract, either of which would bring this searcher closer to the full-text, the PubMed entry was presumably enough for whatever purposes this student had in mind.

Our student almost certainly classed this page as a website and used the PubMed URL to generate the CTFM reference.  If the student had recognised this as a journal rather than a website, the CTFM auto-generated reference (based on the title and not the URL) would have been different (as I found):

The clincher – that the student used CTFM auto-reference and classed this as a website – is the author entry in the Your Bibliography line: Flikka, K.e. – uppercase K and lower-case e.

Here’s the intermediate stage in CTFM:

The last name of the author is recognised as Flikka K and the initials of “et al” provide that E.A.

As I tell students whenever I discuss auto-referencing tools (and I am sure you do too), you do need to check the output for accuracy and consistency – and to be able to do that, you do need to know what your chosen style guide looks like, you do need to know the ground-rules.  If you don’t know what is right, you won’t know when you are fed garbage.  GIGO, it still holds.

There are similar issues with most entries in the CARRDS bibliography, but there is no need to discuss them here. (If you’d like to check for yourself, I’d recommend your first look be the item which gives Oxford Journals as the author and 2015 as publication date.).

I still wonder if and how this student applied CARRDS to this bibliography (and whether the teacher put her/him right).

Suffice it to say, CTFM issues include, as above, authors missed, dates missed, use of domain as the author even when the authors’ names were apparent at the tops of pages, wrong dates generated, and more.  Note too the inconsistencies of upper-/ lower-case in article titles throughout, quite intriguing.

But that’s Cite This For Me for you.  But definitely not for me.

The big question: why is CTFM posting this and similar “bibliographies”?

It seems a curious way to promote a product – show how very poor it is.  What is going on?

The Bibliography and CARRDS bibliography is in a section of the CTFM site “Topic ideas.”

and, as we saw earlier, the link takes us to a page on which one can search more than 30 subjects or search for bibliographies by keyword.

Some of these bibliographies are very recent; this bibliography on Brexit was, for instance, compiled within the last few days:

It is soon clear too that not all CTFM users treat all information found online as being found on a website:  there are bibliographies which include entries for journals, books, chapters in books of readings and so on.  Thank goodness for that.

It is not immediately clear whether the users have used the auto-reference feature or have completed the entry manually (or a combination of both) and ascertaining this is not my purpose here.

In passing, a search for [extended essay] brings up 25 entries, the top few entries also dated within the last few days.   These are not necessarily IB DP extended essays, of course, but again it is intriguing.

It looks as if there are some 25373 pages of bibliographies available on the CTFM site.  If all pages include 25 bibliographies, that’s a lot of bibliographies, the collection must go back several years (maybe to CTFM’s earliest days?)

All of which raises many questions.

Why are these bibliographies posted and publicly available?  Do students (and others?) who compile these lists know they are available? Have they given explicit permission for them to be made public (or is this automatically given by virtue of use of the site)? Is there a right to delete one’s bibliography? Do students use them to find ready made bibliographies on their subjects? Do students even know they are there and available (and so too will be their own compilations)?

Also, what does Chegg get out of making these bibliographies publicly available (other than bad reports when someone like me digs into them)?  How is data mined, what use does Chegg make of personal data and the use made of their site?

The answers to many of these questions are apparent in the three pages linked at the foot of the CTFM site, the links to the US Privacy Policy, the International Privacy Policy and a Cookie Notice – and some of these pages lead to further policy pages.

It is also worth reading Nadine Bailey’s investigation of Chegg’s terms and conditions and policies. Her article Buying the Future of Research is eye-opening and goes much deeper than I do in this post.  Her post is well worth a look (and having looked, do act accordingly).

What I do pick out starts with the Cookie Notice page.  This includes an opt-out option which they say you can control by clicking on Cookie Settings. Alas,  nothing happened when I clicked on this (and I tried in two different browsers).

There is an interesting paragraph on Do Not Track signals:

What about Do Not Track?

Please note that your browser setting may allow you to automatically transmit a “Do Not Track” signal to web sites and online service you visit. There is no consensus among industry participants as to what “Do Not Track” means in this context. Like many web sites and online services, Chegg does not alter its practices when it receives a “Do Not Track” signal from a visitor’s browser.

Chegg ignores any Do Not Track instruction, it “does not alter its practices when it receives a “Do Not Track” signal from a visitor’s browser.”   There is honesty there.  Your web-browsing habits will be tracked (the better for the data mining algorithms to know all there is to know about you). But you do have to read and understand this, and all the other policy pages.

The terms of use page, which has more than 50 different sections, makes it clear that you sign over all your rights in anything you post or upload, in any use you make of any Chegg service – and that Chegg then has the right to share these data with other agencies and services.

User Content and Activities

When you submit, post, upload, embed, display, communicate, link to, email or otherwise distribute or publish any review, problem, suggestion, idea, solution, question, answer, class notes, course outline bibliographic and citation information comment, testimonial, feedback, message, image, video, text, profile data or other material (“User Content“) to Chegg, any Chegg employee or contractor, or a Chegg Website, you grant Chegg and our affiliates, licensees, distributors, agents, representatives and other entities or individuals authorized by Chegg, a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully sublicensable (through multiple tiers) and fully transferable right to exercise any and all copyright, trademark, publicity, and database rights you have in the content, in any media known now or in the future, and to make, use, reproduce, copy, display, publish, exhibit, distribute, modify, sell, offer for sale, create derivative works based upon and otherwise use the User Content.

Subscribers are not just giving up their content, they are also giving up their anonymity, their personal information may be used, without the need for further consent, for advertising purposes.  Again from the Terms of Use:

Note that we may create, facilitate or display social advertisements, whereby your name, profile and photo may be used to advertise products and services to your network based on your use of the Services and your interactions with Chegg. You agree that Chegg may use your name and profile picture in connection with social ads to advertise products and services to your network based on your use of the Services and your interactions with Chegg and third parties through the Services.

You further agree that Chegg is free to use any ideas or concepts contained in any User Content for any purposes whatsoever, including, without limitation, developing, manufacturing and marketing products and services; and creating informational articles, without any payment of any kind to you. You authorize Chegg to publish your User Content in a searchable format that may be accessed by users of the Services and the Internet. To the fullest extent permitted by law, you waive any moral rights you may have in any User Content you submit, even if such User Content is altered or changed in a manner not agreeable to you.

This is honest too – if you read all the small print, if you understand what you are signing up to.  Have the libraries and the schools which promote and subscribe to Cite This For Me (or any other Chegg product) read all this and accepted it?

It used to be said that if you’re not paying, then you are the product. That is no longer true (if ever it was):  even if you are paying, you may still be the product – and with Chegg, you surely are.  We may not know how Chegg and the other services are using your data, but be sure, your data, you, are being used.

That hangover – how’s your head? Mine is aching…

And the message that comes across quite definitely, for a clear head, stay clear of Chegg.

Selling me softly…

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An oddity.

A link in an online workshop took me to 7 Alternative Technology in the Classroom Presentation Tools, an article by Daniela McVicker posted in TeachHub, a wing of the K-12 Teachers Alliance.

Probably published in March 2017 (that’s when Internet Archive first saved the page), it provides a quick introduction to 7 presentation tools, alternatives to PowerPoint. Some were new to me, some I already knew, one is my presentation tool of choice. McVicker gives us recommendations for Emaze, Google Presentations, Keynote, Prezi, Nearpod, Tellagami, Haiku Deck and Powtoon.

What jumped out at me as I read was her critique of Keynote (that’s my own preference for presentation). It’s the last paragraph which Continue reading

Not such a wise OWL

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It came as a bit of a shock, a press release declaring The Purdue University Online Writing Lab and Chegg Partner to Make World-Class Writing Education Tools More Accessible.

Purdue’s Online Writing Lab, often referred to as “the OWL at Purdue.” is a much-respected service, providing advice on academic writing in all its aspects, most especially for its comprehensive guidance on the formatting of MLA, APA and Chicago references. .  For many, it is the number-one go-to guide.

I have to admit, the OWL at Purdue is not my number-one source.  For my own referencing queries, I go Continue reading

Finding my voice

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A few years ago, I wrote (in Somewhere, over the spectrum …) of an AHA! moment, a realisation that understanding of academic citation practices may best be imaged, not just by a straight-line continuum from black to white with shades of grey between, but by a spectrum, all shades of the rainbow and anywhere in between.

It was Teddi Fishman, then director of the International Center for Academic Integrity, who gave me this insight.  In a plagiarism case in which she was asked for her opinion, had a published piece of work had been plagiarised, Fishman said

With regard to citation errors and plagiarism, there is a wide spectrum and certainly not all are created equal. The main defining characteristic in cases that we’d classify as citation errors is that there is an attempt to identify the source of the information rather than to make it appear as if the words or ideas are those of the person using them in the document.

(The full article from which this quotation is taken is no longer available on the Cambridge Chronicle site.  Fortunately, it can still be found in the Internet Archive;  the quotation of Fishman’s response as reported by journalist Sara Feijo is on page 3 of this article.)

Fig. 1 – Black and white and shades of grey

In the continuum imagery, the white end comprises writers who know the rules, know what is right, what is expected, what is needed – and do them!  Ideally they will observe the conventions of citation and referrencing because they have integrity, they wouldn’t – couldn’t – do otherwise.

At the black end we have the writers who know the rules, who know what is right, what is expected, what is needed – and they knowingly break the rules! They copy, they paraphrase without acknowledgement, they use other people’s work and claim it as their own, they use their own work over and over and claim Continue reading

Consistently inconsistent?

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I’ve got a bit behind in my reading lately. Although it was published in May 2018, I came across Jennifer Yao Weinraub’s  Harder to Find than Nemo: The Elusive Image Citation Standard only recently.  In this paper, Weinraub discusses confusion and inconsistencies in the citation of images and the lack of good examples, with particular reference to MLA8 and Chicago. She also discusses other style guides and citation generators, the recommendations of some specific image collections. She points to tutorials and libguides which also attempt to give guidance.

Coming across this article is timely.  Over the last few weeks I seem to have received a steady stream of image citation questions in my inbox. Some notifications originate in online groups and forums, some are emails sent to me directly. It’s a hot topic!  The images presented by questioners are rarely straight-forward, rarely textbook examples. I suppose if they were, there would be less doubt as to how to cite them, the questions would not be asked.  So it is good to find Weinraub’s article, if only to confirm the difficulties and the contradictory or missing advice.

Weinraub suggests confusion in the use of the terms caption and citation (which I would call “reference” – the location details which specify edition (etc) and enable retrieval). She also suggests differences, uncertainty and inconsistencies as to what might or should be included in these. She also notes Continue reading

Names will never hurt me (perhaps)

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I am halfway through my next article but just had to come back to the theme of my last few posts, confusing terminology.

A post today on Int’l School Library Connection, a FaceBook group, asked whether and how IB MYP students writing their Personal Projects can include sources they have read but have not cited in their Projects.

Yes they can, and the advice is to include both a list of Works Cited (which includes a list of all the works cited in the text) and a separate Bibliography (comprising a list of all works used to inform the project).

In the course of the conversation, I looked up the MYP Projects Guide (March 2018 edition) which makes a very clear distinction. In the Glossary (page 61), we see: Continue reading

Bibliographical footnote

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This is a follow up to my last post None too sweet. There I discussed different understandings of the term “bibliography” – I said inter alia that different understandings of what this word means can confuse students and other writers, and may even underlie some instances of unintended plagiarism.

A week later, catching up on my reading, I came across a review of Jason Puckett’s  Zotero: a guide for librarians, researchers and educators by Keith Daniels in CILIP’s Information Professional (October 2018). My eye was caught by a paragraph which reads:

Published by the Association of College and Research Libraries, the book does have an American slant, using the terms “bibliography” to encompass what UK-based students and educators would usually refer to as “references” and teaching staff as “professors”.

It seems a curious point to pick up on in a short review, the use of “bibliography” instead of “references.”  But, given my background in international education, perhaps I have become less aware of such distinctions, or maybe more aware of different and other terms in different style guides and/or in different countries.

Is “references” a British usage?  Maybe.  Many British universities use varieties of Harvard.  Although there is no single definitive version of Harvard (as detailed in the three-part-post Harvard on my mind), they all use the term “References.”     Certainly, this is so at the University of Bedfordshire, the stated affiliation of Keith Daniels, the author of the review. The University’s page Using the correct referencing system suggests Continue reading

None too sweet

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I have remarked before on possible problems raised by conflicting definitions and usages of the terms “reference” and “citation.”

Some style guides use the term “reference” to mean the short form in the text which links to what they call a “citation”, the full details in the list at the end; some call that short form in the text “citation” and use “reference” for the full details in the list at the end; some use both terms interchangeably; some use reference to mean the quotation (or paraphrase or summary) from someone else’s work, acknowledged with a short-citation in the text which links to the full citation at the end.

It makes for confusion. In workshops, I often tell Lori’s story:  her teacher kept reminding her to check that she had citations for all her sources and she thought she had … except that the teacher meant Continue reading

Rewrite Redraft Rework Revise Reword Rephrase … Refrain

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My GoogleAlert has just presented me with an anonymous article (“By Guest Contributor”) posted on TechGenYZ, a media company which started just over three years ago (according to its About Us page). They claim,

Our core values are Integrity, Innovation, Quality, Honesty and Excellence.

Perhaps they need to apply these values to their guest contributors.

The article I was directed to carries the title Get unique content with the help of article rewriterIt is a review, of sorts, promoting use of Article Rewriter. This is an application developed by SmallSEOTools. As the name suggests, it rewrites text: it is a paraphrasing tool, a synonymizer.  The anonymous guest contributor claims that Article Rewriter will take text and rewrite it so that the content is totally original and plagiarism-free.  It is recommended for Continue reading

A critical criterion

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Over the last few weeks, The IB has been publishing Extended Essay reports for the May 2018 exams.  They are available for most subjects now.

I’ve been looking through them.  Some of them make sad reading, marks thrown away needlessly.  Most students should score in the top mark band for Criterion D, Presentation, at least for the elements of structural presentation.  And yet, and yet…  too many don’t.

Are the students who don’t get maximum points here careless?   Don’t they know what’s required? Are supervisors letting them down by not advising what to check?  Care here with that last though, of course:  supervisors are not permitted to tell students that the page number for (say) the Discussion section does not match the page number given on the Table of Contents page; they are permitted to advise students to check that numbers on the pages match those in the Table of Contents page.  The first situation is being specific and amounts to proof-reading and/or editing (neither of which are permitted); the second is general and generic, and advises the student to do the work of finding errors and correcting them.

Examiner comments regarding page-numbers bother me.  Not the comments themselves but Continue reading

Out of step footnotes – 2

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In recent weeks, I’ve been indulging a footnote fetish – last week’s post was part 1 of a 2-post mini-critique of the Chicago/Turabian style. I am almost over my obsession, just this last blast to go.  It’s a particularly pertinent piece for readers in IB schools, in that it focuses on inconsistencies in Turabian.  While they do  (are supposed to) accept any referencing style, IB examiners are well-concerned to have references and citations recorded completely and consistently within each individual assessment.  Given that IB requirements are sometimes inconsistent with the guidance of particular style guides, confusion can be compounded when the chosen style guide is inconsistent within itself.

[All references and scans used in this piece are from Turabian, 9th edition – more properly Kate L. Turabian’s A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations: Chicago style for students and researchers 9th. ed., University of Chicago, 2017.]

First, a general note, not specific to Turabian.  Turabian advises that many items should be cited in the text but not in the bibliography, for instance:

personal interviews, correspondence, blog posts and other social media, newspaper articles, reviews (of books, performances), well-known reference works, the Bible and other sacred works etc. etc.
(Turabian, section 16.2.3, lists many more…)

Turabian is not alone in suggesting that writers give details of certain types of source in the text but not in the bibliography; many style guides list exceptions to the general rule.  In all instances, when writing for IB, IB requirements overrule the advice of any style guide: if you cite it in the text, be sure to give a full reference in the list at the end.

Similarly, Turabian advises that Continue reading

Out of step footnotes – 1

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A couple of posts ago, I declared myself Not a friend of footnotes. I don’t like them as a reader, I don’t like them as a writer.

I appreciate that many, many people, readers and writers, do like footnotes and endnotes, and that’s fine with me. I’ll put up with them if what I read is interesting, I’ll use them as a writer if my editors demand them.  I’ll agree that they may well suit particular forms of writing and different media. But I do not like them.  In this post and the next, I’ll detail some of the reasons why I don’t like them, particularly as a writer.

[I’ve been told that my two-weeks-ago post was unfair. Here I described some of my problems as a reader, and I used some illustrations from Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens to make my point, illustrations I used in a workshop soon after. “But he’s not using endnotes properly!” I was told.  “He shouldn’t use several authors in one endnote, they should be distinct.”

[Far be it for me to suggest that Harari is using endnotes wrongly, especially as Turabian (9th ed.) states Continue reading

Transferable skills

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If you were hoping for more thoughts on footnotes and endnotes this week, my apologies. The thoughts I had in mind are still to come.  This post is still about footnotes, but not quite what I thought I’d be saying.

The IB has begun posting the May 2018 DP subject reports in the Programme Resource Centre and I have spent some time this past week looking through them.

This is not something I do as a matter of course. I do look at the Extended Essay reports for all subjects – and eagerly await publication, they must surely be posted any day now. But I don’t follow the subject reports that carefully.

My look at the subject reports was impelled by a comment made in a workshop I led last week – a history teacher insistent that the subject guide for History says that students are required to use footnotes.  I was sure that the subject guide says no such thing; IB allows the use of any documentation system as long as Continue reading

Not a friend of footnotes

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There – I’ve made clear my bias, I’m not a fan of footnotes.  Or endnotes.

For one thing, they get in the way of my reading.   That’s ironic, in that one of the claimed virtues of footnotes is that they don’t get in the way of the reader, unnecessary details such as authorship or extra detail or explanation can be relegated to the foot of the page (or the end of the paper/ book).  If readers wish to follow up or find out more, the footnote is there to give the necessary information; if readers do not want to follow up, then they just carry on reading.  The Center for Teaching and Learning at Yale Universtity puts it this way, in a page titled Why Are there Different Citation Styles?

When developing a historical explanation from multiple primary sources, using footnotes instead of inserting parenthetical information allows the reader to focus on the evidence instead of being distracted by the publication information about that evidence. The footnotes can be consulted if someone wants to track down your source for further research.

If the writer thinks the author or the source cited is important, then that information can still be mentioned in the narrative in the text, with full details in the footnote. When the author or source is not considered important, why intrude on the flow of the reading?

While footnotes are often used in the humanities, especially history, they are often used in the sciences as well.  It could be that both disciplines deal in facts and a well-read reader in the field will know the facts, so don’t break up the reading.

Science isn’t all about facts, it’s about theories and ideas, thus the notion that knowing the team behind the research and the recency of the research makes author-date citation systems popular Continue reading

To quote or not to quote

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A couple of weeks ago, Nadine wrote a comment on my post Multiple confusion in which she noted, ” Not that encouraging direct quotations is best writing form, but at that age it’s probably more common.”

That got me thinking. When teaching citation and referencing, we often start with quotations.  Is this because it is easy to demonstrate, based on something that most students can and do already do?  When you copy-and-paste, you are using someone else’s exact words, you are quoting someone. When you quote someone, you need quotation marks. You use quotation marks around the copy-pasted words to show you are quoting, and you also say who that someone is, whose words you have borrowed.

From there we go on to say that, when you use your own words to put over someone else’s thoughts and ideas and findings, you need also to cite them;  they may be your own words but they are NOT your own thoughts.  You still need to say whose thoughts or ideas or findings you are using.

It’s a common complaint, that although most students know how and when to quote someone else’s material, it is when they paraphrase or summarise someone else’s work that they often forget that they need also to cite the source of that work.  It might be because they confuse using their own words with their own original words and ideas… they are using their own words so a citation is not necessary?

I won’t go too far down that track today. What I do want to do is to go back to Nadine’s comment, that “encouraging direct quotations” is not “best writing form.”  My first thought was, why then do we teach how to quote and cite?  But a second thought quickly followed Continue reading

Cite check

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I’ve just finished an online workshop for librarians. Good fun as usual and very worthwhile. The participants made really great strides over the four weeks and they knew it, they had so much new awareness by the end of the month.  it was very encouraging.

Many went beyond the bounds of the workshop readings to find information and opinion elsewhere, the spirit of inquiry was strong.  Many quoted from the articles they found – great!  Quite a few copied graphics and images from articles and other materials found – and most did not need to be reminded to cite the sources of those graphics as well as of the text.

But … perhaps because there were larger numbers of newcomers to librarianship on the course than usual, there seemed to be a rash of participants who would simply cite their images as “Google” or “Google Images” or present the Google image search URL.

That’s not helpful and it’s not right either. I would send a personal message Continue reading

Multiple confusion

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A question came up in Programme Communities in My IB just recently:

My student is using a book and a website as her primary sources about the organisation she is researching for her extended essay.  When there are several quotations or summaries from the same book or article, it is easy to show in the in-text citation from which page the quotation/ summary/ parahrase is taken.  What about the website, how does she indicate the different pages used from within the same website?  (This is a slightly edited version of the question as posed.)

I checked the manuals and was able to answer the question fairly quickly.  But it’s been bugging me, because the approaches taken by MLA and APA are very different.

APA style

Usually, I prefer APA to MLA. There are several reasons, one of which is that APA is nicely straightforward with its WHO-WHEN-WHAT-WHERE approach.  In this instance, though, I think the APA is confusing.

The answer is not spelt out in the Publications handbook so I checked Continue reading

Smile, please – it’s for real

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I came across this news item in the i newspaper (page 13 of the 29 August 2018 edition, a short article by John von Radowitz). The article reports on a study in which “Scientists showed 20 goats unfamiliar photos of the same human face looking happy or angry;”  they found that “goats preferred to interact with the smiling face.”

It sounds fun, it sounds odd, it almost sounds improbable.

Two things struck me immediately.  The first was that phrase, “unfamiliar photos.”  When you’re a goat, who’s to say whether a photo is familiar or unfamiliar?

The second was a memory – a memory of the academic paper Feline Reactions to Bearded Men.  You might remember it: the researchers claimed to have held cats in front of photos of bearded men and observed their reactions.  The paper suggests that ” Cats do not like men with long beards, especially long dark beards.”

The cats “paper” was first published in 1999, maybe earlier.  It is frequently used in website evaluation exercises to make students aware of web pages which look authentic but could be big hoaxes.

The name of the site – Improbable Research – is claimed as a warning signal (though as this is the site responsible for the annual Ig Nobel Prizes, a very real event, one might not be so sure). The biggest giveaway in the cats paper is probably the bibliography, which includes entries for Pat Boone, Madonna, Yul Brynner, Sinead O’Connor, Mary Quant, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the if-only Dr Seuss (responsible for the paper “Feline Responses to Hats”).  How much of a giveaway, 20 years on, might be questionable; many of the names are probably unknown Continue reading

The memory hole gets deeper

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The news that the respected Forbes magazine published an opinion (op-ed) article by Panos Mourdoukoutas, Chair of the Department of Economics at Long Island University, with the title “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money” a few days ago is hardly news any more. It has been shared widely and commented on in the mainstream media and in social media too. It’s old news.

Mourdoukoutas’s argument is studded with dubious and irrelevant claims and arguments such as

 

(“Third places” like Starbucks) provide residents with a comfortable place to read, surf the web, meet their friends and associates, and enjoy a great drink. This is why some people have started using their loyalty card at Starbucks more than they use their library card…

Then there’s the rise of digital technology. Technology has turned physical books into collector’s items, effectively eliminating the need for library borrowing services…

Amazon Books is a chain of bookstores that does what Amazon originally intended to do; replace the local bookstore. It improves on the bookstore model by adding online searches and coffee shops. Amazon Go basically combines a library with a Starbucks…

 

The article concludes Continue reading

Double-dipping

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On 19 April 2016, Kendra Perkins wrote an article for the RefME blog with the title The CRAAP Test: An Easy & Fun Way to Evaluate Research Sources. RefME was taken over by Chegg and subsumed into the Cite This For Me service in 2017 and her original post is no longer available. Fortunately, you can still find the original post, preserved by the Wayback Machine (the Internet Archive).

Kendra had long been a fan of RefME and frequently recommended it in librarian listservs and forums such as iSkoodle. Towards the end of her RefME blog, she declared that she had compiled her list of References using the RefME referencing generator.

A year later, May 2017, Kendra posted an article in her own blog, The Inspired Librarian, a piece with the title Cite This for Me Changed my RefME Blog Post. Here she relates how her RefME post had been reposted on the Cite This For Me site. Her article now read: Continue reading

How many…?

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It’s a fascinating and possibly pointless exercise, trying to work out how search engines work.  Although this article was inspired by a news story on beating (so-called) plagiarism detectors, I found myself more interested in what the story told us about Google and (presumably) other search engines.

The story starts withn an article in Hoax-Alert: Forget Russian Bots: Fake Native Americans Are Using Russian Characters To Avoid Fake News and Plagiarism DetectorsThe story relates how a number of websites which appear to be promoted by Native Americans are in fact sites originating in Kosovo and other countries. It seems that they are stealing content, disguising it (to escape similarity detectors) and getting away with it. The way they disguise the content is to substitute Cyrillic characters which look like Latin alphabet characters in text, in order to beat text-matching software.  The HoaxAlert story shows this illustration: Continue reading

Not just CRAAP – 3

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[In part 1 of this 3 part article we looked at Wineburg and McGrew’s study which suggests that a fresh look at the way we evaluate web pages and sites could be valuable.]
[In part 2, we looked at a rebuttal of Wineburg and McGrew’s study – and rebutted the rebuttal.]
[In this third part, we look at reasons why we may need a compromise between the “old” and the “new” ways of evaluating pages and sites online.]

In my last two posts, I discussed a study by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew into different methods of search-and-find as employed by three distinct groups, professional fact-checkers, professional historians and first-year undergraduates. The researchers found that the methods used and the thinking processes of the historians and the students were different to the strategies and the thinking processes of the fact-checkers – and that the methods used by these historians and the students could be among the reasons why many of them made incomplete analyses of the sites visited and made flawed conclusions.

In one particular task, a comparison and evaluation of two articles both of which dealt with bullying, the researchers found that historians and students tended to spend much time considering the actual articles before they moved elsewhere; some never left the target sites, some left them to look elsewhere. By contrast, the fact-checkers spent very little time on the target pages – sometimes just seconds; they all quickly looked elsewhere, often outside the publishing sites. That is not necessarily (at least in my eyes) a concern. What does concern is that the evaluations made by the two groups were very different. Continue reading

Not just CRAAP – 2

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In part 1 of this three-part article, I discussed a study by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew into different methods of search-and-find as employed by three distinct groups, professional fact-checkers, professional historians and first-year undergraduates.  The researchers found that the methods used and the thinking processes of the historians and the students were different to the strategies and the thinking processes of the fact-checkers – and that the methods used by these historians and the students could be among the reasons why many of them made incomplete analyses of the sites visited and made flawed conclusions.

The three groups were asked to complete six tasks in timed conditions. The findings and ensuing discussion are detailed in the paper Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information.

In this earlier post (Not just CRAAP – 1), I invited readers to try one of the tasks for themselves. If you haven’t already done this, it might be a good idea to try before reading on here.

The task asked participants to imagine they looking for information on bullying, and describe their thought processes as they considered two particular articles on two different websites.  The articles were Bullying at School: Never Acceptable on the site of the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds – the College) and then  Stigma: At the Root of Ostracism and Bullying on the site of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP – the Academy).

Participants were allowed to look elsewhere on the sites and anywhere else online that they wished.  They had to decide which website was the more reliable and trustworthy.

What the researchers found was that Continue reading

Not just CRAAP – 1

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Over the weekend, a newsletter item in the Chronicle of Higher Education caught my attention, One way to fight fake news by Dan Berrett and Beckie Supiano.  It was originally published in November 2017;  I’ve got behind in my reading.

The item reports on a study by Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew.  Wineburg and McGrew compared the search habits and evaluation techniques of three different groups, professional historians, professional fact-checkers, and students at Stanford University.  They found that :

  • the historians and the students mostly used very different techniques of search and evaluation to the techniques of the fact-checkers;
  • the historians and the students could not always find the information they were asked to search for;
  • the historians and the students took longer to decide on the validity and reliability of the sites they were asked to look at;
  • most disturbingly, the historians and the students came by-and-large to diametrically opposite conclusions to those of the fact-checkers as to the validity and reliability of the various sites; the two groups could not both be right.

Before reading further, you might want to try an approximation of one of the tasks undertaken by the participants (there were six tasks in all, in timed conditions). Continue reading

Guilty by association

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A month or so ago, an incident at Ohio State University made headlines. One or more students had posted information on business course assignments in a GroupMe study group.  The type of information shared violated the University’s code of student conduct.  As a consequence, more than 80 students – all members of the GroupMe group – were charged with cheating.

GroupMe is a free group messaging app, widely used to send messages and documents simultaneously to all members of a group. Members of educational GroupMe groups often use it to share dates due and study tips and readings. When collaboration is permitted, this kind of app can be a great boon in assisting collaborative work. In this particular case, however, some users had overstepped the mark and had posted suggested answers to homework assignments. Legitimate collaboration had become illegitimate collusion.

By and large, the headlines (of which this is just a small selection) seemed to get more dramatic Continue reading