When a company (or other group with vested interest) conducts its own research and publishes its own analysis of the results, it is usually worth investigating more deeply. Turnitin has long been a favourite source of disingenuous disinformation (see. for instance, my posts How much plagiarism?, Guilty: how do you plead?, A second look at SEER, and Not as I do, but… ).
Now my attention turns to RefME, the reference generator (unless it is a citation generator; there may be language differences here, as discussed in Language and labels).
RefME has just published a report Survey Reveals Unique Insights to US Students’ Attitudes Towards Plagiarism on two surveys which the company carried out in recent months. It seems a prime example of how not to analyse data, how not to write a report. That’s a brutal assessment, but I think the brutality is justified. Just be sure to get in quick in case the report is edited or deleted.
- the discussion of the surveys reads at times like an inadequate discussion of the surveys and at times like a press release produced by the RefME publicity bureau;
- the report manages to confuse and conflate incorrect or inconsistently formatted references with plagiarism and/or academic misconduct;
- the discussion grabs at different research and studies, and suggests (inter alia) that small-scale surveys can be regarded as universal truths;
- in grabbing at those different research reports and studies, the writer misreports some and fails to do the homework, to check on the source behind the source;
- the report, despite praising RefME for enabling correct and consistent referencing/ endnoting, manages to be incorrect, incomplete and/or inconsistent in at least 11 of its 13 references.
- a small matter of several, many, passages which reuse so much wording from source documents that it might be felt that quotation marks are required; some readers might even class these passages as plagiarism.
This is not to denigrate the RefME software itself. I have no opinion there. Until I bought a new computer a few months ago, I found the app hung up too often to enable a valid critique of its performance as a reference (or citation) generator. Now, I find it fast, usable, so perhaps a review will come in time.
Or maybe not. If the RefME writer was using RefME to generate the endnotes in the report, there is no need to review RefME. That job is already done, per this report, per point <5>.
This is a long post, a very long post. If you prefer to read it across a full screen or to print this out, you might wish to download this PDF version.
Earlier this year, RefME “conducted two online surveys among 2,111 US students currently enrolled in higher education.” We are not told what level of higher education these students were engaged in, whether they were undergraduate freshers or postgraduate students or somewhere in between. We are not given the actual questions asked, nor whether they were open-ended questions or responses to set (multiple-choice) answers. We are not told whether the two surveys were identical or different.
We are told that “Two groups were surveyed, students who currently use RefME and those that do not.” We are not told how the groups were identified or recruited, nor how representative they might be of general US higher education students.
We are told the purpose of the polls, to “find out if citing correctly is a genuine concern for students in the US, how knowledgeable they really are on the subject, and their general attitude towards plagiarism.” We are also told that the “two sets of findings have been amalgamated and at times, where statistically relevant, the findings have been used independently to showcase the disparity between RefME users and non-users.” That seems a wide range of purpose driving the surveys, not necessarily coherent. We are not told what is regarded as “statistically relevant,” which could be an important consideration, given that “the findings have been analysed and interpreted by RefME.” Not exactly the most impartial of analysts.
The lack of impartiality may be most readily discerned in the paragraph:
The results demonstrate the value of using a citation management tool by highlighting that those who do not use RefME are more susceptible to citing incorrectly than those who do. Whilst 61% of non-RefME users reported that they have lost points for citing incorrectly, the survey found that just 50% of non-RefME users have been marked down on their work for inaccurate citations. It is important to note that RefME users were asked if they had ever lost points, and were not asked to differentiate between before and after they started using RefME.
Is there a typo there? Should this read “50% of RefME users…” rather than “50% of non-RefME users…”? That would make sense. As it stands, the point made makes no sense.
If there is a typo, then the claim is that 61% of non-RefME users said they had lost marks for “citing incorrectly” (or do they mean “referencing incorrectly”?) while only 50% of RefME users have lost marks for “inaccurate citations.” That is still a large number/proportion, which could be why the RefME writer goes on “to note that RefME users were asked if they had ever lost points, and were not asked to differentiate between before and after they started using RefME.” Now, is that a cop-out or is that a cop-out? The reader can assume EITHER that those marks were lost before the present RefME users discovered RefME (and it changed their lives, or at least changed their academic writing) OR that RefME users have only a marginal advantage over non-RefME users, and that RefME isn’t that accurate or consistent. It is not clear in the report. But maybe the latter line of thought is spot-on – see point #5.
[We are not told, it is unclear, whether the surveys asked respondents – especially non-RefME users – if they used any other reference generator/s such as NoodleTools or EasyBib. this too could affect results and interpretation of the results.]
What is more, while discussing survey findings, or at least those which RefME wishes to share, the report manages to bring in irrelevant data – which is where it begins to sound like a press release or advertising. Take, for instance, the paragraphs
RefME enables students to generate accurate, fully-formatted citations in over 7,500 styles – including popular styles such as the MLA format, APA citation and Chicago style. Whether students want to cite their sources using a popular style or a more-specific style, like ASA, IEEE or AMA, they can cite like a pro with RefME’s multi-platform tool.
Students can generate accurate citations in any style with RefME for Chrome, the browser extension that allows you to instantly create and edit a citation for any online source, or the highly-rated iOS and Android apps which create citations in a flash with your smartphone camera. Even better, students can now cite as they write by upgrading their account to RefME Plus to access RefME for Word. Ultimately, RefME enhances the quality of students’ research by providing them with the learning resources to educate themselves about the citing process and the benefits of adopting great referencing standards.
or the later (unfounded?) claims
As well as citing students’ sources in a matter of seconds, RefME helps students understand the importance of accurately citing all source material, which is why 92.2% of RefME users know to cite online sources in their written work.
Using technology to automate citations allows students to keep their work free from plagiarism, leaving them more time to spend on broadening their research and strengthening their writing. Nevertheless, this does not remove the need to educate students in understanding why citing is important and how a citation is created.
It has also to be noted that the report’s headline tells us that “Survey Reveals Unique Insights to US Students’ Attitudes Towards Plagiarism.” Far from fulfilling this, most of the survey’s findings are supported by the findings of earlier studies and reports; the insights are not “unique”. One of the few unique findings is surely the one which apparently notes that 50% of RefME users have had marks deducted for incorrect citation (though as noted, we cannot even be sure of the details of this claim).
Confused thinking, confused writing.
This blog has several times discussed the notion that plagiarism lies in failure to cite – at the point of use in the text – words or ideas which are not those of the writer; citations which are incorrectly formatted are not necessarily incorrect citations and are not necessarily instances of plagiarism. Similarly, incorrectly-formatted or inconsistent referencing is not plagiarism, and may be misconduct only if the reference actually is incorrect. (See Language and labels for my most recent post on this topic).
The report several times states that students have lost marks for incorrect references, using the wrong style and so on. There is a paragraph which details
The most prevalent mistakes made by those students surveyed who have lost points for citing incorrectly:
> Formatting citations incorrectly 54%
> Using the wrong citation style 44%
> Not submitting a full works cited list/bibliography 19%
> Failing to cite a quote or idea 12%
> Citing the wrong source 12%
> Paraphrasing another author’s work 9%
> Self-Plagiarism (recycling your own work) 3%
> Other 1%
Of these, only “Failing to cite a quote or idea” and “Self-Plagiarism” can immediately be classed as plagiarism (and with self-plagiarism it might be a matter of “it depends.”) Of the other mistakes, “Citing the wrong source” might or might not be a form of academic misconduct (but not plagiarism as there is no attempt to claim the summary or quotation as one’s own), while “Paraphrasing another author’s work” is misconduct, probably plagiarism, only if there is no in-text citation to indicate that this is someone else’s work – in which case, isn’t this “Failing to cite a quote or idea”?
The RefME writer’s confusion as to the differences between citation and reference may be echoed by students: if they are used interchangeably and as if meaning the same thing when they do not, then confusion seems bound to occur. If getting one or other wrong leads to severe consequences and the “rules” seem constantly to change, then fear seems inevitable.
The confusion as to the differences between citation and reference and the consequences for failing to do one or the other is particularly evident in the section which starts:
72% of US students fear facing disciplinary action for plagiarism
The majority of both groups surveyed reported that they fear facing disciplinary action for plagiarism. Fortunately, this widespread concern can be easily avoided by simply learning to cite correctly. Using an accurate citation tool helps to reduce this fear by generating citations in line with the formatting of the style in use, giving students confidence that they will not lose points for their bibliographies.
Moreover, the fact that 28% of students do not worry about the potential consequences of plagiarism highlights the importance of providing enough resources and education on the topic of correctly handling and crediting others’ work.
Yes, fears of being charged with plagiarism “can be easily avoided by simply learning to cite correctly,” if by “cite correctly” we mean citation in the text – but using a software application “to reduce this fear (of committing plagiarism) by generating citations in line with the formatting of the style in use, giving students confidence that they will not lose points for their bibliographies” will not do the trick. Mistakes, most especially formatting mistakes, in bibliography are NOT forms of plagiarism.
The discussion throughout the RefME report is not a good model of report-writing. The discussion flits from point to point, at times with unclear lines of argument.
We have already seen that concern regarding consequences of plagiarism “can be easily avoided by simply learning to cite correctly.” But this notion of simplicity is overturned later when we read that
Citing is a complicated process that takes time to master, so it is a real cause for concern that 60% of students were either unsure or revealed that they had not been provided with enough information on how to cite accurately.
Simple or complicated? Citation in the text is (relatively) simple – it is referencing which can be complicated, taking time – and practice, methinks – to master.
Then there is the statement
It is widely known that there is a lack of understanding around the rudimentary requirements for crediting sources in written academic work. A 2015 study found that students who are new to university lacked even a basic understanding of how to cite sources. Interestingly, those same students claimed that they were very confident they understood what both citing and plagiarism are. 3.
The opening sentence of this paragraph may be questioned. The 2015 study cited here was a small study – 622 respondents – in one UK university. There is nothing to show that the finding applies to all UK universities, or universities outside the UK. It may be the case – there are plenty of other studies which might support these statements – but surely some of them need to be brought in here?
Similarly, the discussion of ghostwriting services:
Although 82% of students are aware that outsourcing ghostwriters is a major issue, universities are still experiencing a troubling plagiarism epidemic. 7. Reports found that California, New York and Texas are the most popular regions for commissioning ghost writers, whilst the most sought-after types of content are essays, research papers, and MA theses. 8
The 82% of students who are aware that the use of ghostwriters or custom essay writing services is problematic are respondents to the RefME surveys, 82% of them. The statement “universities are still experiencing a troubling plagiarism epidemic” is attributed to an article in the UK Independent newspaper which bears the headline, “UK universities in ‘plagiarism epidemic’ as almost 50,000 students caught cheating over last 3 years.” That article probably chose the term “plagiarism epidemic” because it is also used in the Times article on which the Independent’s report is based. The Times headline is “Universities face student cheating crisis,” but while their story talks of a “plagiarism epidemic” (so perhaps fair use by the Independent journalist), there are no figures, no data, to suggest why the term “epidemic” is used in relation to other types of academic misconduct – and many of these are investigated as well.
Perhaps more of a problem in this study of the RefME report is the flow of argument
Although 82% of students are aware that outsourcing ghostwriters is a major issue, universities are still experiencing a troubling plagiarism epidemic. 7. Reports found that California, New York and Texas are the most popular regions for commissioning ghost writers…
taking us from the RefME study to a (questionable) statement about UK universities and from there directly to California, New York and Texas, with no explanation or comparison, based on the loose connection of “ghostwriting.”
Generalisations surely need to be based on more than a single survey, and connections do need to be explicit.
Not too far removed from the discussion here is the misleading headline and paragraph:
3 out of 4 US students are concerned about citing correctly
Of the RefME users surveyed, over 60% agreed when asked if they are concerned about accurately citing their work. In comparison, a whopping 75% of students who do not use RefME reported that they were worried about citing correctly. Today students have access to automated citation tools that help them cite correctly and avoid the risk of plagiarism.
Can both the first two sentences here AND the section heading be true? Shouldn’t the heading read
3 out of 4 US non-RefME users are concerned about citing correctly
Why, one might wonder, are so many RefME students concerned about citing correctly? Is it because, despite using the tool, they are given confusing, confused and conflicted information and misinformation about citation and referencing?
We have noted that the quotation from The Independent is based on an investigation by and report in The Times. The RefME writer appears not to have gone to The Times to check the article and gain information from the source.
Similarly the discussion of students who “inadvertently plagiarise” when they have not set out to cheat:
With a large number of students being marked down for academic misconduct, one might assume that students’ academic integrity should be questioned. However, many students are worried about citing because it is so easy to inadvertently plagiarise. Perry’s (2010) two-dimensional model of academic misconduct suggests that only those students who understand the rules yet fail to adhere to them are classified as cheats. 2.
The notion of Perry’s (2010) model is based on a series of slides in a presentation by English and Ireland (attributed in the endnotes and indicated by that subscript 2). Nearer to the point of Perry’s model is the suggestion that “only those students who understand the rules yet fail to adhere to them should be classified as cheats” – “should be classified as cheats” is different to saying “are classified as cheats.”
Also troubling is the RefME writer’s discussion of possible consequences:
The repercussions of student plagiarism can be extremely serious. In most cases, it will result in a failing grade for the assignment or possible failure of the course. In extreme cases, such as repeat offending, students can face the loss of academic scholarships or outright expulsion. If their work is published, they may face legal action from the original author. 6.
The notions expressed in the first three sentences are fairly well-known and may even be classed as “common knowledge” (a topic covered in a later passage in the RefME report). While plagiarism is illegal in a few countries, it is not universally a crime. Copyright infringement is another matter, of course, but we are not talking copyright infringement here. More urgently, that last sentence, the notion that “If their work is published, they may face legal action from the original author” is NOT included in the article footnoted by the subscript 6. Charlton’s article makes no mention at all of legal issues. This is added by the RefME writer, it does not come from the paper cited.
Curiously, Perry’s 2010 paper makes the point that “bogus referencing” may be more widespread than we realise. The RefME writer’s statement regarding legal issues may fall under this heading. Another serious shortcoming?
5> the report, despite praising RefME for enabling correct and consistent referencing/ endnoting, manages to be incorrect, incomplete and/or inconsistent in at least 11 of its 13 references/ endnotes.
Given that the RefME report is built around the notion that incorrect and/or incorrectly-formatted referencing leads to loss of marks (and possibly to charges of academic misconduct) and how use of RefME enables students to reference correctly, one might think that the RefME writer would be at pains to ensure the correctness of the references used in this report.
It is not stated which referencing style (or citation style if this is the preferred term) is used here. Whatever style it is, the references are inconsistent and many are incomplete. In my understanding, that classes many of them as, at the least, incorrectly-formatted.
Here we go:
1. Tami Strang, “Are College Students Concerned about Plagiarism?,” Learning Outcomes, September 7, 2015, http://blog.cengage.com/are-college-students-concerned-about-plagiarism/.
Where does the “Learning Outcomes” come from? The breadcrumbs trail is Cengage Learning > Engaging Minds > Achievement and Outcomes > Learning Outcomes > Are College Students Concerned About Plagiarism.
The heading on the page notes that this is posted in Achievement and Outcomes, Learning Outcomes, so either both headings should be used in the endnote – or neither? Should Cengage Learning be credited as well, or Engaging Minds? That may depend on the referencing style in use, and we don’t know which it is. Not a good start, though.
2. John English and Chris Ireland, Plagiarism: Let’s Start as We Don’t Mean to Go on, (n.p., 2015), http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/10515/1/IrelandPlagiarismpdf.pdf.
The link given here leads to a slide presentation in PDF format, fronted by a cover page from the University of Huddersfield Repository.
Although the first slide following the cover page lists John English and Chris Ireland in that order, the cover page itself notes that the preferred citation/reference lists Ireland before English. A small matter, perhaps.
Of more import, the cover page notes the year of presentation/publication as 2011, not 2015 as recorded by the RefME writer.
3. Philip Newton, “Academic Integrity: A Quantitative Study of Confidence and Understanding in Students at the Start of Their Higher Education,” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, March 27, 2015, doi:10.1080/02602938.2015.1024199.
Newton’s paper was published online on March 27, 2015, and it might have been helpful to note that – if indeed the full day and month of publication or the online note are needed in the referencing system in use. The RefME writer gives us the DOI which, in some referencing systems, means that the full and actual date of online publication is unnecessary.
On the other hand, it might also be worth noting that the print version of the paper was published in print in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Volume 41 Issue 3, 2016.
4. “Are College Students Concerned about Plagiarism?”
This is Tami Strang’s post, per footnote #1. Is it usual to record second and subsequent uses of a source by the title rather than by the author?
5. Katie Malcolm, “Plagiarism and Inclusive Teaching: A Perfect Union?,” January 20, 2015, http://www.washington.edu/teaching/2015/01/20/plagiarism/.
Given that the reference for footnote #1 includes elements of a breadcrumb trail, shouldn’t this reference have one as well: Center for Teaching and Learning >> At the Center >> Plagiarism and Inclusive Teaching: A Perfect Union?
In the text, Katie Malcolm is introduced as “CTL Consultant.” It could be useful to know that CTL stands (presumably) for Center for Teaching and Learning, and that this group and/or The University of Washington should be included in the reference?
6. “Consequences of Plagiarism in College | the Classroom,” 2001, accessed May 3, 2016, http://classroom.synonym.com/consequences-plagiarism-college-1338.html.
This piece is by Debra Charlton, though her name is not mentioned in the RefME reference.
The site (?) is mentioned as “The Classroom” but this part of the breadcrumb trail is different to the part used in that first endnote (Strang: Learning Outcomes).” Why the pipe, the vertical bar which separates “the Classroom” from the title – and with both inside the inverted commas, it looks as if “the Classroom” is a subtitle, not the name of the page/s.
There is no mention of Synonym; should there be in this referencing system?
The page carries no date, so where did the “2001” come from? It is not conclusive evidence, but the Internet Archive’s first record of this page is in July 2013.
Note too the date of access; this is the first endnote to include a date of access. It isn’t the last, endnotes date #9, 10, 11 and 12 have access dates as well, but none of the other online sources include an access date.
7. Aftab Ali, “UK Universities in ‘plagiarism epidemic’ as Almost 50, 000 Students Caught Cheating over Last 3 Years,” The Independent – News (Independent), January 4, 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/uk-universities-in-plagiarism-epidemic-as-almost-50000-students-caught-cheating-over-last-3-years-a6796021.html.
All other endnotes are Title Case – all the important words have an initial Upper Case letter even when the title of the source uses Sentence case, with only the first word using an initial Upper case letter. For consistency, shouldn’t “plagiarism epidemic” be recorded here as “Plagiarism Epidemic”?
8. Nancy Laws, “The Shocking Truth about Essay Writing Services,” Huffington Post, April 14, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-laws/the-shocking-truth-about-_5_b_7041934.html.
This could be the only consistent reference/endnote on the page – if a reference can be consistent with itself. It includes an author, the title of the article, the publishing organisation, the date of publication, and the URL. If one wanted to quibble, then perhaps a note that the page was updated on June 10, 2015 might be in order, but let’s not (quibble).
9. “Detecting and Deterring Ghostwritten Papers: A Guide to Best Practices,” 2011, accessed May 5, 2016, http://www.thebestschools.org/resources/detecting-deterring-ghostwritten-papers-best-practices/.
Again, the author’s name is omitted though it is stated clearly in the original : David A. Tomar Once again we are given a publication date – 2011 – although there is nothing on the page to support this assertion.
More alarmingly, the earliest record in the Internet Archive is November 2014 with a clear publication date of November 6, 2014. Given that Tomar’s paper includes references to materials published in 2012, 2013 and 2014, RefME’s 2011 date may seem a trifle bogus?
10. “Local 6 Confronts Man Helping Students Cheat for Cash,” Click Orlando, May 6, 2014, accessed May 17, 2016, http://www.clickorlando.com/news/local-6-confronts-man-helping-students-cheat-for-cash.
And yet again, the author’s name is omitted though stated clearly in the original : Sean Lavin. Should the sub-title be included? I haven’t been checking these as much perhaps as I should have, but this one stands out loud.
11. “What Is Common Knowledge,” accessed May 5, 2016, https://integrity.mit.edu/handbook/citing-your-sources/what-common-knowledge.
This is an extract from Academic Integrity at MIT: A Handbook for Students. Isn’t that worth a mention in the reference?
12. “6.4 Plagiarism,” accessed May 5, 2016, http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/info_literacy/modules/module6/6_4.htm.
This is from a page headed “Information Literacy, module 6: Sharing,” published on the University of Idaho web site and based on a book by Radford, Barnes, and Barr. Shouldn’t at least some of that be included in the reference?
13. Kuwcnews, “Exploring and Preventing Plagiarism in a Digital Age,” September 23, 2015, https://kuwcnews.wordpress.com/2015/09/23/exploring-and-preventing-plagiarism-in-a-digital-age/.
The author is NOT Kuwcnews. The author is Amy Sexton, a KUWC tutor. The page is from the Academic Support Center Faculty Blog. Worth a mention?
There may be other inaccuracies, omissions, insertions and inconsistencies that I have not noted. Not to worry – I think the point is made? By RefME’s apparent definitions of plagiarism and academic misconduct, this list of sources is heavily flawed, a prime piece of plagiarism. By my own definitions of plagiarism and acacedemic misconduct, I wouldn’t class this as plagiarism, most of this list and the essay itself is just poor writing and poor scholarship. But, just as I was concerned earlier by the apparent invention of a statement attributed to source #6, I am here concerned about the apparent invention of dates in endnotes #6 and #9. These again strike as bogus, as possible attempts to mislead the reader. I would feel happier if the RefME writer could explain or demonstrate the source of these dates, else I might be more positive in that assertion.
But I won’t condemn the writer for these faults. Yet.
6> a small matter of several, many, passages which reuse so much wording from source documents that it might be felt that quotation marks are required; some readers might even class these passages as plagiarism.
On the other hand, this small matter is of great concern.
I have not submitted the paper to Turnitin or any other text-matching software/service. In looking up the RefME’s writer’s use of source material, I have noticed in passing similarities between passages in the RefME report and the sources cited, and these are what I report on here.
The similarities are small, but they make me feel uncomfortable. What do others think? What do you think?
Source #1: Tami Strang, “Are College Students Concerned about Plagiarism?,” Learning Outcomes, September 7, 2015, http://blog.cengage.com/are-college-students-concerned-about-plagiarism/.
From Strang: On the other hand, a slightly larger percentage (45% total) indicated that their peers demonstrate at least some concern about plagiarism: 25% are “very concerned,” and 20% are “somewhat concerned.” Though these students may, on occasion, accidentally cite a source incorrectly, they’re striving to follow good academic practices.
Significantly more concern is warranted among the 6% of students say their peers are “not at all concerned” about plagiarism and the 5% who only care about it to the extent that they don’t get caught doing it. “
From the RefME report:
In 2015, a survey conducted by Student Engagement Insights found that 25% of students said their peers are very concerned when it comes to plagiarism, and 45% of students indicated that their peers demonstrate at least some concern about plagiarism. However, the real cause for worry is that only 6% of students reported that their peers are “not at all concerned” about plagiarism, and that 5% reported that they only care about it to the extent that they don’t get caught. 1.
and source #4, also Strang:
it’s also uncomfortable to hear that many students don’t seem to care about it at all. These students need a fundamental introduction to the importance of correctly handling and crediting others’ work, conducted in a manner that thoroughly conveys the seriousness of the matter.
Moreover, the fact that 28% of students do not worry about the potential consequences of plagiarism highlights the importance of providing enough resources and education on the topic of correctly handling and crediting others’ work. This should be conducted in a manner that thoroughly conveys the seriousness of the matter. 4.
Source #6: Debra Charlton, “Consequences of Plagiarism in College,” Synonym: The Classroom, (2013?), http://classroom.synonym.com/consequences-plagiarism-college-1338.html.
From Charlton: Penalties might include loss of academic scholarships, failure to receive credit for the course or outright expulsion.
In most cases, it will result in a failing grade for the assignment or possible failure of the course. In extreme cases, such as repeat offending, students can face the loss of academic scholarships or outright expulsion. If their work is published, they may face legal action from the original author. 6.
Source #9: David A. Tomar, “Detecting and Deterring Ghostwritten Papers: A Guide to Best Practices,” 2014, http://www.thebestschools.org/resources/detecting-deterring-ghostwritten-papers-best-practices/.
and shortly after
A writer-manager will send instructions to a select number of staff writers, often based on a writer’s area of expertise. Based on the deadline, length, and anticipated difficulty of an assignment, writers will quote prices for prospective assignments.
while from RefME:
A ghost writing service usually charges somewhere between $10 and $50 per page – the price being dependent on factors such as the proximity of the deadline, length, and anticipated difficulty of an assignment. 9.
Source #11: “What Is Common Knowledge,” Academic Integrity at MIT: A Handbook for Students, nd., https://integrity.mit.edu/handbook/citing-your-sources/what-common-knowledge.
Source #12: “6.4 Plagiarism,” Information Literacy module 6: Sharing, http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/info_literacy/modules/module6/6_4.htm.
These two come together in a single paragraph in the RefME post:
and from “6.4 Plagiarism”
c: When you use phrases that have become part of everyday speech: you don’t need to remind your reader where “all the world’s a stage” or “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” first appeared, or even to put such phrases in quotation marks.
and from RefME:
Common knowledge is information that the average person would typically accept as a reliable, proven fact. For instance, most people know that ‘Barack Obama is the first American of mixed race to be elected president’ so it is unnecessary to credit it in your work. 11. Likewise, when you use phrases that have become part of everyday speech, such as “all the world’s a stage” or “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, you do not need to cite them or even to put them in quotation marks. 12.
In this case, the RefME writer has cited the sources, so the copied words – even if common knowledge in themselves – surely DO need to be enclosed in quotation marks (or, in the second copy, double sets of quotation marks) or else better paraphrased?
All in all, this report adds nothing to the academic conversation except, perhaps, even more confusion. It is a poor model of an academic paper, and a poor example of survey and data analysis and argument. As a piece extolling the uses of RefME, it is not exactly encouraging.
As an example of self-promotion, it serves to confirm my notion that studies aiming to show how effective a product is are ineffective – and rich for investigation – when produced by the company producing the product.