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 that a writer should check URLs before submitting a paper to ensure that the information is still there, and to update as necessary (APA6, 2010, p.192).  (The manual also says that if the information is no longer on the page originally seen, either to find it somewhere else or not to use it at all.)

The version of the AH Chemistry guidance that I had originally looked at was that published in 2011.   In this, the date for visiting the pdrhealth.com website is given as November 2010. When I followed APA’s advice and looked at the most recent version, I found that the date of visitation had been updated to November 2015 – so I updated my blog post, updated the URL, and thought no more about it.

But something niggled. Here we go: the guide has been updated almost every year. In four different versions of the guidance, the dates of visitation are recorded as

visited November 2010
visited November 2012
visited November 2013
visited November 2014

In other words, the guide has undergone near-annual revision, but nobody has revised the misleading information. It was all there in the 2010 version, it is still there in the 2014/15 version.  The date of consultation has been revised – but none of the other misleading information has been changed: the page references, the references, the in-text citations, the web page examples, the demands that these are the “only acceptable” ways of citing and referencing source material. And the plagiarism in the examples for in-text citation remain as well.

All unchanged, all unchallenged. For five years?

It’s worrying.

1 thought on “Harvard on my mind – 3

  1. Pingback: Harvard on my mind – 2 | Honesty, honestly…

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