Who’s your friend?

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One of the consequences of the death of Queen Elizabeth II last month is that over 800 individuals and companies who at the time of her death held a Royal Warrant for providing goods or services to senior members of the Royal Household need to re-apply for the warrant.  Many may lose their warrant if King Charles III (and any other member of the royal family whom he appoints as a grantor) does not share the Queen’s tastes or needs. In addition, the warrant is not granted for the lifetime of the royal who grants the honour, every warrant holder needs to re-apply every five years to ensure that the Royal Household still uses the product or service.

When a royal warrant is cancelled or expires, the ex-warrant holder must remove the royal insignia from their labels, letter-heads and anywhere else they display the arms and the message “By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen” or “By appointment to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales” – declarations which must now be updated.  (For more information on this, see the Royal Warrants page of the Royal Family website or the FAQs page on the Royal Warrant Holders Association website.)

The Royal Warrant is, of course, highly prized and not easily obtained. As well as being a proven supplier of named goods and services to the named Royal over at least 5 years, warrant holders must hold to high standards – and not just directly in the products or services they supply.   It is possible to lose the Royal Warrant: in recent years, the Rigby and Peller lingerie company lost its warrant after the Queen’s bra-fitter breached confidence and discussed her work for the Queen in her autobiography (The Royal Bra-Maker Has Been Stripped of a Royal Warrant Over New Book); more recently, it seemed that the Davidstow cheese company was about to lose their royal warrant after polluting the River Inny near its factory in Cornwall, England over many years (Queen could revoke Davidstow cheddar royal warrant over river pollution) – and perhaps only the Queen’s death might change the reason for its loss. Among the FAQs on the RWHA site is the note that  between 20 and 40 royal warrants are cancelled every year (and a similar of new warrants granted).

The Royal Warrant maintains its integrity. It has to be earned or deserved, it cannot be bought. It is withdrawn if standards are not maintained.

It is worth repeating this, it is a vital aspect of the warrant’s cachet, a major assurance of standards : the Royal Warrant maintains its integrity. It has to be earned or deserved, it cannot be bought. It is withdrawn if standards are not maintained.

My mind turns to thoughts of The OWL at Purdue and its association with Chegg.  The OWL (Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab)  is a much-respected guide to academic writing and its citation and reference guidance is highly regarded for its accuracy and helpfulness.  Chegg is a not-well-respected “homework helper” whose practices have at times drawn criticism, blurring the lines between acceptable and unacceptable help for students  (see, for instance, my posts Nothing but… and Not such a wise OWL).

The OWL’s association with Chegg is evidenced most directly on its style guides’ citation and referencing pages where there is an auto-reference generator, Citation Machine, part of the Chegg stable.  An auto-reference generator invites users to insert a URL, an ISBN, a title or other identifying feature of a work to be cited or referenced, and comes up with suggested citations and references. The example here is from the OWL’s MLA Style Introduction.

I am not fond of auto-reference generators, and Citation Machine is perhaps more inadequate and faulty than most.  Since I last looked at Citation Machine, I see that as well as a reference which might or might not be accurate, the free version might also bring up a non-skippable 30-second advertisement for Chegg services, and when the reference is finally revealed, it also invites one to submit one’s work to check for “plagiarism errors”.  Dangerous stuff, especially if you do not first read Chegg’s Terms and Conditions.  I detailed some of the issues with Chegg’s T&Cs in Nothing but… – and nothing has changed. In this post, discussing Chegg’s User Content and Activities section on the T&C page, I said:

In this 8 paragraph section, you agree that with practically anything and everything you do on or with any Chegg site (including uploading or posting your own material, submitting questions or model answers, submitting text to their “plagiarism check” services,  using their citation/ reference generators and so on), you give Chegg a non-exclusive right to that material; Chegg can reuse it, pass it on or sell it on in any way they wish, without reference to you and without any form of payment for any further use of your material.

You also agree to let them use your personal details including your name, profile and photo for advertising and similar purposes.  You agree to let them use your material in any way they wish, even if you do not like the way they are using that material or any changes they have made to it.

It is worth noting that, in addition to critical articles cited in that blog post, more articles expressing reservations about the Purdue OWL-Chegg partnership have been published, including Emily Hamilton Haynes’s Thoughts on the OWL/Chegg partnership, Allison Hosier’s The Ballad of Purdue OWL, an unsigned article in the Spring 2020 SFCC Library Newsletter Academic Integrity in a Digital Age and Claire Warner’s Students cheat with online learning service, professors hope to identify users), I see that at least two university library online research guides include recommendations for the Purdue OWL as go-to guides for citation and referencing but warn explicitly against using the Chegg/Citation Machine auto-reference generator.  There is, for instance, the graphic advice on the Wartburg College Vogel Library Citation Guide

CAUTION: In early 2019, Purdue OWL began a partnership with Chegg, which introduced a Citation Machine widget to their otherwise wonderful content. Do not be tempted by these citation generators. Scroll past them to the documentation below, while you will have to do the critical thinking to model after the examples, you are more likely to create a correct and complete citation this way.

and the perhaps even more explicit advice in the Research Guide for English & American Literature : 19th Century at the University of Vermont

MLA Style (OWL at Purdue)

(2020) Please Note: The written material on this university website is still a good resource, but please ignore the citation generator advertised on (seemingly) every page. In 2019, Purdue Writing Lab partnered with Chegg, a for-profit student services company. Chegg has licensed OWL’s writing tips and placed advertising on its website, helping OWL to monetize its free content.

[I have not explored; there may well be many other pages and guides for other styles on these sites which include similar warnings, as may other research guides in other libraries and education institutions around the world.]

So, the contrast: the Royal Warrant can be withdrawn if standards and integrity are not maintained; controversial as it often is, the royal family cares about its brand and is careful about those it associates with.  The Purdue OWL’s reputation is tarnished by its association with Chegg (but unfortunately the OWL seems less concerned about its brand and reputation).

And then there is Turnitin.

Regular readers will know that I do not have a lot of love for Turnitin. Over the years, the company has made misleading and even false claims about its efficacy, the rate of growth of its database, the sources that it indexes and the number of pages indexed, it has made false claims and drawn false conclusions from its research and from its own frequently flawed originality reports (often finding false positives and false negatives even in the sample originality reports and other advertising matter produced where you might expect the company might make special effort to get it right), and more, much more. Turnitin made little or no attempt to clarify misconceptions and misreporting, even of and in interviews with Turnitin executives.  From its earliest years, it claimed to be an educational tool rather than a “plagiarism checker” but its reputation is founded on its (very fallible) ability to “catch” plagiarists and uncover possible plagiarism.

In recent years and under new management and ownership, Turnitin has become ever more invested in other aspects of education, including assessment and feedback, course management, authenticity checks and even academic writing.  It makes ever more effort to downplay its use as a text-matching (“plagiarism checking”) tool and tries to emphasise  its use in other aspects of education. My continuing lack of love for Turnitin is now based more on its technological solutionism approach to education, dehumanising classroom practice and assessment, teaching by algorithm.

Like it or not, Turnitin is a leader in the field and has expanded, perhaps aggressively.  It seems fair to say that those who like Turnitin generally hold it in high regard, any criticism they have tends to be more about the pricing than about the services provided.

One of the services which Turnitin provides is a partnership scheme.  Institutions and companies can apply to become Turnitin Partners, and apparently more than 200 have.  There are three partnership schemes. Technical Integration partners such as Blackboard and CollPoll have integrated Turnitin into their learning management systems, while Content partners are typically major academic publishers such as SpringerNature, Wiley, Elsevier and CrossRef, who have great interest in minimizing opportunities for plagiarism to appear in their publications.

The third group are Commercial partners who use Turnitin as part of the services they supply, and this is where the partnership scheme might become more problematic.  Some Commercial partners work with institutions to provide platforms and management systems into which Turnitin is integrated, companies such as Kira Talent and DreamApply (used in higher education to manage their applications processes), or Eummena, Edunao and Ellucian (also educational platforms and management systems).

Some other Commercial partners supply services not to institutions but instead to individuals, and these may be more problematic.  Enago and Editage are established companies which offer proof-reading and editing services, translation and assistance in getting papers published in quality journals.  Scribbr also offers proof-reading and editing services but would seem to be aimed at a lower academic level than Enago and Editage, undergraduates (and possibly secondary school students as well) rather than professional or advanced academic researchers.  I think it fair to say this because on the Scribbr site there is much emphasis on plagiarism checking and on citation assistance, the site offers a plagiarism checker and a citation generator.  On the home-page is the claim “Everything you need to write an A-grade paper“.  Professional researchers are looking for publication and knowledge sharing, not grades.  Scribbr is about grade enhancement.  Does that make it more problematic?

The issue of proof-reading is sometimes fraught and open to misunderstanding. In real life, it is a good idea to have someone else look over your work and point out possible errors.  Other people have distance, they see mistakes that you just cannot see for looking, you are too close to the piece.  Peer review is common classroom practice – sometimes going further than pure proof-reading, correcting spelling and grammar errors, making suggestions in terms of structure and content, perhaps suggesting content which might be added or omitted or placed elsewhere, perhaps even suggesting new or different lines of research or development.  Academic peer reviewers for reputable journals are experts in their fields,  helping the journals maintain their standards and their reputations.  In publishing, general as well as academic, proof-reading, peer review and editing are accepted techniques and often requirements.

The lines between proof-reading and correcting and critiquing and editing and rewriting can be grey, can become blurred.  Ethical issues may arise if the extent and the expectations of any review are not clear, and the temptation to make suggestions outside what is permitted may be strong.  Especially in academic assessment, where instructors, parents and fellow-students want the writers of work they are reviewing to do well, improve, gain high grades.

As instance, at the secondary education level, the International Baccalaureate makes its expectations very clear, especially with regard to the extended essay. nobody may proof-read the essay apart from the student writing it.  The page Proofreading comprises the page heading and one short paragraph:


The whole essay needs to be proofread carefully by the student (computer spelling and grammar checkers are useful but will not do everything). They must not ask someone else to proofread their work as this is an important part of the learning experience.

While we might have reservations about the reason given for this requirement, the requirement itself is clear: “(students) must not ask someone else to proofread their work”.  This avoids the dilemmas and possible misunderstandings as to how much advice the student can receive from other people for this aspect of the writing: none. The extended essay is expected to be the work of the student, working with a supervisor, and any help received from others acknowledged in the course of the essay.

Integrity is integral

Who will know if a student receives outside help, whether simple proof-reading and pointing to possible errors through to critiquing and editing and rewriting services?  The danger is that students might be tempted to cross lines, seek more assistance, from peers, from tutors, from parents and friends, from online services, than is permitted.  And because it is unlikely that anyone will find out, students may be tempted.

It comes down to awareness of the rules in the first place and then it is a matter of integrity, following the rules even if it seems unlikely that you will be caught if you break them.

I am not saying that Scribbr is unethical. There is a place for proof-reading and editing services.  I am not sure that secondary school or undergraduate education are among those places, though as noted, it may be acceptable if the boundaries are clearly stated and observed by all parties.

Which brings us back to Turnitin’s partnership with Scribbr – or rather, Scribbr’s partnership with Turnitin.  Scribbr claims, very loudly, to be an “authorised partner” of Turnitin:

Many Turnitin partners say on their websites that they are Turnitin partners. Scribbr is the only partner I can find which uses the term “authorised partner” (and I wonder if the European spelling of “authorised” is significant?).  It suggests that Scribbr has Turnitin’s blessing and approval for its services, services which may go beyond what is permitted by educational institutions, whether generally or for individual assignments and assessments – but because Scribbr might seem to be authorised by Turnitin to provide those services, perhaps (in the mind of the student) there can be nothing wrong in using them?  The temptation to make wrong choices becomes stronger.

Does Turnitin vet its commercial partners, or can they simply buy their way in to Turnitin partnership? Turnitin’s technical partners must have their integration certified by Turnitin:

but content partners and commercial partners seem not to need certification.  Back to thoughts of the Royal Warrant and the statement I made earlier:

The Royal Warrant maintains its integrity. It has to be earned or deserved, it cannot be bought. It can be withdrawn if standards are not maintained.

Like the OWL at Purdue’s partnership with Chegg, the Turnitin-Scribbr partnership does not reflect well, there is an air of taint.

Footnote and afterthought

I have not run a test on Scribbr’s “plagiarism checker,” which I assume to be as accurate or inaccurate as Turnitin itself (since they are using Turnitin itself to run the checks).  I have not tried Scribbr’s editing and proofreading services, which if TrustPilot is to be believed has a 94% 5-star approval rating, sharp contrast with most of the reviews in Redditt.

But I have conducted a limited test of their Citation Generator and was not impressed.

Those who use APA 7th edition will spot the use of Sentence case in the first entry, and Title Case in the second and third entries (APA uses Sentence case consistently), will know that APA does not use (01 ed.) for first editions, and uses (2nd ed.), (3rd ed).etc (but not (03 ed.) for later editions, that month and day are not used in the dates in references for books nor are dates of access required for URLs unless the page is likely to change over time (which these are  not); regular readers of this blog will also know that the two web pages referenced here do include dates of publication, do have named authors, missed by Scribbr’s algorithm, and there are other errors too.

If Scribbr’s Citation Generator is typical of its other services, then perhaps it is a service best avoided.

Once again, is Turnitin aware of Scribbr’s extra services? Does it approve? Does it authorise them? Does it warrant them?

As so often, gentle reader: be aware, beware!

Another brick in the wall

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I have come across an interesting twist in the contract cheating industry, Ghost Grading: Part 1 – A New Twist on Contract Cheating.  I hope I do not steal any of Dr Sarah Elaine Eaton’s thunder, especially as she still has Part 2 of her investigations to come, but the story is of interest.

It seems that teaching assistants and other instructors in North America (maybe elsewhere too?) are being targeted to outsource their grading duties.  The contract grading company gets paid by the TA at a rate lower than the TA receives from their institution, so the TA has money-in-hand without doing the work and also, as Eaton puts it,  is “gaining back time to work on other, more interesting projects.”

It is a win-win situation.  Or is it?

My first thoughts considered the irony of the practice, especially with regard to the whole contract cheating industry.

Students can pay to have their work written by a contract essay company and their work might then be marked by a contract marking company.  Nice thought: what if the contract marker gives a poor grade to the contract written essay?  Could there be cases where the same company which sells the essay to the student then goes on to mark it?   Hmmm.  Would they (do they) have safeguards to make sure they mark the essay as promised by the sales side of the company, regardless of its quality?

Taken to an extreme, this could put universities and schools out of business altogether.  There would be no need for teachers and instructors and no need for students either.  Fake universities could offer fake qualifications to fake students who buy their essays from fake firms who mark the fake essays and give fake marks so they can gain fake qualifications.

Meanwhile, having some other body/s take over high-stakes assessment might just leave schools and colleges able to focus on their core purpose: education and learning?

Fantasy and irony aside, there are more serious considerations here.

WIIFT – What’s In It For Them?

It is not a win-win situation.

The instructor earns less money (the amount paid out to the company providing the “service”) – but does gain time for other projects and activities, academic or otherwise.  Presumably the time gained is worth it.  Eaton suggests that some approaches to instructors give the impression that the educational institution approves of the arrangement, which of course they do not.  Instructors and TAs who sign up could lose trust and ultimately their jobs. They will not gain experience in marking, they will not get to know the students and their abilities and capabilities, they will not gain awareness of misunderstandings and gaps in comprehension – feedback on the teaching.  They might gain a little, they will lose a lot.

Students will lose as well. They might not get the marks they deserve and they might not get the feedback they need.  They are not getting what they paid for, they are not getting the education they signed up for.

Contract grading companies, on the other hand, gain gain gain. Or to put it another way, win win win.  What’s In It For Them? Let us count the ways:

  • they gain student work and essays which, these being unscrupulous companies, could well be recycled and re-used, perhaps sold as exemplars on essay sites or even as original supposedly-contract-written essays;
  • they gain access to courses and to copyright materials which again could be sold on or repurposed;
  • they get a potential-blackmail hold over the TAs and instructors who sign up, an academic honey-trap;
  • they gain access to learning management systems, access to data, including confidential data, data which may go well beyond the course, which they can use and/or sell on;
  • they gain access to learning management systems, with opportunities to hack and corrupt the system altogether.

The potential is frightening, and I have lost count.

I look forward to part 2 of Dr Eaton’s article.


Spinning it out

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A few weeks ago, my eye was caught by an article in The Guardian, Overconfident of spotting fake news? If so, you may be more likely to fall victim.  Natalie Grover reported on a recent survey of 8285 Americans which suggests that 90% of participants thought that their ability to distinguish between fake and accurate headlines was above average, that those who had over-high perception of their abilities were more likely to visit websites which tended to publish false or inaccurate news items, and they were also more likely to share fake news; on the other hand, those who took a more thoughtful approach to their news reading were less likely to be misled by or to share inaccurate and false news reports.

There have been many studies of over-confidence in recent years.   It may be this misplaced self-confidence which leads students (and people generally) to go for and to use without question whatever comes up as Google hit number 1, this regardless of anything they have been told and taught about website evaluation.  It may be a form of cognitive dissonance – knowing that they have to slow down and think about what they find online while at the same time accepting what they find online without thinking about it.

Who needs those CRAAP and WISER and CARRDS or other evaluation tools?  Why bother to laterally read and think, or use Four Moves?   We do not need to think, we cannot be taken in, we know best.

Think again.

I am not sure about my own general news-reading habits, but I do know I tend to be Continue reading

Nothing but …

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Last week, I received an email message from Chegg, telling me they had recently changed their Terms of Service.  It was very much an in-your-face message, in Helvetica 21.  That is big.

The body of the message reads:



We have updated our Terms of Use.

The updates are effective as of March 17, 2021. They apply to all accountholders, so we encourage you to read the Terms of Use fully. Some of the updates include changes to the Dispute Resolution section, the Arbitration Agreement, and to the procedures for filing a dispute against Chegg. The Terms of Use can be found here.

If you do not wish to have these Dispute Resolution updates apply to you, you must notify us as described in the Terms of Use within 30 days of their effective date.





It is a very carefully worded message. We are urged to “read the Terms of Use fully” and are told that “some of the updates include changes to” three specific areas of the Terms of Use, all three dealing with problems arising from using Chegg services and procedures in case of  dispute.   Note that use of “some of the updates include changes to…” – note that “some.”  The implication is that there may be other updates, other changes, but they are not mentioned in the email.

Nor are they listed on the Terms of Use page. There is no summary of changes made, no indication of what the previous terms were for comparison purposes.  Nor is there any indication of what, outside the dispute procedures, has also changed – just that note in the email suggesting that there have been changes elsewhere in the Terms of Use.  It is for the user to find them, “we encourage you to read the Terms of Use fully.”

There are 47 topics in the Terms of Use, more than 14,000 words on the page – Continue reading

Tempting snakes

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It is some time since I last wrote about Viper, a free service which called itself a “plagiarism checker,”  housed on a site called ScanMyEssay.  It is worth writing again, because there are a number of changes in Viper’s  services and in the Viper business model.

In those earlier posts, Authentic Authenticity (published September 2013)  and Snake (in the grass) (March 2016), I advised against Viper because among other things: Continue reading

MLA9 already – and already mixed feelings

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it does not seem long since the Modern Language Association published its 8th edition (MLA8) – but I see that it was released as much as 5 years ago, April 2016. Now, next month sees publication of MLA9, the 9th edition of the MLA Handbook – and yesterday MLA hosted a webinar preview of the new edition.

I well remember my excitement and delight, as that edition seemed revolutionary (as I wrote in MLA8 – new edition of MLA Handbook and Back to basics – MLA8 revisited).  Instead of presenting lots of rules and variations from and exceptions to the rules in an attempt to include all types of known (and unknown) source, format, medium, platform and more, we were given a template to follow with which we could build the references which informed our lists of Works Cited, while still being faithful to the rationale and the principles of academic referencing and supporting our readers.  This was empowering, it was liberating.

The principles of MLA8 citation and referencing are Continue reading

The integrity of integrity

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One of my neighbours was livid earlier this week. The council recycling collection team had not emptied his recycling box. We leave our recycling boxes at the roadside for collection; everyone else’s recycling had been collected, our boxes emptied, but not his.  A large tag tied to the handle explained why:  the recycling was contaminated.

Someone, presumably a passer-by, had deposited a polystyrene carton and the remains of a take-away meal in the recycling box. The whole box was deemed contaminated and could not be taken for processing.

Contamination of recycling is a problem. If not caught Continue reading

Avoid like the plague…

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It’s an ill wind, they say, an ill wind which blows nobody any good.

Covid-19 / coronavirus is spreading, more people are affected, the global death toll keeps rising, and at exponetial rates.  Businesses are closing, in some cases for good.  Parents are having to stay at home to look after children whose schools are closed. Stay indoors, do not go out unnecessarily, keep your distance, wash your hands.  The times are grim, the news is grim, we are all indirectly and directly affected (and if we aren’t affected yet, we will be).

The times are bringing out the worst in us, the times are bringing out the best in us.  While many selfishly rush to stockpile and the shops empty and more are happy to flout emergency regulations, we also see much that makes us proud : the selfless dedication of medical personnel and others in key services, new community awareness, measures of environmental recovery too.  These may be bad times but there is much that is good too, generosity and compassion..

Even cheat sites are playing their part. Well, one at least is. A special offer in the face of global catastrophe, Continue reading

None too advanced

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In my last post, Guest what?, I described how I got intrigued by an article extolling the virtues of online essay writing services. It was posted on a website devoted to trashing the Royal Dutch Shell oil company. The article seemed so very out-of-place that I started investigating, both the gripe site itself as well as article.

Although the article, 10 Interesting Facts about Online Essay Writing Services, reads as if talking about essay writing services in general, it gives no names, no  examples. There is, however, a single hyperlink to one of these services.  It links to a site well worth looking at more closely. It might even be worth sharing and discussing with students, the better to put them off any temptation to use such sites themselves.

The underlined text links to a site called Continue reading

Guest what?

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Now here’s an oddity. My plagiarism news alert alerted me to 10 Interesting Facts about Online Essay Writing Services the other day. What I found interesting, even before I clicked on the link, was that the article was posted on the Royal Dutch Shell plc .com website. What interest did Shell, the multinational/ global oil company, have in online essay writing services?

I just had to find out.

It turns out that Royal Dutch Shell plc .com is a gripe site, someone with a grudge against Royal Dutch Shell. The Shell website is simply www.shell.com, not royaldutchshellplc.com.

The site was founded by and is maintained by John Donovan.  On his disclaimer page, he openly proclaims the nature of his grudge against Shell.

Donovan might have good cause for his grievance; he certainly seems to have grievance, be it justified or not.  His site is full of whistle-blowing articles pinpointing practices which may be of a dubious nature. The origins of his grievance are highlighted on his eponymous site, johndonovan.website (one of several he maintains):

And the puzzle: in among the many many articles accusing Shell of misdemeanours of many kinds is the article,  10 Interesting Facts about Online Essay Writing Services. It seems out of place. What’s more, the “10 interesting facts” article extols the supposed virtues of a good essay writing service. Donovan appears to be very much in favour of them.  The article claims that “trustworthy and effective” services provide Continue reading

Here’s a how-de-do

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In a recent post, APA7 – not so sure…, I said that one of the things I like about the latest edition of the APA Publication Manual is that it standardises the recording of a DOI – to the form: https//doi.org/10.xxxxx.yyyy.  Previously there were several different ways of recording a DOI, including


All three methods were accepted in APA style documents, with the caveat that the formats should not be mixed in any one reference list, authors should change the format of any DOIs if and as necessary to provide a consistent style in that paper.

The latest edition of APA advises a standard format, so this item would now be referenced only as https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0321.

This standardisation is good, it reduces potential confusion.

But it’s not just online documents which have DOIs – print documents are often assigned DOIs as well. The APA-style reference for APA’s Publication manual is (according to my paperback edition of the style guide, p. iv):

American Psychological Association (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000

Which may make for complications (especially for students in IB schools).

In an earlier post, Just a matter of time, I pointed to confusion between online material and material obtained online. Students (and teachers and others) are often confused in this regard; the title of Katie Greer and Shawn McCann’s article says it all: Everything Online is a Website: Information Format Confusion in Student Citation Behaviors.

IB adds to the confusion by requiring students to provide dates of access for electronic sources.

Now APA7 adds to the pot by requiring that DOIs be provided, using the https:// format, for print materials as well as for online materials:

Include a DOI for all works that have a DOI, regardless of whether you used the online version or the print version (APA7, p. 299).

Putting it all together, I’ve got a little list – of incompatible requirements. * 

  • Many referencing style guides (including APA) advise that date of access is needed only for online materials which are unstable, their contents or the URL might change or be changed.
  • The guides advise that materials with a DOI are regarded as stable so do not need a date of access.
  • APA7 requires that if a source has a DOI then it should be included in the reference.
  • APA7 requires that the DOI use the https:// protocol, thus
  • (As noted,) materials with a DOI are regarded as stable so do not need a date of access (in major referencing guides).
  • IB requires that references for electronic sources include the date of access.
  • IB examiners have been known to comment “Date of access?” on reference lists which include DOIs which do not have dates of access – marks may have been deducted for the omission.
  • It is unlikely that IB examiners will check whether a work in a reference list which carries a DOI is available in print; the DOI will have the https:// protocol and therefore look just like an online source.
  • IB examiners might therefore deduct marks for not including the date of access of a print work because they think it is an online source and therefore should have a date of access.

It’s a fine how-de-do, isn’t it, a pretty mess AND a state of things? *

Here are two suggestions for resolving the conundrum:

1) if referencing print materials with DOI for IB assessments, advise students not to give the DOI despite any advice to the contrary in the referencing guide.


2) IB should instruct examiners that if a reference includes a DOI – including entries in the form https://doi.org/10.xxxxx.yyyy – then no date of access is required; to dispel confusion in schools, this advice could (and should) be added to IB guidance such as the page Acknowledging the ideas or work of another person—minimum requirements.


*  I seem to have Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado playing earworm, both “I’ve got a little list” and “Here’s a how-de-do” feature in the comic opera – which leads to the thought, if we are trying to “make the punishment fit the crime,” we must first be sure that a crime has been committed.

APA7 – not so sure…

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Remembering my excitement when MLA8 was announced (see MLA8 – new edition of MLA Handbook) and then when it was published (Back to basics – MLA8 revisited), I have to admit a degree of disappointment in the latest edition of the APA Publication Manual, APA7.

I am not a fan of MLA and its author style for in-text citation, I much prefer APA’s author-date approach.  Knowing the date of publication of a source is an important detail in the kind of reading and academic writing that I generally do.

But I do like MLA8’s approach, the principles of documentation that it announces right at the start.  There are just three principles and two of them resonate, they sum up my philosophy of and pedagogical approach to citation and referencing: Continue reading

Invisible women

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I was intrigued when Caroline Criado Perez’s book, Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, was published earlier this year.  It got a lot of exposure on radio (and no doubt in other media outlets too) – and deservedly so. Perez’s thesis is that it’s a man’s world: the world is unconsciously and often consciously designed and regulated by men for men and that women are too often seen as smaller and less powerful versions of men.  Even in countries and cultures in which men think they believe in equality in all spheres of life and that  systems are designed and shaped to ensure equality as far as is possible, there are often huge gaps and inequalities, completely unintended because nobody thought froma woman’s point-of-view.

One of the hooks which grabbed me, listening to the reports and the interviews, was the built-in gender bias of technology. For instance, when a gender-neutral language such as Turkish is fed into Google Translate, “o bir hemşire” translates as “she is a nurse” while  “o bir doktor” comes out as “he is a doctor.

(Recordings of many of the interviews and other items are available Continue reading

Just a matter of time

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A recent post in a closed Facebook group for IB Diploma Programme Extended Essay Coordinators asked, “Would this be a complete reference for a painting?”

There followed a curious discussion, some 20 comments long.  The discussion inspired this blog post – and also got me reviving a post I started earlier this year on the same theme but had not managed to finish. I have now. My earlier thoughts are weaved in below, but let’s start with this recent, curious discussion.

The very first response declared,

The EE guide specifies that all online sources must have [Date accessed etc]

and thereafter the discussion focused on the date of access and its formatting and placement. After the person who posted the original question pointed out that the suggested reference did include the date of access (“Retrieved July 30, 2019)” that first responder came back with

(the Guide) requests a specific format for this and this point was reiterated in a workshop.

This same responder said in a later comment that the workshop leader had explained that having the date accessed in square brackets at the end of the reference enabled the examiner quickly to determine that the date of access had been included.

This raises a number of points – as it did in the discussion.  Yes, on the page headed Acknowledging the ideas or work of another person—minimum requirements, the Guide states that date of access must be included in any reference to an electronic source (whatever that means, the starting point for my original blog post as taken up below)

Regardless of the reference style adopted by the school for a given subject, it is expected that the minimum information given includes:

        • name of author
        • date of publication
        • title of source
        • page numbers as applicable
        • date of access (electronic sources)
        • URL.

and goes on to state

Examiners are required to alert the IB when minimum requirements are not met by a student, and the work is investigated accordingly.

IB has its own requirements for referencing.  While the IB does not legislate which referencing style is used,  it does require that the style used is used consistently.  IB also advises that when its own requirements are different to those in a published style guide, then IB requirements must be followed.  This is acceptable.  Many if not most of the published style guides state explicitly that, if an instructor’s, school’s, institution’s or publisher’s requirements are different to the suggestions in the style guide, writers should meet the requirements of the instructor (etc).  Say it loud: even if a style guide recommends that date of access is not needed, for IB assessments the date of access is needed.

But, despite our workshop’s participant’s protestation, the IB does not prescribe Continue reading

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

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

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

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


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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

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

APA mythtakes

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We don’t take note of non-coincidences, do we? It’s different when two similar events happen close to each other. Wow! we say, what are the chances of that happening twice in the same day? Coincidences stick in the mind, single events do not stick so readily. (This one stuck so solidly that it pushed me into blogging again.)

A recent EasyBib blog post was one half of such a coincidence. Michele Kirschenbaum’s blog post Video Lesson: In-Text Citations had upset me on two counts. Although published on 29 September 2017, my Google Alert did not pick it up until last week.

Count #1: the video gives the impression that in-text citations and parenthetical citations are one and the same

This impression is confirmed in the text of the blog where we read “We think this video, which provides an introduction to in-text, or parenthetical citations, is a great addition to your classroom resources.”

Me, I don’t think it such a great addition, not least because parenthetical citations are one kind of in-text citation, but not the only kind.

Other kinds are available, not least when the citation starts the sentence Continue reading

A gift that kept on giving…

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Regular readers will know my opinion of the (so-called) Harvard referencing, but in case you don’t, it is low. (If you don’t, then see, as instance, the three-part post which starts at Harvard on my mind 1.)

So there was some delight and much sinking feeling when my daily GoogleAlert for [plagiarism] today brought up the hit How to Reference Your Sources Using Harvard Referencing.

  The first line or so of the alerted post by someone signing in as techfeatured reads:

An article in the Sunday Times (Jones, 2006) claims that up to 10% of all degree level submissions commit some form of plagiarism – the act of …

It wasn’t just the mention of Harvard that set the alarm bells ringing and the red flags flying. It was the statistic itself, that 10%, and the ten-year old source. Surely there is more recent research, surely the rate is higher? What is meant by “degree level submissions”?

Today (as I start drafting this post) is Christmas Day Continue reading

Of honesty and integrity

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One of my favourite classroom and workshop activities is a “Do I need to cite this?” quiz. Those taking the test are presented with a number of situations and asked to choose between “Cite the source/s” and “No need to cite the source/s.” *

I like to do this using Survey Monkey – other polling applications will do just as well. It means that I can home in on any situation in which there is divided opinion, or which many respondents are getting wrong. There is no need to go through each situation one at a time if there are just two or three situations which need to be discussed.

Much of the time, the answers are clear: the situation is academic (a piece of work submitted for assessment) so should demand academic honesty, and most students and other participants get it right.

Some of the situations are less clear and lend themselves to discussion, considerations of common knowledge, learned expertise, copyright, credibility and reputation, honesty (as against academic honesty) and integrity.

One situation, for instance, presents Continue reading