CCCC 2006 in Review
Harper's presentation began with a discussion of plagiarism in masters' theses; in reviewing a thesis, she came across an uncited acronym and did a quick Google search to find out whether it needed further explanation. Unfortunately, she discovered that the student's thesis has a large portion of uncited information. She went on to note that it is common across all graduate students to see inappropriate citation use, confusion on whether certain material needs to be cited, etc. Though a great deal of research has been completed which focuses on undergraduate citation practices and plagiarism, less research on graduate students' experiences and attitudes has been done. Perhaps, then, there is a need for further research in this area? Of course, as a graduate student, I would argue that the problem potentially extends beyond just students to faculty as well, and Harper did touch on this point in her talk; she noted that she had recently argued with a group of faculty who did not see the need to differentiate between directly and indirectly quoted material. Clearly, the need for specific standards and education extends across these status lines. Her recommendation is to approach citation standards using the language of "transparency" and thinking about it from a scientific, experimentally based vantage point. In other words, Harper speaks to her students about the need for citations to help a researcher reproduce an experiment accurately. She handed out a series of examples of how different citation standards, such as MLA, Chicago, and the UK standard for indirect citations, can cause confusion for writers. While MLA is fairly prescriptive in its standards, Chicago is more permissive, and the sciences-based citation standards can be quite open and merely descriptive.
Block spoke about his experiences with Generation 1.5 learners in his university, focusing on a course that used blogs to help students grapple with issues of plagiarism. His course, which he described as focusing on "all plagiarism, all the time," asked students to examine different academic texts to familiarize the students with the concepts and concerns surrounding plagiarism and academic citation standards. Many of Bloch's students are East African, and the student he used as an extended example throughout the presentation is a young girl of nineteen from Somalia. In looking at her blogs, he saw what he expected to see in a Generation 1.5 learner; that is, a mixture of "and" to connect and more connecting with "however," "therefore," and so on. He also noted that Asian students often have the trouble of sticking too closely to the original source material, whereas the East African students may wander so far away that attribution and citation become a major problem. As an audience member unfamiliar with some of the concepts Bloch spoke about, I may have missed some of his more interesting points about how students move beyond simply connecting ideas using strings of "ands" and moving towards a more complex connection, but I did find it quite useful in thinking about how students make connections between academic discourse, citation standards, and their own writing which seemed to me to be the focus of the session.
Unfortunately, our projector system wasn't working, so Palmquist's PowerPoint—which Bloch confirmed was amazing—was unable to be projected. But, projection problems aside, I found Palmquist's presentation quite interesting. He talked about (mis)information on the scholarly publishing industry, asserting that actually publishing numbers are up, but that supply (publishing venues) is not able to meet the current demand (from potential authors). Palmquist's points—that current publishing practices make some ideas, which may be costly to produce as academic books, inaccessible to a larger audience; that publishing takes too long unnecessarily; and that libraries are not buying large numbers of scholarly books, so concerns about access if we switch to an online format seem somewhat unfounded—made sense. His arguments that we move towards offering more works for free or at least in an alternative format online (PDFs of chapters, for example) was sound. What impact would this have on the currency of ideas and information? Palmquist touched on this briefly, but I think this is something we will just have to bear out as a field, because print-on-demand and online versions of books and journals seems to be the direction that we are heading as a field. Palmquist offered the example of the book, Writing Selves/Writing Societies, which is available online at https://wac.colostate.edu/books/selves_societies/; readers may check it out there for free.
— Stephanie Vie
For more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.