"Citation Psychosis"

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I just saw this Chronicle article (linked below) and remembered overhearing (or maybe I was actually a part of conversation...sometimes I can't remember) others talking about similar topics last week.

The article is "Citation Obsession? Get Over It!" by Kurt Schick

It's authored by a writing instructor at James Madison University and talks about how at his institution they're finding that students' fretting over following citation style rules is negatively impacting their ability to teach information literacy skills.

Here's my favorite quotation:

Recent research by the Citation Project corroborates how severely teachers' citation psychosis has diminished students' information-literacy skills, in particular. Rebecca Moore Howard and Sandra Jamieson blame "plagiarism hysteria," which compels teachers to punish improper citation more than reward students' effective use of sources' words and ideas.

This article resonated with me because I've seen students at the reference desk really stressed out that they're not following citation rules to the exact letter.  I try to explain the purpose of the reference list to them--that other scholars always want the ability to follow up on the documents that you use to support your case -- and that as long as they put in as much information as they can to make it re-findable they should be okay.  That the key is just to indicate that they are using someone else's ideas.

What do you think about this article's stance?

Photo credit:  "Citation Needed" by futureatlas.com.  CC


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I totally agree with this. The function of a citation is valid, the pickiness about where periods go is not. As he notes, student can learn citation styles (and I would add, how to use Zotero, Mendeley, etc) if/when they become full blown publishing academics. Until then it is the content that should count.

It would be interesting to keep track of this kind of thing in DeskTracker or try to get a sense if it is getting in our way (or the Center for Writing's way).

The idea is very much related to Project Information Literacy assignment analysis where they found the assignment handout mostly focus on type size/number of pages/citation style and less on context/encouragement for intellectual process that should be occurring through the assignment.

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This page contains a single entry by Jon Jeffryes published on November 4, 2011 8:53 AM.

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