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Plagiarism/Citations in University Papers

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posted on Apr, 26 2005 @ 04:05 PM
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I hope that someone who is employed in the field of education sees this, such as a professor or teacher, so I can get a professional viewpoint on this matter.

Recently I wrote a term paper in a history of technology course I am taking. It was about the invention of the transistor. It was about 8 pages long, and I used several sources, both books and webpages, to research it. I had numerous citations in the paper (16 I believe it was) and thought that that was sufficient.

When I got the paper back a few days later my prof told me that it was 'vastly undercited' for a paper of this nature, and asked me to redo the citations for it. He told me he was expecting roughly 3 times as many citations as I had. So I redid the citations, and by the end I had just over 50, which was about one every 2-3 sentences. Is it just me or is this completely ridiculous?

I'm not blaming the professor at all, I'm criticizing the academic mentality in general in this regard. When I read nonfiction books or school textbooks, they certainly don't have citations every couple of sentences. Some don't have citations at all, just a bibliography.

I certainly understand the need to ensure that students are not plagiarising other's work, but surely I shouldn't have to cite things that are obvious to anyone who has done ten minutes research on the transistor, like the date of invention (1947), the company the inventors worked for (Bell), the year they won the nobel prize (1956), that sort of thing. It seems to me that anything that is common knowledge or easy to obtain knowledge, shouldn't have to be cited.

Basically, I think the whole idea of citations is stupid, but that's just me. Any input/opinions would be most welcome.




posted on May, 13 2005 @ 10:02 AM
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Generally when things are common knowledge (say included in a lecture in the class) then they don't need to be cited, but as in your case, it's sometimes best to cite them anyway, ig only to get used to referencing, and to be on the safe side when you don't know exactly what a professor expects. It's best to overcite, than to undercite, imo, because underciting can find you in trouble.

It can be a frustrating task, but seing as ideas are viewed as property, it's essential to cite. Also, with regard to such facts as dates and the like, citing can be essential for verification. No doubt the professor knew of the facts you presented in your paper (such as the date of the invention - 1947) but it's good to be in the habit of citing such dates and other important figures even if it's supposed to be common knowledge.

Take a look at a lot of journalism - they get facts and dates messed up alllll the time, but people take them as truth because they're seen as more concrete than mere opinion, and they also lack footnoting. If you can get in the haboit of citing all such things it can greatly aid your accuracy of facts which is essential for a good analysis.

Good post



posted on May, 13 2005 @ 10:35 AM
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I agree that it seems silly and over the top.

If it makes you feel any better, I just had to type up a 5 page research project for my FIRST grader! Yes, 1st grade, 5 page research project. She had to cite at least 3 sources. Talk about over the top!

Jemison



posted on May, 13 2005 @ 10:45 AM
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Originally posted by DragonsDemesne He told me he was expecting roughly 3 times as many citations as I had. So I redid the citations, and by the end I had just over 50

You mean you entered more information right??

I'm not blaming the professor at all, I'm criticizing the academic mentality in general in this regard. When I read nonfiction books or school textbooks, they certainly don't have citations every couple of sentences

If you read technical and research papers you will see that they come pretty close to that.

but surely I shouldn't have to cite things that are obvious to anyone who has done ten minutes research on the transistor, like the date of invention (1947), the company the inventors worked for (Bell), the year they won the nobel prize (1956), that sort of thing[/qu0ote]
If you submited a paper with that info uncited to a journal, I'd guess that it might get accepted, since I've seen stuff like that. But if the teacher wants to make a point of how important citations are and how important it is to back up one's statements, well, good for him. The fact that you couldgo from 16 to 50 citations shows just how much information we normally take for granted there is.

Basically, I think the whole idea of citations is stupid, but that's just me

Why? Why is it a bad idea to back up what one says and provide a source so that people can check it?

Talk about over the top!

5 pages and three sources? Thats not over the top. I think its great that a school would require that of 1st grade students. They're certainly have to do a lot more than that before long.



posted on May, 13 2005 @ 01:04 PM
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I totally agree. And I will also go ahead and say a principle is at stake here. To colleges, it seems like showing where you got the facts is more important than writing a thoughtful, informative essay.



posted on May, 13 2005 @ 01:55 PM
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Originally posted by sweatmonicaIdo
I totally agree. And I will also go ahead and say a principle is at stake here. To colleges, it seems like showing where you got the facts is more important than writing a thoughtful, informative essay.


It's kind of hard to state your own opinions on a informative essay, especially something about technology. When someone has to write a paper about history more than half the time 1/4-1/3 of his paper is going to be quotes and refs. You reference the source, and then you express your own opinion about what was said.

It IS important to state where you got the facts from, because that shows your not only stating YOUR opinion, but you know the history of your topic and where YOUR opinions fit in with the history of that which your researching.



posted on May, 13 2005 @ 03:21 PM
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Response to Nygdan: (DD = me, N=Nygdan)


DD: He told me he was expecting roughly 3 times as many citations as I had. So I redid the citations, and by the end I had just over 50

N: You mean you entered more information right??


Depends what you meant by 'more information.' I didn't change the body of the paper at all, I just added citations from the sources I had already read, but hadn't referenced. For example:

The transistor was invented in 1947 becomes The transistor was invented in 1947.1 and at the end of the essay I add 1. 'History of the Transistor' by John Doe


DD: I'm not blaming the professor at all, I'm criticizing the academic mentality in general in this regard. When I read nonfiction books or school textbooks, they certainly don't have citations every couple of sentences

N: If you read technical and research papers you will see that they come pretty close to that.


Hmm, fair enough. I don't think they approach 50 for a 9 page paper, but they do have a lot. It still doesn't explain to me why something like a history textbook doesn't have citations. Shouldn't they have thousands, if they are going to follow citation rules? They do have bibliographies and such, but not point by point citations.


DD: but surely I shouldn't have to cite things that are obvious to anyone who has done ten minutes research on the transistor, like the date of invention (1947), the company the inventors worked for (Bell), the year they won the nobel prize (1956), that sort of thing

N: If you submited a paper with that info uncited to a journal, I'd guess that it might get accepted, since I've seen stuff like that. But if the teacher wants to make a point of how important citations are and how important it is to back up one's statements, well, good for him. The fact that you couldgo from 16 to 50 citations shows just how much information we normally take for granted there is.


You do have some points here. I can see the value for citations in that we don't want people just making up stuff, like 'William Shockley was a shape shifting reptile from Pluto'. For knowledge that is not widely known, I can see the validity of citations, as well as anything that is controversial or debated. It just seems pointless to cite things that everyone in the field knows. A historian shouldn't have to cite, for example, that Columbus voyaged to the Americas in 1492. If the historian was trying to prove that he actually voyaged in 1484, however, that would require a lot of citations, because it isn't established fact. Similarly, it would be a waste of time for a physicist to cite every equation they used in a paper, like 'F=ma, by Isaac Newton'; that is just silly.


DD: Basically, I think the whole idea of citations is stupid, but that's just me

N: Why? Why is it a bad idea to back up what one says and provide a source so that people can check it?


When I said this, I was ticked, and I exaggerated. I think I've explained where I stand on this a little better, now. I can see that citations have their place in academia, I just think it's going overboard to cite as often as I was required to.

I suppose I simply have to plead a certain degree of ignorance in the matter. I am an engineering student, so all my assignments are calculations rather than writing, and this was a third year history course I was taking, so I was a little bit out of my league. I had taken a couple of first year history courses before, but one didn't even require a term paper, and the other two were at a much lower level of expectations.

One paper I did was analyzing Beowulf to see what it told about the authors, so most of my citations were something like 'Beowulf, line 123, Bob's translation', and the other paper was comparing the novel 1984 to communist China, and so most of my citations were from 1984 or Jan Wong's 'Red China Blues', there was no question where my info was coming from on either of those. So the paper on the transistor I did was a different style than any university paper I had written.

Thanks for all the replies, I thought this thread had died weeks ago, lol.



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