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Author Topic: "Favorite" conversations with students  (Read 1848382 times)
emdashed
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« Reply #6225 on: November 01, 2012, 6:54:49 pm »

... if they went through their papers and found a source only used once, they might want to evaluate whether it's necessary or if they should look into a more useful source, ...

This is an odd idea.  In my field it's rare-ish to use a single source more than once in a single paper, and I can't see why it'd be a good idea to suggest anyone should.

Well, here's an example: Student is writing a paper about poverty in the work of Dickens. Assignment is to use at least three texts. Student cites Oliver Twist fifteen times, Bleak House once, and Little Dorrit once. Wouldn't you say that would probably produce a thin argument?

And it's partly the type of assignment they're doing--which is not Dickens nor field-specific--and partly that I'm fighting a losing battle to teach them how taking quotes out of context or otherwise twisting text into pretzels to fit their needs is a problem. I also have a required number of sources for the paper, and I'm seeing random, only tangentially related citations that are clearly an attempt to pad the works cited page. It's not something that applies to all my students, and it's not something I'd suggest to every class. I also said I pointed out it is not always a problem, but rather something to consider carefully.

It was the nicest way I could say, "Don't BS me with five source tacked onto the last paragraph of your paper." And I did not say the student was without a doubt wrong, only that it is not a yes or no question and that I can't possibly answer it without her paper in front of me. The problem was that she wanted to use ten minutes of class time for her paper and only her paper, and she objected to my refusal to do so. 
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heynonnynonnymouse
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« Reply #6226 on: November 01, 2012, 7:10:48 pm »

I should add that this semester, my colleagues and I have been inundated with student requests to "edit this book so I can publish it." If we agree to look at all or part of such "books," we find that they are incoherent diary entries, horribly executed fanfiction, and the like. I was also working on a novel at that age, but I had absolutely no delusions of handing it off to a professor who would then serve as my copyeditor/agent. What the hell is going through their poor little heads?


A number of stories of varying quality stemming from fanfiction have been published in the past few years. Fifty Shades of Gray? Originally Twilight fanfiction. City of Bones, a popular YA book, soon to be a film? Written by a very popular Harry Potter fanfiction author, and some of the characters are exports from her fanfiction writing. To complete the cycle, a fanfiction story based on Fifty Shades of Gray (itself a fanfiction story) is about to be published. The past 3-5 years have seen a number of "fan authors" get publishing deals. This is probably fueling these requests you're dealing with, alas.
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frogfactory
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« Reply #6227 on: November 01, 2012, 7:14:35 pm »

... if they went through their papers and found a source only used once, they might want to evaluate whether it's necessary or if they should look into a more useful source, ...

This is an odd idea.  In my field it's rare-ish to use a single source more than once in a single paper, and I can't see why it'd be a good idea to suggest anyone should.

Well, here's an example: Student is writing a paper about poverty in the work of Dickens. Assignment is to use at least three texts. Student cites Oliver Twist fifteen times, Bleak House once, and Little Dorrit once. Wouldn't you say that would probably produce a thin argument?

And it's partly the type of assignment they're doing--which is not Dickens nor field-specific--and partly that I'm fighting a losing battle to teach them how taking quotes out of context or otherwise twisting text into pretzels to fit their needs is a problem. I also have a required number of sources for the paper, and I'm seeing random, only tangentially related citations that are clearly an attempt to pad the works cited page. It's not something that applies to all my students, and it's not something I'd suggest to every class. I also said I pointed out it is not always a problem, but rather something to consider carefully.
 

Ah.  In my field, the only novel one might cite would likely be Alice Through The Looking Glass to mention the Red Queen hypothesis.
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emdashed
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« Reply #6228 on: November 01, 2012, 7:30:27 pm »


Well, here's an example: Student is writing a paper about poverty in the work of Dickens. Assignment is to use at least three texts. Student cites Oliver Twist fifteen times, Bleak House once, and Little Dorrit once. Wouldn't you say that would probably produce a thin argument?

And it's partly the type of assignment they're doing--which is not Dickens nor field-specific--and partly that I'm fighting a losing battle to teach them how taking quotes out of context or otherwise twisting text into pretzels to fit their needs is a problem. I also have a required number of sources for the paper, and I'm seeing random, only tangentially related citations that are clearly an attempt to pad the works cited page. It's not something that applies to all my students, and it's not something I'd suggest to every class. I also said I pointed out it is not always a problem, but rather something to consider carefully.
 

Ah.  In my field, the only novel one might cite would likely be Alice Through The Looking Glass to mention the Red Queen hypothesis.

Exactly.

I also think part of the problem is that I don't expect students to take every blessed thing I say so literally. The thought that I'm facing a class of 25 people with 25 different paper topics and maybe not every single thing that comes out of my mouth is 100% (not 80, not 90, but 100%) relevant to their own paper hasn't occurred to some of these folks.
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llanfair
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« Reply #6229 on: November 01, 2012, 7:55:27 pm »

I also think part of the problem is that I don't expect students to take every blessed thing I say so literally. The thought that I'm facing a class of 25 people with 25 different paper topics and maybe not every single thing that comes out of my mouth is 100% (not 80, not 90, but 100%) relevant to their own paper hasn't occurred to some of these folks.

I'm seeing that, too, UrbanMA.  It's sad.
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usukprof
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« Reply #6230 on: November 01, 2012, 10:23:21 pm »

... if they went through their papers and found a source only used once, they might want to evaluate whether it's necessary or if they should look into a more useful source, ...

This is an odd idea.  In my field it's rare-ish to use a single source more than once in a single paper, and I can't see why it'd be a good idea to suggest anyone should.

I do this all the time.  When I'm building on the ideas of other papers (whether others or my own), it is frequent to talk about it more than once in a paper, in which case the source needs to be cited when talked about.  Otherwise, it would appear to be novel work part of the current paper.  I'm in STEM.
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fishprof
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« Reply #6231 on: November 02, 2012, 7:23:22 am »

... if they went through their papers and found a source only used once, they might want to evaluate whether it's necessary or if they should look into a more useful source, ...

This is an odd idea.  In my field it's rare-ish to use a single source more than once in a single paper, and I can't see why it'd be a good idea to suggest anyone should.

The idea isn't odd at all.  It's a very good suggestion - to check if you are using the best sources you can in the most appropriate way.  In your case, apparently, you would be.  Still not odd to check.

I am also in STEM and this is a legit problem.  Cherry picking an out if context tidbit is a tough habit to break...
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emdashed
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« Reply #6232 on: November 02, 2012, 10:31:16 am »

I also think part of the problem is that I don't expect students to take every blessed thing I say so literally. The thought that I'm facing a class of 25 people with 25 different paper topics and maybe not every single thing that comes out of my mouth is 100% (not 80, not 90, but 100%) relevant to their own paper hasn't occurred to some of these folks.

I'm seeing that, too, UrbanMA.  It's sad.

Are you? I don't quite know what to call it. Poor development of critical thinking skills? Special snowflakism? Another version I run into all the time: Students have a project that includes a digital portfolio. I say "You have to decide how you want to organize your work--menus, links to pdfs, submenus, etc." During the work period, I have fifteen people calling me over to ask "Is this ok? Can I do it like this?" Oh, the dirty looks I get when I say "You should use the method of organization that best fits your topic and your media." We've gone over all the different options and talked about the pros and cons of each, and I've emphasized that making these kinds of choices and being able to explain them are part of the assignment, so to me this seems like asking "Did I get this question right?" during an exam. Clearly, they do not see it the same way, and great huffing and puffing and eye rolling ensues. 
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frogfactory
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« Reply #6233 on: November 02, 2012, 10:51:06 am »

I am also in STEM and this is a legit problem.  Cherry picking an out if context tidbit is a tough habit to break...

Yep.  Another hard habit to break is having the "introduction" be a big list of tangentially related papers so that the citations list has 50 to 100 entries, but really only about five of them are discussed in detail enough to warrant inclusion--two methods papers, one previous work by this same group, and two similar experiments by other groups.

(generalized frustration as a frequent reviewer) Yes, a good 100 papers are published on the glass transition in polymers every year and have been for the past forty years.  Skip citing a random selection and just tell us how your with current work supports, contradicts, differs, or otherwise fits into the continuing discussion by picking a couple of papers on research so closely related to this current work that a side-by-side comparison is useful in the discussion section. 

Hmm.  I wonder if it's noteworthy that at my (several) UK universities, the requirement for papers has been in the range 30-40 citations minimum, while at my US institution it was always 3-5 minimum.  I don't see how you could write a university level paper without supporting all the statements you make, and that requires lots of one-off citations.
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scampster
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« Reply #6234 on: November 02, 2012, 10:56:55 am »

I am also in STEM and this is a legit problem.  Cherry picking an out if context tidbit is a tough habit to break...

Yep.  Another hard habit to break is having the "introduction" be a big list of tangentially related papers so that the citations list has 50 to 100 entries, but really only about five of them are discussed in detail enough to warrant inclusion--two methods papers, one previous work by this same group, and two similar experiments by other groups.

(generalized frustration as a frequent reviewer) Yes, a good 100 papers are published on the glass transition in polymers every year and have been for the past forty years.  Skip citing a random selection and just tell us how your with current work supports, contradicts, differs, or otherwise fits into the continuing discussion by picking a couple of papers on research so closely related to this current work that a side-by-side comparison is useful in the discussion section. 

Hmm.  I wonder if it's noteworthy that at my (several) UK universities, the requirement for papers has been in the range 30-40 citations minimum, while at my US institution it was always 3-5 minimum.  I don't see how you could write a university level paper without supporting all the statements you make, and that requires lots of one-off citations.

The journal I am submitting my final revisions for limits references to 4 per page of text. They explicitly say that you should not cite statements that aren't debatable, i.e. you don't need to support those statements. This is one of the top journals in my field.
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frogfactory
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« Reply #6235 on: November 02, 2012, 11:06:27 am »

Another lesson about differences between fields, I guess. That sounds bonkers to me.
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frogfactory
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« Reply #6236 on: November 02, 2012, 12:07:51 pm »

Another lesson about differences between fields, I guess. That sounds bonkers to me.

I'm going to go a step further and say it's absurd.  If I'm writing concisely and effectively synthesising the literature, I would expect to have multiple *sentences* in an article with at least four citations, let alone pages.  It sounds like a policy designed to encourage poor, waffly writing.
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scampster
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« Reply #6237 on: November 02, 2012, 12:17:44 pm »

Another lesson about differences between fields, I guess. That sounds bonkers to me.

I'm going to go a step further and say it's absurd.  If I'm writing concisely and effectively synthesising the literature, I would expect to have multiple *sentences* in an article with at least four citations, let alone pages.  It sounds like a policy designed to encourage poor, waffly writing.

Here is there editorial stance, I agree with a lot of it. They also explicitly forbid more than three references in a line.

Quote
Excessive references consume space that could be used to publish more papers. Second, a long string of references breaks up the narration and makes it harder to follow the train of thought. Excessive references also lengthen the paper without adding new ideas or data; it is well known that the number of readers decreases exponentially with the length of a paper. But the most serious reason to limit references is that unnecessary references diminish the importance of truly significant previous studies. Long strings of references inevitably include papers of lesser quality or those that add little to the debate. By not being selective,the author is giving all equal weight; if a paper is important enough to cite, the reader should be told why. The general guideline for inclusion of a reference is whether the science of the present paper requires inclusion of the reference.

General truisms and obvious facts, i.e., things that are not debatable, do not need supporting references. In fact, better papers do without such statements entirely. Ideas needing support should give AT MOST three references: the study that first suggests the idea, a recent review or another paper that discusses it in detail, and perhaps the most recent important study. There is no need to cite old papers that have been superseded by new ones. When more than three references are really required too many ideas are probably being packed into one sentence. Increasing the number of citations does not improve an idea; if readers do not believe a statement with three references, they won't when >3 are cited. "Giving credit where credit is due" is NOT an adequate reason for citing a paper: simply citing a paper is not giving proper credit -- the paper must also be adequately discussed, which is not possible with >3. Remember, the purpose of citing is not to acknowledge colleagues' work, but to push the science forward.

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llanfair
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« Reply #6238 on: November 02, 2012, 12:32:25 pm »

I also think part of the problem is that I don't expect students to take every blessed thing I say so literally. The thought that I'm facing a class of 25 people with 25 different paper topics and maybe not every single thing that comes out of my mouth is 100% (not 80, not 90, but 100%) relevant to their own paper hasn't occurred to some of these folks.

I'm seeing that, too, UrbanMA.  It's sad.

Are you? I don't quite know what to call it. Poor development of critical thinking skills? Special snowflakism? Another version I run into all the time: Students have a project that includes a digital portfolio. I say "You have to decide how you want to organize your work--menus, links to pdfs, submenus, etc." During the work period, I have fifteen people calling me over to ask "Is this ok? Can I do it like this?" Oh, the dirty looks I get when I say "You should use the method of organization that best fits your topic and your media." We've gone over all the different options and talked about the pros and cons of each, and I've emphasized that making these kinds of choices and being able to explain them are part of the assignment, so to me this seems like asking "Did I get this question right?" during an exam. Clearly, they do not see it the same way, and great huffing and puffing and eye rolling ensues. 

Part of it may be the 'playing safe' mentality - if she said it, and I do it, she can't mark me down for it.  That and the fact that simply memorising (facts, procedures, &c) is easier than, you know, thinking.
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cajunmama
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« Reply #6239 on: November 02, 2012, 12:58:03 pm »

I also think part of the problem is that I don't expect students to take every blessed thing I say so literally. The thought that I'm facing a class of 25 people with 25 different paper topics and maybe not every single thing that comes out of my mouth is 100% (not 80, not 90, but 100%) relevant to their own paper hasn't occurred to some of these folks.

I'm seeing that, too, UrbanMA.  It's sad.

Are you? I don't quite know what to call it. Poor development of critical thinking skills? Special snowflakism? Another version I run into all the time: Students have a project that includes a digital portfolio. I say "You have to decide how you want to organize your work--menus, links to pdfs, submenus, etc." During the work period, I have fifteen people calling me over to ask "Is this ok? Can I do it like this?" Oh, the dirty looks I get when I say "You should use the method of organization that best fits your topic and your media." We've gone over all the different options and talked about the pros and cons of each, and I've emphasized that making these kinds of choices and being able to explain them are part of the assignment, so to me this seems like asking "Did I get this question right?" during an exam. Clearly, they do not see it the same way, and great huffing and puffing and eye rolling ensues. 


I think I am going to get a lot of this in a few weeks, when the students will be working on their final projects. I already get it from a certain few when they are just working in class on assignments.
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