Search, citation and plagiarism: skills for a digital age have to be taught!


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By N. Sivasothi

A "writing workshop" of three 24-hour essays is integrated into a first year core module (biodiversity) and a personal statement and field report are requirements of a popular second year elective (ecology).

General and specific feedback is provided by motivated TAs to students in groups and individually. Offered both semesters, the typical enrolment is about 200 students. It had became clear that skills for a digital age had to be specifically taught to enhance scholarship. Some of those lessons are discussed here.

Besides the slew of tips for conducting an effective Google search, an ability to adapt the vocabulary of specific disciplines and an evaluation of site credibility are important skills.

Learning and understanding citation of sources in detail has turned out to be key in ensuring an appreciation and differentiation of the diversity of resources available online. This helps eliminate unintended plagiarism (which we evaluate using Turnintin) and facilitates an understanding of scholarship.

Other basics which require exploration are Creative Commons for use of digital resources, Wikipedia as a jump start rather than a primary resource, the quick way to invoke NUS Digital Library access to journals and the basics of email etiquette.

While our writing workshops were initiated to emphasise the critical basics of clear and effective writing, a critical component will be digital skills.

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Search, citation and plagiarism: skills for a digital age have to be taught!

  1. 1. “Search, citation andplagiarism: skills for a digital age have to be taught!” N. Sivasothi Department of Biological Sciences 1
  2. 2. Problems with writing 2
  3. 3. Problems with writing• Emails without subject body, structure or polish• Poor essay structure in first-year exams• Poor structure, argument, clarity and referencing in hons thesis drafts• Lack of synthesis in hons exam essays 3
  4. 4. Writing solutions 4
  5. 5. Writing solutions• Integrate into 1st year core module: • 3 x 24-hour essays • Weightage of first two essays: 2.5% (make mistakes without paralysing grades) • Motivated TAs work with 12-15 students • Provided Written and Oral feedback • Papers typically covered in red ink and highlighting but students prepared by learning outcome • 3rd essay = 10% of grade, marked by lecturer 5
  6. 6. Writing solutions• 1st year elective (animal behaviour) • Blog Post (10%)• 2nd year core module (ecology): • Field reports with corrections (2.5% x 2) • Personal statements (2.5%) • blog posts (5%) • Elevator pitch (oral; 2.5%) • Project Report (20%) 6
  7. 7. Module blog Manyexamples of citation overtly inserted 7
  8. 8. From 2011, FacebookCitationexample 8
  9. 9. More problems 9
  10. 10. New problems surface• Depth of sources poor or excessive (problem worse in blogs)• Inability to cite (no mimicry of papers or module blog)• I was out-googling them! 10
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  12. 12. Wikipedia entryis not a primarysource; and not the current version! 12
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  14. 14. Why am I out-googling my digital native students?Sneak outduring IM Textchats withstudents; findanswer andreturn 3 minutes to find a reference 14
  15. 15. Why am I out-googling my digital native students?Research studentliterature search:12 missing relevantpapers in 30 mins 15
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  17. 17. Not just us! 17
  18. 18. Not a unique problem“Why kids can’t search,” by Clive Thomson. Wired, Nov 2011. 18
  19. 19. Digital native ≠ digital savvy• “High school and college students may be “digital natives,” but they’re wretched at searching.”• “In a recent experiment at Northwestern, when 102 undergraduates were asked to do some research online, none went to the trouble of checking the authors’ credentials.”• In 1955, we wondered why Johnny can’t read. Today the question is, why can’t Johnny search? “Why kids can’t search,” by Clive Thomson. Wired, Nov 2011. 19
  20. 20. The problem identified• “the ability to judge information is almost never taught in school.”• “... by the time kids get to college, professors assume they already have this skill.” “Why kids can’t search,” by Clive Thomson. Wired, Nov 2011. 20
  21. 21. Perhaps nothing has actually changed• In the old days, the effective users too were not the majority.• How many read the sources their professors cited extensively.• The old search skills are still useful today, its just that the library got larger.• Does the non-digital native have an enhanced appreciation of the internet? 21
  22. 22. 2007Smartphones and more resources on the net - c’mon, some upgrading is in order! 22
  23. 23. Digital Literacy Solutions 23
  24. 24. ‘Digital’ literacy• 1. Introduce basic google tips: • modifiers • scholar 24
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  26. 26. Efficient search basics• ministers pay cut -singapore -sg 26
  27. 27. Efficient search can get intense!• -inurl:htm -inurl:html intitle:"index of"• +("/ebooks"|"/book") +(chm|pdf|zip)• This looks for an index of ebooks in specific formats.• Rarely needs to be used. 27
  28. 28. Better search results 28
  29. 29. Digital literacy• Whet their appetite for more: challenges and tasks 29
  30. 30. Digital literacy• e. g. by Google fan Nancy Blachman 30
  31. 31. Get comfortable! 31
  32. 32. Digital literacy• 2. Vocabulary: • Layman versus scientific names, e.g. otter versus Amblonyx or Lutrogale; latter leads to Otter Specialist Group webpage; local webpages etc. • Specific terms: • e.g. concussion vs traumatic brain injury; latter leads to a NIH Information Sheet • Skin flap vs patagium - big difference! Even more so in Google Scholar. 32
  33. 33. Digital literacy• 3. Site credibility • Domain names (edu, gov vs org or com) • Examine the About pages - who is the page authored by? • KKK page on MLK 33
  34. 34. Digital literacy• 4. Knowledge of resourcess • E.g. Tree of Life Web Project • Arkive (Wildscreen, UK) • WildSingapore (Ria Tan, Singapore) • Animal Diversity Web (U Michigan Museum of Zoology) 34
  35. 35. Digital literacy5. Understanding Citations• "Raptors in Southeast Asia," by Yong Ding Li, 2011. Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group & Southeast Asian Biodiversity Society. 45p.• Friess, D. A & E. L. Webb, 2011. Bad data equals bad policy: how to trust estimates of ecosystem loss when there is so much uncertainty? Environmental Conservation, published online: 14 Mar 2011.• “Surprising discovery: dung-dwelling frogs,” by Kerensa McElroy. Cosmos Online, 26 June 2009.• “Lyssa zampa, the tropical swallowtail moth, returns,” by N, Sivasothi. Habitatnews, 10 Jun 2010. Accessed 05 Jan 2011: http:// lyssa_zampa-returns.txt 35
  36. 36. Digital literacy5. Understanding Citations• The components have meaning (not window dressing)• Examine sources (domain name, about page, journal) 36
  37. 37. Digital literacy5. Understanding Citations• Primary source versus secondary source (source of data?) • Still, its okay to jump start with Wikipedia, just go to the source! • E. g. Flying and Gliding animals: http:// Flying_and_gliding_animals 37
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  40. 40. Digital literacy5. Understanding Citations• Helps to eliminate “plagiarism” 40
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  44. 44. 2011/2 Sem 1 profile• 200+ essays • 10% flagged (i.e. about 20) • Flagged essays are evaluated individually • 1.5% some indication of plagiarism (zero marks) 44
  45. 45. Digital literacy6. Understanding permissions • Creative Commons • The “Inbetweeners” • “All rights reserved” (no rights) • “Public Domain” (full rights) 45
  46. 46. Digital literacy• 7. NUS Digital Library proxy • http:// nature/journal/v415/n6869/full/ 415279a.html • “Open sesame!” (many discovered this only in Year 2) • Works with NLB - JSTOR too! 46
  47. 47. JOURNAL PAPERSPapers will be cited in some lectures.Broader perspective and specific examples.I won’t go overboard since this is an introductory course.Be able to express the main points in your own words(summary).“Hey sesame!” URL 47
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  53. 53. Digital literacy8. Provide Guidelines • Spell it out! Mimicry doesn’t work?! • On-going documentation with Google Docs • Permalink in IVLE • Improved every year based on questions by students and writing performance 53
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  58. 58. Don’t get glib 58
  59. 59. Are we asking the right questions?“Kids can’t search because the questions weare asking are not big enough. Let’s stop pattingourselves on our backs for our critical thinkingsuperiority.” - Google Blogsearch useful for finding opinions “Why kids can’t search (maybe we need to think of seeking?” By Alan Levine. Cogdogblog, 09 Nov 2011. 2011/11/09/why-kids-cant-search/ (accessed 05 Jan 2011) 59
  60. 60. Next AY 60
  61. 61. To introduce in 1st year module• 250 students in 10 groups.• Tasked to research and blog about the identity, biology and distribution of a wild animal in Singapore.• Examine reach, views and comment.• Peer-review of posts and literature cited.• Comment in lectures. 61
  62. 62. Unconference! 62
  63. 63. Epic fail!“Three of my former 3rdyear research studentsindependently shared theStarbucks voucher scamon Facebook this pastOctober!” 63
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