Frustrations in Teaching Referencing & Citations
I admit I’m a hardass when it comes to referencing and citations, so maybe I just care more than other colleagues. I recall as an undergraduate, I had a particularly severe history prof who would deduct a single point per error made, including referencing. So an A-grade paper could often receive a C (or lower) if mistakes were made in the referencing. Believe me, under those kind of circumstances, you learned how to reference properly! We’d never get away with doing that today.
Here at the University of Worcester, we use the Harvard Referencing system (which is becoming increasingly standard across the UK). That’s fine, I like the Harvard system. My university’s ILS have written a reasonable and user friendly guide to the system. Click here for a pdf of this booklet.
And yet, I still have 3rd years writing quotes in italics, having incomplete references, missing page numbers, and even not alphabetizing their References List. I mean, how hard is it for 3rd years to know which order the the alphabet occurs?! Sigh.
So, my plan today (and yesterday), was to go through our ILS guide on Harvard Referencing (boring them to distraction in the process), but then I photocopied the relevant pages in order to get them to write the reference for a) a book, b) a chapter in an edited book, c) a journal article, d) an e-journal article and e) a video/DVD. I gave this morning’s 2-hour seminar class 20 minutes to complete this task in small groups of 2 or 3. Most only got 2 or 3 of the references completed before time was up.
I then required someone to come up and type into a Word document their reference and then we’d correct them all as a group. Simples, yes? I even showed them how Word can create a Sources database and automatically generate Harvard-style citations and reference lists. Most students (who use Word, by and large) didn’t know Word could do that.
Despite the clearly bored and disengaged students (in both seminar groups) when I was telling them how to do this and some articulation that this was review for them, as they’d been force-fed these rules since school, not a single student was able to write a single correct reference.
I also planned to have them paraphrase two paragraphs from an article, quote directly from another article, quote using an ellipsis from a third and quote a quoted passage in a fourth article. This was more designed to test their citation-skills (as well as their abilities to quote and summarize/paraphrase) than anything else, but we simply didn’t have enough time to do this.
Once we got into the more practical exercises, the students realized they’d not been paying attention when they should have and there was a definite sense of panic that they, if you’ll pardon the phrase, didn’t know what the fuck they were supposed to be doing. This was, of course, in spite of being told what to do, by me and our ILS guide, not 15 minutes earlier.
Any advice is more than welcome.
- Need help with your assignment? Not sure you’re looking in the right places? (ilsmatters.wordpress.com)
- Harvard referencing (slideshare.net)