Thaddeus Stevens

Thaddeus Stevens

Friday, November 2, 2012

Turn It In Dot Com

For those students that don't "get" the idea of Turn It In Dot Com, the purpose is meant to be simple: How much of your work is actually your work?

But what exactly is "YOUR WORK?"

Well, a good rule of thumb is my version of the PRECIS TEMPLATE (you can look that up on Google or go on the side bar for a link related to that). The method I used before I ever heard of said device was the algebraic formula that I invented:

X uses Y to show Z

X, list credentials, uses Y to show Z

When W combines with X, Y occurs. This means Z.

There are many other ways you can write said formulas, but in the end, no matter what verb you use, the result is the same: You have found facts and you have made them your own by stating that they have some purpose other than just existing.

The same is true for a quote. If you don't connect it into the flow of your paper and state what it means, it's a refrigerator magnet. It's a cool quote, but that's about it.

So how do we make these things your own?

The car doesn't work properly. You can use your big old brain to TROUBLESHOOT and tell me why.

The historical facts say that Samuel Mudd was in cahoots with John Wilkes Booth, so he was sentenced to life in prison (he was later pardoned for using his medical skills during a yellow fever outbreak at Dry Tortugas prison).You revisit the case and IMPLY from available facts whether he was guilty.

There are a lot of fish dying in the river near where you go hunting. You use your big old brain to DEDUCE the reasons why and fight to solve the problem with reasonable and effective solutions. (on that note, just because Balanced Politics Dot Org and Pro Con Dot Org list great reasons why, how can you use your voice to affect my heart and my mind in making the change instead of just using standard "canned" arguments that you write out in a list?).

Mike Brown, an astronomer at Cal Tech, made specific comments about what a heavenly body must be like to be considered a planet. You use this quote to HELP your argument of why Pluto should not be a planet (he's actually the guy who helped make this decision).

A baseball player that plays for a losing team is doing exceptionally well this year. You are his agent, so you look at the numbers he has generated and compare him to other players and forecast how he would do if he played in a different park. Thus, you PREDICT where he will excel and how you both can make lots of bank.

Speaking of baseball, Bill James, a sabermetrician who wrote The Historical Baseball Abstract (think the movie Moneyball expanded to about 1,000 pages), said that if we look at the ideas that we research, we will need to see:

¨1) what is missing from the picture?
¨2) what is distorted here, and what is accurately portrayed?
¨3) How can we include what has been left out?
¨4) How can we correct what has been distorted?

For instance, Jackie Robinson has really good numbers and is a first tier Hall of Famer, but modern players get better statistics than him, so who is better? We would need to look at the average stats of the day AND in Jackie's case, we would need to look at the barriers against him as the first African American player going into the Major Leagues. As a result, we would see how much he really achieved by adjusting for conditions, but that said, we would need to be OBJECTIVE (factual expectations of increased ability) about that instead of SUBJECTIVE (our opinions, or in this case, unfair elevations of his talent). On that note, Jackie Robinson is my number one hero in the world. I can't wait for the movie next year.

In short, this is what we're doing when obtain information to research. We're looking at quotes, statistics, facts, and other information to determine if it's good.

Not all information is good.

Not every source that you use is reputable.

While not every teacher requires the same measure of proof in the sources that he or she requires you to be using, you should still be thinking, "Who is saying this stuff? What is this person's credentials? How can I insert this into a paper in a logical order that proves my point? How do I make it my own?"

That's important because if you're using the same order of sentence after sentence after sentence, you're plagiarizing. This is because your paper has to be you and not the guy or gal who you're taking EVERYTHING from. You have to be smart enough to understand it. You have to go back to the source and read more about it (use this person's works cited list as well!). You have to look up words, terms, and events you don't know about. Reading once isn't enough. Sometimes, you have to go on a wild journey to whatever it takes to be great. Higher level thinking and college demands it. Really.

But that said, I know you can do it! And that's why I'm here (to bring out the best in you)! If the people that worked here didn't believe that, they wouldn't be here either. However, we're all here trying to make you be as great as you are because that's what this show is about.

So think about getting information and making it your own like this: If you cut up an apple into pieces, it's still an apple - only smaller. If you make apple turnovers, it has apple in it and you can see the apple, but you've combined it with other things to be truly original and unique, even if you can still see strands of apple.

The same is true for a cake. Combine eggs, flour, sugar, etc. and you will have a cake. The ingredients make something new. However, before it's blended and cooked, it's just parts thrown together. Imagine how awkward it would look if you threw the eggs in while they are still in their shells! Yet this is what many a paper looks like when students don't outline, prewrite, or plan how they will assemble their materials.

Which brings us back to Turn It In Dot Com.

If you're really worried about staying under the magic plagiarism penalties / "go back and redo it" number, you will utilize pre-writing skills to avoid this. The good folks at the Tutoring Center can help you with this. You will figure out what information you need, and you will state the ideas in your voice. As a teacher myself, I never see a student who is showing me the DEEPER MEANINGS (the AND SO of the facts) as having plagiarized IF he or she is making a concentrated effort to apply the information in his own words. I can't speak for all teachers, but that's a good place to at least start in the learning levels.

Paraphrasing and summarization are tough skills to master. They require the higher level Bloom's Taxonomy skills of analyzing and evaluations. The highest level is to synthesize parts into the whole. With practice, it can be done. Oh, yes! You can do it! But you have to practice. Without practice, there is only the act of doing. Remember, Malcolm Gladwell writes in his awesome book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to be great at something. There are no shortcuts. We're not trying to be great after just 1 college class, but we're trying to move from listening about how something is done to doing it with help to doing it on our own to doing it on our own without thinking about it. When we can "just do it" (as Nike says), we're golden. That's the goal in all that we do. When we get so automatic, it's amazing what we can do or how we can do it. For example, I'm able to type 82 words a minute, but I can't diagram what keys are exactly where on the keyboard.
Go figure.

Nevertheless, this doing without learning stuff is anathema (horrible wrong / forbidden / something that should never be done)! Would you want me to build you a patio because I got a book from the Home Depot and now I think I can do it? Of course you don't, so why would you write a paper without having someone to help you with the instructions or without taking advantage of prewriting techniques?

See, that's where your teachers and the Tutoring Center can help you be great (or at the very least, a grade or 2 higher than you were before). You can ask them questions. You can come to us for help. Both of us keep an object in motion. We provide step by step instructions for you. We move you to the places that you want to be in the ways that worked for us. Sure, they might mean a little more effort, but the grade you receive when it's over will be worth it.

So now we go back to plagiarism

}1. Don’t cut and paste.
}2. Paraphrase means more than just REARRANGE the words or cleverly change 1 or 2 words (i.e. just getting rid of 1st or 2nd person and changing it to 3rd person).
}3. Borrowing specific and unique adjectives is also plagiarism unless they’re in quotes as well.
}4. If you’re going to word for word something, you must have it in quotes, and it must need to be there in the author’s voice.
}5. Don’t cut and paste (so not nice, I said it twice!)!!
}6. Making up bogus stuff and putting a citation next to it.

and what I call "Not-so-good-ed-ness."

}1. Listing authors with no credentials and telling me that they said something (a writer for the Podunk Express newspaper is not a Harvard researcher or even a Sports Illustrated writer when it comes to research).
}2. Forgetting a Works Cited Page, forgetting page numbers, forgetting in text citations.
}3. Writing everything from a source in order, line after line after line… even if you try to paraphrase it.
}4. Leaving acronyms in parentheses and never using the acronym again (it’s the first sign to me that you just sat next to a source and wrote straight out of it – really).
}5. Randomly inserting “really cool stuff” that you found that seems repetitive and builds into nothing cohesive, but it sure sounds NEAT-O!
}6. Not understanding what you’re paraphrasing or writing about.

This last one includes being vague about "studies" (WHAT STUDIES?) or not using the primary (original) source that a study or information came from (instead taking someone else's word for it. While they aren't all plagiarism, they're less than the scholarly effort you're looking for.

If you can avoid these things, you're golden. Really.

So yeah... this is a lot of words and a big lecture, but it's the building blocks to everything.

So if you want to learn about avoiding these things and doing other things better, please come to see us.

We'd love to help you achieve your dreams of college success.