Posts Tagged ‘citation’

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Popular Culture and Common Knowledge

posted: 8.11.11 by Jack Solomon

The question of what constitutes common knowledge, for purposes of documentation, has come up here on the Bits blog, so I thought that a particular look at common knowledge and popular culture might be in order. Indeed, since one of the fundamental premises of Signs of Life in the USA is that our students’ existing knowledge of popular culture makes that topic especially useful for teaching critical thinking and writing skills, the question of how to document that knowledge is an important one.

The distinction between common knowledge and knowledge that needs documentation is often rather relative. It is common knowledge, for example, that Family Guy is a popular animated situation comedy. Any statement in a paper to that effect does not require documentation in any popular culture class that I teach. But in order to analyze such a program semiotically, students must be able to situate it in a generic and historical context, and here things get tricky. Any analysis of my own, for instance, will involve years of accumulated knowledge and viewing experience—what might be called “cumulative common knowledge”—that cannot and need not be documented. I watched The Flintstones as a child, for example, and so can immediately bring it to bear upon an analysis of later animated family sitcoms without needing documentation (indeed, how could I document it?). But my students do not, and cannot, have that sort of experience, so must conduct research to find the kinds of TV shows that may be relevant to their analyses, and I require them to document their sources for any information that they find. [read more]

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Categories: Citing Sources, Popular Culture, Teaching with Technology
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Thinking about Research in the Disciplines

posted: 5.25.11 by Barclay Barrios

I have come to believe that quite often students don’t know how to connect the work we’re doing in the classroom to the work they will come to do in their disciplines and majors. So this semester, I’ve crafted a disciplinary research report assignment to address just that disconnect.

The assignment is fairly low stakes writing in the context of our course, but it does give students a chance to see how research and researched writing happens in their chosen field. They discover that MLA isn’t the only citation system in the world. They realize that sometimes three, five, or even seven authors will work together on an article. They find out that some fields use a lot of jargon.

But they also see that across all the disciplines, ideas matter. What matters is the ability to apply, connect, assess, test, extend, modify, or refute those ideas. I tell students that the whole purpose of any theory is to predict or explain reality. And when they read in their disciplines, I think they really start to understand what I mean.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Research
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What Is It About MLA?

posted: 6.14.07 by Barclay Barrios

What is it about MLA citation that makes it so impossible for students to learn?

Alternatively, what is it about me that makes me such a good learner (or is that “so anal-retentive” instead?)?

I gave the grad students a little MLA practice sheet. Nothing fancy, mind you. In fact, it was designed to just be the basics: citation with quotation, citation with quotation when author’s name used in the sentence, paraphrase, etc. I handed them the list of tasks at the end of class with a Starbucks gift card prize for the first student to email me the answers with no errors.

The gift card remains mine.

On some level I can understand. I think there’s something fundamentally unnatural about citation–it’s just not the way people think or write. When I’m able to step outside of my own geeky brain for a minute, I can see how alien the whole thing is. I imagine I would feel the way my students feel if I were in a chemistry class, dealing with notations and formulae. And yet, that’s the thing about formulae, right? I mean, they’re formulaic, which means you don’t have to think about it ’cause all you have to do is fill in the blanks. On the other hand, the formula only works if you know it.

Clearly, my grad students don’t know it yet. I got missing quotation marks, I got commas between the author and the page number, I got citations after a period, I got it all. Clearly we’ll be spending some more time on this in class, but I don’t know how else to explain it without making it dead dead boring. Anyone got some ideas?

I’m not fussy but perhaps I am fastidious. OCD? Nah. Anal? Perhaps. I’m not sure what it is in me that lets me learn how to do all this so correctly or maybe it’s better to say I’m not sure what it is in me that makes me learn how to do all this so correctly. Clearly, an issue for therapy and not for Bits. 😉

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Categories: Citing Sources, Classroom Challenges and Solutions
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Research on Research

posted: 3.7.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the material in the handbook on the research process and then have them expand this material by doing research on how research is done in their chosen discipline/field. Using interviews, reference books, articles, and the Internet, students could produce a short report that explains the citation system used in their field, the major methodologies, what counts as research, or what counts as evidence in that research.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Citing Sources, Finding Sources, WAC/WID, Working with Sources
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