I do not teach writing, but I require all of my students to write papers in my classes. In the process, I encounter a range of recurring issues (as all you Lit/English profs out there get to enjoy daily, I'm sure!) I have papers due in two of my classes this week. Today, I received an email from a student in a class where they submitted first drafts. Like many of this student's classmates, s/he used a vast number of direct quotations in the paper. Now, in my field it is NOT standard practice to use direct quotes, unless you are citing a legal document, personal account, or some other special case. I find myself marking student papers with comments like "do not use direct quotes" or "paraphrase". I have also referred them to this site to explain the way I expect sources to be cited. It remains a problem, though. The above mentioned student sent an email today including this:
I don't understand why it's better to paraphrase than it would be to use the direct words out of the sources. I feel that by using the direct quotes from the sources it strengthens your argument.
I responded with:
It is standard in the social sciences and sciences to NOT use direct quotes, the way they are used in the humanities. See this link: (link above). If you are citing a specific law or code, it's OK to use a direct quote, otherwise you should synthesize the information from your sources into your own words.
Good luck, Dr. N.
I wonder if others encounter the same issues? This student is about to graduate and will be teaching high school next fall (not in the humanities, I might add!)! Does anyone else see reason for alarm? Am I wasting my time to require these papers? I often wonder if the only writing the students are doing is in their English courses- most of them cite in MLA format (not appropriate for any of the courses I teach) or use footnotes or other schemes of their own. My U is supposed to have excellent students from the tops of their classes, but I am not impressed with most of the writing I see. Any other rants out there- since many of us will be heading to grading jail soon?
ETA: See the comments below (including my response)- I'm getting some great perspectives from those who teach composition. Thanks, everyone!
tags: teaching grading students writing