Many students enter Cayuga with a simplified view of plagiarism: such as, It’s something only cheaters do. Or When in doubt, cite everything.
As Howard mentions in the following video, using sources is a challenge all writers face. If the writer hasn’t written frequently for the disciplinary genre at hand, he or she can’t ignore patchwriting that results in intentional or unintentional plagiarism. ELL and underprepared students, in particular, need to be aware that hoping not be caught or not having been caught in the past won’t master patchwriting.
Plagiarism is treated as an academic crime, and like any crime, being unaware of the criminal code or ignoring it is no excuse for breaking the rules. Instead, acknowledging that we’re all at risk and taking more time to read, practicing paraphrasing, and studying what a paper demands through models or expert feedback are the better approaches to take.
Are you familiar with WAW pedagogy in writing scholarship? Click on the Wardle and Downs book for a useful bibliography on it.
For a number of semesters I’ve been using the Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing anthologies in two of my courses, and its plausible to believe the argument that Writing About Writing can address the long-time concern of writing skill transfer beyond a composition class.
By the way, Writing Spaces is freely distributed under a Creative Commons license, so adopting it provides an immediate solution to the over pricing of college textbooks.
Faculty may now designate courses “WI” (writing intensive) on transcripts by applying to the WAC Committee. The following slide show is from the Faculty Forum. It provides some resources in defining the writing assigned as Writing-to-Learn (informal writing to help students master course content) and Discipline (WID) Writing that is more concerned with form, function, and formatting.
The template for applying will be available soon.
Filed under: FYC, Professional Writing, review, rhetoric, WAC
Howard Tinberg and Jean-Paul Nadeau’s recent study confirms many details faculty working with community college writers know, but their research also presents some surprises. CC students do exceed expectations considering the “tidal wave of life” they face. They desire a challenging study of writing–not watered down assignments or standards, but they require very clear procedures of what to do. Tinberg and Nadeau find that their CC curricula is anchored in current-traditional rhetoric (definition, classification or division, narrative, description, and process) with a heavy reliance on skills-based instruction. However, “a more complex picture of writing instruction emerges from the remaining genres represented in student portfolios: the memoir, film review, experimental lab report, journal (especially informal reactions to reading), writer’s autobiography, resume and cover letter” (62). Revision beyond surface conventions is infrequent. Many comments made on students’ papers don’t help them because they’re misunderstood, yet “85% of faculty reported seeing improvements in student writing as a result of faculty feedback” (40). Most writing is completed for English classes, but inside and outside composition class, the writing assignments train students toward academic and professional writing goals. One of the more interesting survey results in the study, I found, was that while nearly all faculty saw student writing as important for future employment, less than half of the students thought writing would be relevant to them beyond school. Students want a writing experience different than in high schools, and so it seems where continued academic writing may fail to engage community college writers, vocational awareness and assignments based on those kinds of procedural rhetoric (genre based, critical-cultural studies purposes) might be embraced for its potential in practicing rhetoric-composition, instead of avoiding or categorizing it as merely skill-centered or remedial.
Filed under: invention, Professional Writing, rhetoric, WAC
We shouldn’t defend bad language and writing, and it isn’t productive to blame or complain. We should do something about it. The Center for Plain Language, a fairly new nonprofit, is looking to improve how people and companies write for audiences through granting awards to the some of the “best and worst” writing; let me emphasized that the key marker here for granting the award is audience. CPL explains that “The definition of “plain” depends on the audience. What is plain language for one audience may not be plain language for another audience.“ Writing should attend to people’s needs, however. No doubt, this rubs people the right way because citizens are justifiably frustrated with bureaucratic language.
As I said, we shouldn’t defend unclear writing, but we should understand why it happens before taking action. It’s not a lack of will. Often, cloudy writing is an issue of authority. If a writer or speaker is worried how others will respond (get angry, not accept, and/or penalize the statements made), he or she will become veiled or convoluted in his or her language. Syntax and diction becomes obscure. Writing for a boss or teacher who has authority over us then promotes long-noun phrases, nominalization, and/or searching through the thesaurus for a “unique,” if not always “the best,” word. Politicians and legislators may be especially susceptible because they are sensitive to public or party opinion. Lawyers use legalese, in part, to distance themselves from their audiences because the distance distinguishes them (and protect themselves) from others, implying status. Thus, I’d like people to remember the next time they disparage “un”plain language that negotiating authority in writing is at least as important as language control and understanding audience.
As another example, consider academics, who are often accused of producing more jargon than knowledge. Sure, sometimes, people–academic professionals or otherwise–don’t really have much to say and inflate their words to compensate. Yet theoretical language and words do have their place. If the same words and grammar are used, judgments and conclusions tend to promote the same ideas and constrain innovation. Since writing assists how one thinks and understands a subject or advances one’s analysis, theorizing and using new vocabulary is a messy, unclear process in expression. But again, this happens because writing for one’s own purpose(s) can be important. In addition, specialized language promotes bonding within a discipline. If academics can recognize peers researching similar problems, for a time, speaking in specialized “tongues” assists comprehension of the solutions proposed. We accept specialized tools for getting labor done more easily, and since we know language is a tool, why don’t we see jargon as a disciplinary tool? Mostly, we are annoyed by it. And we should be irritated when institutions disable us, not that the language isn’t universally transparent. Language isn’t telepathy but always requires interpretation.
If you are interested in some “clear” examples of institutions faltering in their “official” words, check out the NPR story on CPL’s awards.