Just In Time For Midterm Papers…An Alternative View of Citation

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Late last fall, Kurt Schick, a writing instructor at James Madison University, posted an interesting column about citation over at the Chronicle of Higher Education.  I think it’s quite timely as students start to finish up their first papers of the second semester.

Schick argues that a strong focus on the mechanics of citation early on in a student’s career puts the focus too much on the mechanical aspects of writing, rather than the content and creative aspects.  In his words, “students expend a disproportionate amount of precious time and attention trying to avoid making mistakes. Soon, they also begin to associate ‘good’ writing with mechanically following rules rather than developing good ideas.”

He doesn’t believe that we should not ask students to cite their sources; he simply believes that we need to emphasize strict following of style rules less and careful and thoughtful evaluation and integration of secondary sources more.

As you can imagine, his column sparked a healthy debate, including this Letter to the Editor, this blog post, and 175 comments on the column (and counting).

Take a look at what Schick has to say, and then tell us – what do you think?

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