Of all the things I teach with regard to the research process, teaching students how to avoid plagiarism is probably the most challenging.
As edtech blogger Med Kharbach notes, with the "boom in digital technology, plagiarism has been elevated to the ranks of serious epidemics. In academia it gets even worse. More students are growing dependent on copy paste culture."
He's right. Our digital natives, having known only the Internet their whole lives, see absolutely nothing wrong with copying and pasting information from the Internet and into their word-processing document. Of course, they don't yet understand the consequences of their actions because they don't really take it seriously. Can "borrowing" someone else's words be considered a crime? Simply put, yes, I tell my students as I share with them plagiarism's clear definition. If caught plagiarizing, I explain to the my students that, at best, they'll receive a failing grade for their hard work; at worst, a failing grade for the class, suspension, or even expulsion.
I save the plagiarism lesson for the end of the unit, right before I take the reins off the kids and let them get started on their research project. After devoting five-plus lessons to proper research techniques (understanding copyright, fair use, and public domain; citing sources; evaluating websites, and keyword searching), we finally arrive at discerning the subtle differences among summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting.
With younger students in 4th and 5th grades, understanding the pitfalls and dangers of plagiarism can be an abstract concept, which is why I use this simple and age-appropriate lesson from Common Sense Media called "Whose is it, Anyway?"
For students in grades 6-8, however, fully and clearly understanding what plagiarism is and how it can--even if you're unknowingly guilty of it--have lasting and deep-reaching consequences, is a necessary skill. The need to break the kids of the "copy-and-paste" mentality before they get to high school is critical. So here's how I approach the concept for students in grades 6-8:
Research Chunk #5
Paraphrase, Summarize, or Quote?
Pre-Class (aka "flipping the classroom")
This is the lesson plan that has worked for me. I've tweaked it over the years. Of course, you may want to tweak it for your own use, so here are some other resources you might want to review for use in your classroom:
If the students still feel the need to plagiarize, the following are some free plagiarism checkers for teachers:
And, finally, students will need to cite their work, as I've discussed in a recent post. Luckily, in this day and age, they've got a plethora of bibliography generators to do it for them:
One final note: the image below is something I created on my own, but it's loosely based on an image a colleague forwarded to me about a year ago. If anyone out there knows the origin of the image, please let me know ASAP so I can give that person credit...I don't want to be guilty of plagiarizing!
image above via BLaugh
If you follow me, you know I've been blogging lately about my research unit for grades 4-8.
Because it's such a time-consuming yet very important process, I like to take it slooooowwwly with the kids.
All too often there's just not enough time to go through the painstaking process of teaching our students the logical, organized, and linear method of properly conducting the research process. I think we've all assumed at one time or another--and I've been guilty of this myself!-- that our students know enough about Googling things to figure it out for themselves, or we've (sort of) addressed the issues--plagiarism, citing, etc.--as they arose.
I cannot stress enough the need to allow you and your class time to properly follow the necessary steps of the research process. I myself like to "chunk" the process into manageable steps: understanding copyright, fair use, and public domain; citing sources; evaluating websites; keyword searching; and avoiding plagiarism (to be addressed in a future post).
Today, I'd like to address keyword searching. Obviously, with the Common Core State Standards stressing critical-thinking skills, reasoning, and evidence collection skills, it makes sense to teach the research process instead of simply assigning a research project. Our students are going to be expected, as mandated by the CCSS, to "gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources" (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.8).
Keyword searching, then, is important for gathering "relevant information." And frankly, it saves a lot of time when done correctly, and that's usually how I sell it to my students--who resent having to do research in the first place, anyway!
I also like to use the Internet to my advantage: there are others before me who've created some amazing lessons to teach students how to conduct a proper keyword search, so why reinvent the wheel?
Research Chunk #4
Effective Keyword Searching
For fun and daily practice, I LOVE this site, A Google a Day. Google provides the question, and you provide the answer, applying your newly-developed keyword search techniques! You could make this a competition for your students, and they'd love it. It's pretty addictive!
If you're interested in having your students complete research modules on their own, then read this. Finally, they can Google like a boss with this handy cheat sheet.
This is what I do in the classroom. What have you tried that works? Please share your ideas and suggestions. I'm always ready to try something new!
Image via Pixabay
When I teach my research unit, I like to devote an entire nine weeks to the process, since it's important to break up the process into manageable bite-size pieces or "chunks."
After first distinguishing among the subtle differences of copyright, public domain, and fair use, we then move on to learning how to properly cite resources. Of course, after that, the students think it's necessarily time to start researching and note-taking, and in the past that would be the next logical step. I mention the past (well, my past) because, back in the day, the only thing we had were books. (Remember those?) Now, as you know, students immediately start Googling for information...and of course grabbing everything they find.
What I most remember from those long ago nights secluded in my college library, is sitting cross-legged on the floor of a dank and dusty aisle, surrounded by a tower of books, scanning indexes and tables of contents, evaluating whether or not each book in the pile would be useful for my research, discarding some and keeping others.
I repeat this scenario to my students when it comes time to teach them how to evaluate websites. In this respect, I point out to them, the printed word isn't that different when it comes to the Internet. It's all about taking a good look at the information presented and determining if it's useful, relevant, and truthful.
Teaching kids how to research on the Internet is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to do, precisely because of our students' belief that the Internet has everything they need (which it does), and that everything is truthful (which it isn't isn't).
Which is exactly why I feel the need to teach my students how to evaluate websites for their accuracy and relevancy.
Research Chunk #3
How to Evaluate Websites
Usually, that's enough for one day. It's a lot for the kids to process, recognizing that everything on the Internet isn't always what it seems. I always feel like Toto after I teach this lesson, pulling back the curtain to expose the great and powerful Oz as a hoax.
Image via Flickr
As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm currently teaching my research unit to students in grades 4-8, and past experience has taught me the benefit of "chunking" the research procedure into bite-sized, manageable pieces for my kiddos.
After we complete our opening lesson on copyright, fair use, and public domain, and since the idea of giving credit where credit is due is still fresh in their minds, we next dovetail into our lesson on citing sources.
While it may seem out of sequence--as most teachers address plagiarism and paraphrasing before anything else--I like to teach citations before we tackle the concept of note-taking. As I just mentioned, it's a natural extension of the copyright lesson and the idea of resisting the temptation to take what's not yours. I also think it sets the precedent that citing sources as you find them is crucial. All too often, students find information, note it, and then move on. Then, the works cited page becomes an afterthought--something they'll assemble when the research paper is finished. As we all know from experience (having made that same mistake ourselves when we were young and dumb), this is a baaaaad idea. Trying to locate research sources after the fact is like trying to herd cats: you'll end up frustrated, angry, and wondering why you even tried in the first place.
Most of you will agree that source citation is a very abstract and outdated idea to our students, and trying to make it relevant to them goes over like a pregnant pole-vaulter. (I'm really full of figurative language today. Sorry.) More often than not, student demand to know why anyone would care or even want the minutia of the details involved in citation. However, saying, "Because that's the way it's done" isn't the most clarifying of answers, and that's why you might want to read this extremely helpful post by K-M the Librarian. She makes the analogy that citations are the addresses where the resources reside, and without them, the reader is left with a set of very unclear directions.
Of course, if that analogy doesn't work, I always kindly point out to my students that if I can't read their "address" and get to the correct destination, then it will most definitely affect my "rating" of their "mapping" services. That always seems to drive home the point. :-)
Research Chunk #2
How to Teach Citation of Sources
Like anything, this is going to take practice, so be patient with yourself and with your students. Students have quite a bit of trouble citing their sources (or even remembering to) because they're not familiar with citation style guides, and because they haven't had much practice. To ease their stress, it's not a bad idea to collect and comment on their works cited rough drafts in the middle of the research process so that they can make the necessary corrections and learn from your feedback.
I'm always open to new ideas when it comes to how to teach citation to students, so if you have any resources that work for you, please share!
Image via LiMSwiki
Digital Learning Coach in Cleveland, Ohio, sharing innovative technology ideas.