To Cite or Not to Cite?

This is an interesting article that was shared with me today. Click the link to read it out right. The premise of the author’s argument centers around the idea that we (educators and those in academia) are citation obsessed, and we have done a disservice to students by having them concentrate on all the minute details of various citation forms.

I get the frustration. This particular writer is lamenting how it has affected the library’s ability to aid students in actual research and jabbing at how students were better prepared “back in the day” to incorporate other’s work into their own even without citations. In particular he cites:

“Professors’ obsession with citation formatting is relatively new. Many of us over the age of 40 probably cannot remember learning much about citation styles until graduate school—not because our memories have faded, but because our teachers knew better than to demand that we fret about such specialized, scholarly formalities. It’s not that they were teaching us to be sloppy scholars, either. On the contrary, they emphasized how to effectively and responsibly locate, evaluate, and integrate other writers’ words and ideas into our own writing better, perhaps, than we teach students to do today.”

This is where his argument becomes tricky. Forty years is a long time and quite the generation gap to consider as well. I agree wholeheartedly that at the university level we are a bit too citation obsessed, especially considering how many citation styles exist and are used in various fields; however, that doesn’t change the fact that the sharing of information and content of others has changed dramatically in the last forty years.

Current high school students and current college students have grown up in an era where finding and using information on the internet isn’t given a second thought no matter the origins or issue of copyright. A new emphasis has to be brought to the citation of others work as without it, students would continue to take work that is not their own but claim it as their own ideas without knowing the difference. I agree that knowing how to cite a limerick written in a bathroom stall is ridiculous as the article hyperbolizes, but it still remains that in an age of “if you can find it then it belongs to you” mentality, it is really the due diligence of instructors to convey a strong importance on citing other’s work and incorporating it well into their own thoughts. The 1970s is not the 2010s, and the need for students to understand the need to cite and give credit where credit is due is yet another soft skill that must be taught time and time again.

I mean, we could always go back to England in the 1600s when no copyright existed, and Shakespeare made other’s work into his own fame and fortune. I hear they were good times “back in the day.”

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