Plagiarism: Take it seriously!

By Copyright, General, Information Literacy, Research Skills No Comments

Recently, a few poets accused Ailey O’Toole of selecting parts of their poetry and using it in her poetry to express herself. Incidentally, she was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her poem Gun Metal (which was plagiarized). The Guardian has all the details about the case. This incident made several publishers pull down O’Toole’s Works from their sites.  Although she has been very apologetic about the accidental plagiarism, I noticed that her credibility has been affected and her future works will be always be looked at with doubt and skepticism.

Reflecting on the past I have noticed, how quickly I have merely ‘copied and pasted’. I have rationalized saying, “this is exactly what I want to say” so why to reword it, simply ‘copy and paste’ and this will save my time and effort. Well, if that is the intent of saving time and effort, then what I have also learned is to take an extra minute or two to put it in “Quotes” and cite the author’s name. What about you? Are you guilty of plagiarizing too?

Examples of plagiarism are many, here are a few International examples, NDTV has compiled a few Indian cases and a story about 3 Academic Thefts by professors in Rajasthan.

iPleaders Blog Post on Plagiarism law gives us a glimpse of India’s views on plagiarism. This makes me wonder and reflect on our Indian Education System. In the local schools, I  have observed that students photocopy school notes and college notes, memorize them and then finally regurgitate the content in their exams, to get scores or marks that will make him/her eligible to one of the best colleges in India. Are we preparing our students for a ‘copy and paste’ world or do we want them to think, reflect and create?

I wonder how will this individual function in the real world? How will he/she respond ethically in the information world, where he/she has not learned to paraphrase and use his/her thinking faculties to express ideas or create something unique?

Here are simple six steps by Write Check to avoid plagiarism. BibMe recommends other ways. Some important ones I have learned are to:

  1. Use multiple sources of information to get a perspective and in-depth knowledge on the topic.
  2. Acknowledge one’s ideas, beliefs and thoughts that are gathered after much reading.
  3. Paraphrasing correctly and not merely replacing parts of a sentence with synonyms but also the syntax of the sentences.
  4. When quoting other peoples work, it’s important to give credit.
  5. Using a proper citing format according to the discipline.

Using a plagiarism checker can be very helpful when writing, it helps prevent accidental plagiarism.  Invest in one; it’s worth it!

Evaluating Information – Caarp or Cars

By General, Information Literacy, Librarian's Role, Research Skills No Comments

There is a plethora of information online – so how do we navigate the flood of information and recognize information that is authentic, real and something we can trust. All IB librarians are pretty familiar with the acronym – CAARP or CRAAP.

To recognize information as worthwhile and with credibility – it is important to teach our students how to question their sources. My favorite criteria is the CAARP  from the California State University And, you can apply it to almost anything, a book, a website, a blog post or even a media product. To test the authenticity of the information you can also use the CARS checklist from McGraw Hill. As librarians, we must teach these to our students starting from Grade 4 all the way up to the high school students. No one is too young or too old to learn these acronyms to guide us when evaluating any source of information.

When you come across a video on Whatsapp or through social media channel, using any one of these acronyms of evaluating will help identify the authenticity and value of the information and will help you from getting carried away with fake news and other morphed videos and images. If you don’t see the creator of the video – IGNORE IT… It’s not worth passing it on.

I often tell my high school students, that if they come across some information on a website and it is only found on that particular website, and that particular information sounds unique, unbelievable or even rare, then, more often than not I would ignore it. To get an all-round perspective on a particular topic it is important that you find other credible sources that would compare, comment or even discuss it from different angles. Always when in doubt, look for other sources to compare, get perspective and viewpoints on the topic, never trust only one website, or one source for a particular topic.

Compare, contrast, think, analyze and use your own understanding to arrive at your opinion and views. This will help students and researchers to develop a grasp on a topic and get a 360 degree perspective on the topic.

Teaching Research Skills

By General, Media Literacy & Information Literacy, Professional Development, Research Skills No Comments

Research Image by Gifer under Fair Use Guidelines

Recently, a fellow librarian from a local Indian school asked me – How can librarians teach and support students research skills? How can librarians engage and collaborate with teachers?

I believe the local curriculum in Indian schools have always encouraged project work, and I believe that librarians can seize this opportunity to teach students how to research explicitly. They can collaborate with the subject teachers to teach research skills to the students in a systematic manner, encouraging higher order thinking. The open-ended questions will help students to think and write rather than copy and pasting information from Wikimedia or other websites. The question often asked of me is – what research model can I as a librarian use and recommend? There are several research models, and they can be found on the internet. One of them is the Super 3 for lower elementary students and the Big 6 for older students.

I would recommend one to look at various models and select the one the one that best suits your students. You can always tweak/adapt a research model to meet your needs. Each of the research steps needs to be explicitly taught and practiced through mini-lessons.

Here are the research steps that you may want to consider:

  1. Framing open-ended questions
  2. Locating information and selecting appropriate print and digital resources
  3. Evaluate the sources using CRAAP or CARS
  4. Using information by reading, taking notes and paraphrasing
  5. Synthesizing the information
  6. Citing the sources used in the research
  7. Presenting and sharing
  8. Finally, reflecting on knowledge and presentation

It is during inquiry or project time when librarians can help students develop the 21st-century skills of collaboration and teamwork, critical thinking, research skills and communication while learning through the transdisciplinary approach.  Should you be looking for handholding sessions to help you demystify this process, please email me, and we can work together.