Folks, as some you already know, I teach for the University of Maryland in between research and writing Emmett’s book.
The Fall academic session started on Monday, so we are on Day Four of an eight-week mini-semester. Already, I’ve had to do the following:
- On the second day of class, file a plagiarism sanction against a student who thought he could answer a simple discussion question by taking text from other websites, without paraphrasing, proper citation usage, or even including the original text source.
- On the fourth day of class, break up an online fight (an intense verbal altercation) that arose from a very innocent question asked by one student to another.
- Also, on the fourth day (that’s today, by the way), I had a student in the online fight class ask me why would anyone bother to spend months researching an ‘analog’ subject, as opposed to the wealth of time-saving, already-etherized research sources available, such as what you can find on Wikipedia?
Emmett Wilson, Analog Man?
The plagiarism incident resolved quickly. Nothing like newfangled auto-sanction forms that go out simultaneously (to the Dean and to the student) to get a fast resolution. The plagiarizing student gave me a litany of reasons why he did it, but in the end, admitted he was being lazy.
The online fight incident was a bit less troublesome than it could have been; to the credit of the student who was attacked, that person was unruffled, saying things like this happen in the online world.
When I talked to the aggressor, that student’s response to me was a sort-of apology; he/she admitted responsibility, but added that the other student ‘started it’ by using the ‘wrong words’ in asking the question. Whatever. Both students apologized to each other sincerely in the forum, and we’ve moved on.
It is important to be careful with our words, and how we use them to present ourselves to the world (and to each other). I can neither take advantage of the sources I find, nor the people who are kind enough to help me. None of us truly work alone, you know. Emmett’s story is not coming together in a wacky vacuum, although it does feel that way sometimes after hours of toiling alone in front of a microfilm reader.
Before I go, here’s what I said to the student who suggested a less-analog subject than Emmett:
The research journey one undertakes for obscure, rare information has been much more valuable than the actual data at times.
I’ve met wonderful people, met new family members I had never known before, learned a lot of great information about the Progressive Era and turn of the century issues, for instance — and all of it I find applicable to my everyday life. I haven’t even begun drafting Emmett’s story yet — I can only imagine what I’m going to learn next!
I don’t know if he understood what I meant. Maybe he will, one day, when he finds his own “analog” subject.