10 August 2015

Research and Citation--An Ugly Truth

It seems too time-consuming to many, but proper citation of all sources--sketchy, online sources included--is something about which I'm passionate on a professional and a personal level. I enjoy teaching research and documentation--I like the fact that in one area of academic writing, there are rules. Clear, defined rules. Also, because I demand so much of my freshman comp students; I just can't tolerate shortcuts in citation from anyone. Toward the goal of showing future students that even I use the techniques that I endorse, I've been keeping a working bibliography of my sources as I've begun my reading and researching. I plan on sharing my process in future writing classes.

However, I also know that I'm twenty-five years older than most of my students. My idea of research and documentation comes from an entirely different era of education. I know that my students rely heavily on citation generators online, but because I went to school in the age of card catalogs, I have very little experience with those same generators.

Long story short, I couldn't pass up the chance to practice using a citation generator. After getting started, I decided that I still like the process of using a hard copy of some tabbed MLA guide or another, seriously. But, I decided to use the generator to create my entire annotated bibliography. The sabbatical project will likely have over 50 sources; right now, I have 38.

I randomly chose NoodleTools to create my annotated bibliography (in the photo above, you might notice it's called a "Works Cited" at NoodleTools, even with the annotations).

I was shocked to find that any error in formatting that I attempted to submit was caught by this program! Improper capitalization in a title? This program catches it. Improper abbreviation of "revised"? This program doesn't stand for it. Now, the user must click on the yellow "!" sign that appears, and a small window explains what in that component of the citation is incorrect, so that the writer can fix it.

I was so impressed--but at the same time, I have no idea what the hell my students are using to create their citations online. I don't think I want to know--for reals. Many of my students' citations are still riddled with errors, so maybe I've just stumbled on a generator that's "better" than what's popular in the college's student body right now.

Regardless, I'm going to be taking screen shots of my entire process, so that I can use them in online courses as demonstrative teaching tools. I'm hoping that much of the time I'm spending on documenting my research strategies will help my instruction to resonate with students. And--now I have a specific citation generator to suggest to students, with a working knowledge of how to use it myself. Boom.

Anyhow, I have 32 of my sources cited and annotated now. I have all of my research completed for one of the tattooed women I'm writing about, so I think I'll be starting on at least one essay this week. I am so excited about what I've been able to find, and I'm also excited for what still may be out there!

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