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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Plagiarism traps

I was so smug when I chose the short story anthology I'll be using in 263, as it seemed to me that a number of the stories were unusual enough to be plagiarism resistant (nothing is plagiarism proof, probably not even in-class writing, with today's cell-phone technology). Hah. Guess again. I did a quick search on some of the stories I thought were surely relatively unique: even if there aren't ready-made papers on them, there is something that the desperate (or "screw this") student could potentially raid from. Hell and blast and hell.

However, I have found some reasonably good critical articles on a few of the stories I think I'd like to assign. I need to read them more carefully myself, but I like to provide critical essays for the students' second papers, as a gradual introduction to the use of critical sources before their final research papers. As I pull together themes (I'm pretty well set on that approach now), I will continue to do some quick and dirty research to see what I can turn up.

I'm trying to figure out if it's worth doing the mini-papers I did with the poetry students last semester. Looking at the schedule, there would really only be time for three (three minis and three larger papers). I like the idea of allowing students a relatively low-stakes shot at a narrow focus that can form the backbone of a larger paper--but I also don't want to completely overwhelm them (or myself) with writing assignments. I've reworked the reading journal form, too, hoping to make it somewhat more useful to them and to me. I'm not sure whether I'll assign more than one story in any given week--but if I do, I don't think the forms will be overwhelming time-wise for the students, even if they have to do two in a week. I don't think, but their idea of what takes too much time and mine tend to be very different. (Obviously, I think my class deserves all the time they've got to devote to it, even as I recognize that they have other classes that may be very demanding, as well as jobs and, well, lives.)

I've been working on assignment schedules today: what a snorting pain in the ass. I have to try to make sure I reduce the size of the log-jams of papers to mark and return (a certain amount of pile-up can't be avoided, but I at least try not to collect papers from the comp sections and from the lit class in the same week). I'm also trying to get myself out of here a day early: meet students with their final grades on the final Monday and Tuesday, and then be done, instead of having to be here on the final Wednesday (when I'd ideally like to be flying to Montana). I think I'm OK with the timing of papers (though I just realized I didn't schedule a midterm or in-class final for 101: I go back and forth on whether to do that, may not this semester; that kind of in-class exam seems of dubious value to me at this particular moment, but I may change my mind). The mini-paper decision will probably have to wait until I nail down the stories I'm going to assign.

So I'm hacking away at the underbrush here, trying to get a path cleared to the start of the semester, but it's slow going. Today is also a gray, dull day--not hot, but dank--and that is putting a damper on my energy and enthusiasm. (ho ho, pun, "damper." It is "damper" indeed.) But I'll do a little more reading today, at least, before I head over to do placement exams. Tomorrow, I intend to do zero work. I'll bounce around on a horse in the afternoon (first ride in over a month) and spend the rest of the day doing my three-toed sloth impressions. In fact, what with one thing and another, I'm guessing I won't be doing much work until Monday. But that's OK: I work well in fits and starts like this--and one way or another, I'll be ready come September 1.

And no doubt I'll be nattering more about the process here in the interim. But for now, happy weekend to all.

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