Remembering My Hat

4th February 2010

My Physio on academic referencing

Last week some of the K101 course team and A/Ls took part in a workshop about assessment. We talked a bit about how students struggle with the conventions of academic referencing and questioned how much time and effort we should be spending on trying to help them to get it right. (My brief answer – it’s often really annoying and difficult for them, and it would be much better if there weren’t different systems in different disciplines, but I do think students need to come out of the other end of a degree knowing broadly how to reference things. Correct referencing means that other people can check up on your sources, which is part of evidencing your claims, a key part of the academic discourse.)

So this week I turned up for my Physio appointment and almost immediately my Physio launched into an account of her husband’s struggles with referencing in a course he is studying. She represented academic referencing as an annoying game that you have to play, to which she knew the rules and he didn’t. She also talked about him wanting to reference some information on the web to which he has access because of a particular status he has.  His tutor was not able to access those webpages to check his interpretation of the information because he does not share this status. Her husband apparently found that frustrating.

That made me think that maybe there is a confusion about whether webpages are more akin to publications (to be referenced and therefore needing to be in the public domain)  or more akin to research findings (which are often not publically available, due to ethical issues around anonymising respondents and the consents they give). I suspect there’s an academic literature on this, but I don’t know it.

There are, of course, rules about how you turn research findings into something that counts as research evidence and can be cited, but this distinction and process probably isn’t clear to many students, such as my Physio’s husband.

If my Physio’s not reading my blog, she’s definitely a fly-on-the-wall in my meetings!

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