A provocative article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Citation Obsession? Get Over It!” asserts that the academy’s preoccupation with correct citation practices inhibits our ability to help students understand the reasons behind the practice.
“What I advocate here is not to dispense with teaching students how to use sources but rather to abandon our fixation on the form rather than the function of source attribution…Professors’ overattention to flawless citation (or grammar) creates predictable results: Students expend a disproportionate amount of precious time and attention trying to avoid making mistakes. Soon, they also begin to associate “good” writing with mechanically following rules rather than developing good ideas.”
Mention is made of research by the Citation Project which seems to corroborate the author’s assertions. Rebecca Moore Howard and Sandra Jamieson blame “plagiarism hysteria,” which compels teachers to punish improper citation more than reward students’ effective use of sources’ words and ideas.
What do you think of this article? Do we focus too much on commas, colons and periods and not enough on the “why’s” behind citing sources?