Students referencing lecture notes has been a problem in almost every course I have tutored or taught. Lectures are meant to be a condensed presentation of a given topic or problematic that is congruent with the aims and outcomes of the course. One of my problems is that I often try to discuss far too much material, and I am trying to figure out ways of avoiding this. I like the 2 hour lecture format, and when I have run 3 hour seminars for ultra-condense MA or summer school courses I have often presented a 2 hour lecture that synthesizes 3 one hour lectures.
But I have been thinking about why students reference lectures. I think it may be because they do not understand that the lecture is a presentation of a whole bunch of other people’s ideas and arguments. Perhaps they believe that the lecturer has come up with all the ideas they are presenting? I don’t know. Very rarely have I actually discussed my own research and this has been for mixed results. In my classes this week I may remind students that lectures are meant to be a prompt to follow up other material. For this to happen I will be extra diligent providing references in the lecture summaries I post online for the unit I am teaching. This has come up because I have started marking essay plans from my first year students, and of the students who have actually made a pretty good effort, most reference the lecture notes for whichever week and correlating essay topic question they have chosen to write about.
can’t you just tell them that ‘lecture notes should not be cited without permission of the lecturer’. I would suspect that this would alleviate the problem.
maybe, but would introducing the issue of permissions confuse students about what the lectures are for? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any issues with the dissemination of knowledge! My problem is the scholarly question of tracing back ideas until the students can properly understand their genesis. The kinds of concepts I am talking about are things like ‘subculture’ and so on.
The critical issue is the tendency away from this sort of practice towards the summary, which is why I like longer lectures so I can get beyond the simple presentation of ideas. There is a scholarly power relation here. For example, keyword-type books are normally pretty good for this and I prefer those to ‘Introductions to…’ type of book as the summarising function sometimes (not always) more or less mystifies the historical trajectory of concepts.
I’ll have a chat with my 2/3 years in my class to see what they think as the more mature students (in a scholarly sense) seem to be less inclined to reference lecture notes.
Yeah, like you say, just tell them lecture notes are mashups of lots of different ideas, whereas you need to know where precisely the ideas come from. You could make an analogy that researching an essay is like following a trail of clues, so if they like a particular idea the lecture notes are only the first clue to finding out where it comes from.
Yeah, I am leaning that way, Mel.
The problem is with teaching/learning when faced with a (performative) will to stupidity and a desire for fully graspable, discrete concepts, and not an understanding of emergence and the contingent character of such concepts. Some people will be annoyed if I point out to them they need to do work.
Do I try to make the challenge of scholarship ‘fun’? I suspect this may be the only way. The mashups suggestion is good for that! There is a sense of ‘duty’ maybe, especially for first generation tertiary students.
When you figure out how to do it, glen, please be sure to let us all know.
I have spoken to tonnes of undergrads about this. It basically comes down to the pathological ‘plagiarism’ witchhunts engendered – if not directly by academics – by busybodying admin. types.
With all essays now submitted to “Turnitin” or some other plagiarism-detection service, just about every sentence a student writes nowadays risks being highlighted as plagiarised. It is a REAL downer on the undergrad learning experience.
Personally, I think the broader ethical concerns are far greater with the careerist yuppie academics than undergrads. Me detects quite a bit of projection from the academics. 😉
canâ€™t you just tell them that â€˜lecture notes should not be cited without permission of the lecturerâ€™
This would be the absolute worst option as it would reinforce the ethically-anxious yuppie vibe many academics already exude
While it’s all spiffy to have to reference where the ideas come from – what about the OLD students (like me!!) who have so much life expereience that the ideas end up being a conglomerate of 40 years of “stuff”! I have NO IDEA where some of the things I think originated from – but lots of them from wine-enhanced dinner table discussions…I find trying to justify some of the things I put in essays a nightmare.
referencing lectures and having your own ideas are different problems. I’d suggest they are actually opposites.
my response to your specific problem is that for the most part as a student at university you don’t really talk about your own ideas. only in specific circumstances do you express or argue what you think about something and then only in later years. for the most part you are actually trying to demonstrate you know how to develop and argument through researching the work of others. when you have the opportunity to do research into something then you basically get to write up your ideas (based on what you found in your research). if you want to write about what you have learnt over 40 years of experience, then university essays probably aren’t the right place.
i am a bit of a nietzschean so my views on this may seem a bit confronting, but i suggest it is less about expressing what you think (ie the liberal humanist view) and more about getting the skills (or weapons) to think itself.
Ah but once you come to a critical (ie careful evaluation and JUDGEMENT) analysis – skills learnt over a lifetime are hard to tease out! And whilst I realise a judgement necessarily draws on identifiable ideas sometimes the conclusions drawn come back to what has been learnt – and subsequently put into a melting pot of thought…and I find very little confronting, enjoy the provocation!
Glen you said…’for the most part you are actually trying to demonstrate you know how to develop and argument through researching the work of others. when you have the opportunity to do research into something then you basically get to write up your ideas (based on what you found in your research).’
This is where I get stuck. Having “researched” for the past few years there are tools and theories I have come across that may provide excellent support for an argument. Sometimes, as hard as I try, it is difficult to remember (and subsequently find) where these ideas came from. Do I take a stab in the dark? I distinctly remember having this dilemna with de Certeau’s concept of strategies and tactics (1984(:P)). This is probably the most frustrating problem I have writing essays, reference anxiety. I get stuck worrying about whether what I have said should be referenced or taken with a grain of salt as something I have uncovered during my research and/or learning as a student.
Hmmm, anon, maybe we could write together!!!
essay writing or any other form of scholarly writing is more than typing away at a keyboard!
I try to reference everything. If I forget and haven’t a clue where it came from then I either do a google (very useful!) or reread or scan the texts I think it may have come from.
Note taking is incredibly important, but I don’t take many notes. I am lucky enough to work in a bookshop, too, therefore I simply buy most of the books I use. Having one’s own library of a 120 or so books is very useful. I write up comments in books. When I am actually writing something I copy the notes onto a word doc.
Sure, I totally agree. I too write up notes into word docs, I read books and make notes in my workbook, I photocopy pages of books and write notes in the margins. However referencing anxiety hits hard when other constraints amount, limiting my ability to express myself freely. Books not being availiable at the library, texts in reserve missing, four assessments being due in one week, forgetting the name of an author, google coming up short on a search. All of these things have happened to me recently.
When you say you try to reference everything does that mean you at least make an effort to reference a work generally? I know that direct quotations must have a page reference and that “ideas” which are not your own must have a text reference. During the course of my studies, however, I have been marked down for not providing specific page references for what I have considered recurring concepts and ideas in a scholarly work. I suspect it may have something to do with using a specific term as used by the author. But since when is that an issue?
Inconsistent marking, conflicting information, highly variable viewpoints regarding proper referencing and grammar, and the lack of useful assistance when preparing for an assessment task. The end result is a reduced level of confidence when writing anything scholarly.
None of this is directed at you specifically Glen. I guess I’ve just used this opportunity to have a rant. I’m just sick of being unhappy with the work I produce when I know I have so much more to offer. Maybe I don’t ask enough questions or maybe I’m just not cut out to succeed like I wish I could.
I could probably write extensively concerning the shortcomings of my university education but I will stop here for now and save you the headache.
no, rants are good, what else is the internets for? 😉
It is hard work trying to figure out how or what to reference.
The best idea is to firstly explain what problem the author was trying to address in his or her work, perhaps reference a key passage or series of passages where he or she does this. This demonstrates to a marker that you have an understanding of the author’s work.
Secondly, your research problem must be related in some way to the research problem of the original author’s, this kind of goes without saying otherwise you wouldn’t be using the concept.
Thirdly, when you then use a specific concept the marker can then assess how effectively you have used the concept to address whatever dimension of the problem you have isolated. The problem is far more ‘general’ than the concepts developed by the author to address it, not the other way around; so general problem/specific concept, not specific problem/general concept, this is because any problem can be addressed in a multiplicity of ways.
A typical example of how many people do not do this is with Foucault’s concept of discourse. Pretty general, right? Everyone knows what it means, yeah? No, they don’t. To demonstrate you understand the concept means demonstrating you have an understanding of the problem that Foucault was trying to address with his conceptualisation of ‘discourse’. The problem was of the ontological character of language. His problem developed over many years, beginning with the early so-called structuralist period to the middle genealogical period. It mutated or intensified from a concept that sought to understand the conditions under which a statement (econce) is understood as ‘true’ — following discursive rules that produced a field of what was sayable — to understanding how these utterances are ‘true’ within a given composition of power relations (dispositif). I would expect a paragraph demonstrating at least an awareness of this shift. Not all academics expect this sort of thing (I read their published work!), but I think it is important to not do these things in half measures. (There is much more to it btw, mostly involving the concept of the event, but the above is sufficient for an essay.)
Part of the problem with all this is that the secondary readings are produced by people who have not read all of FOucault’s work, either in the past when not all of his major work/interviews/essays had been translated, or because they have been taught by people who didn’t know (because they were taught by those who had only read part of Foucault’s work, etc). This specific problem is getting better though. Nealson’s FOucault Beyond FOucault is very good. See some discussion here: http://eventmechanics.net.au/?p=1059 Clare O’Farrell’s book on FOucault is also very good.
If you are one of my students, then you know I mark use of correct grammar and referencing technique last. I mark basic written expression and development of argument/thesis first.
And if you are one of my students, you can come and see me during consultation hours. I only ever have a maximum of 20% of students come to see me and that is only during the lead up to assessments. Most of the time I am reading!
During the course of my studies, however, I have been marked down for not providing specific page references for what I have considered recurring concepts and ideas in a scholarly work.
Think of it this way. There are no ideas or concepts, only specific explanations of ideas, particular justifications of concepts, various applications. In other words, there are no concepts, only writing about concepts. Moreover, what markers are usually looking for is evidence that you’ve informed your understanding through reading. These two points mean that it’s always good practice to provide specific page numbers. It’s very easy to reference the idea of “discourse”, for instance, to The Archaeology of Knowledge generally. But all that says is that you’ve discovered that Foucault talks about discourse in that book and you can repeat that knowledge. It doesn’t say anything about whether you read anything from that book or about whether you understand the specific points being made. (And as an aside, when you say you receive conflicting advice about referencing, you may have been told by one person that you don’t need to provide specific page numbers for indirect references, say, I bet no one has ever faulted you for providing a page number in such instances.)
I say this not as a negation of what glen says about the relationship between general problem and specific concept but as a multiplication. It’s true that concepts are formed in response to problems. It’s also true, though, that concepts travel; they disseminate. They are uprooted via the machinations of a discipline and transplanted in all kinds of “foreign” soils (and they become something else in the process).
To that extent, “discourse” is a general concept: i.e., in the sense that it has become a floating signifier for a way of thinking about language (among other things). This means that a writer has a choice: to discuss “the” concept of discourse in terms of the specificity of (one of) its formulations, or to discuss it as a traveling concept. The former requires close engagement with the source text. The latter requires explicitly identifying it as a traveling concept, e.g. by noting its “origin” and some points of its repetition, by describing the key features of the way of thinking its associated with, etc.. (And here it’s worth noting that which path you choose depends on the nature of the assignment task you’ve set.)
But note that in this second uptake of “the” concept of discourse, all that can be done subsequently is to let the concept travel further. That is, all you can do with the “general” concept is transplant it (i.e. “apply” it). You can’t legitimately critique this general concept simply because all you’d be doing is arguing against a word, a signifier. Critique can only work in relation to an argument, a piece of writing, which is to say the specificity of (one of) the concept’s formulations.
Luckily I usually only use the word “discourse” in its most literal sense.
Sometimes my understanding of a concept, perhaps originiating from a particular author or a particular school of thought, comes from lectures, tutorials, and discussions. Luckily the original author(s) have oh so eloquently packaged the concept into a neat little box: a word, a phrase, a signifier. These little boxes are passed around, gazed upon, unpacked and admired for their contents. Subsequently these boxes are used in scholarly work, for example, by students.
Thus we have a problem. I may have an entirely legitimate understanding of a concept without knowing exactly where the box came from. I could just reference pages willy-nilly and hope that I get it right, and I’m almost sure the marker won’t go detective on me, but whats the point? I’d only be lying. I do understand your point though rob, I’ll take it on board.
I think I may be touching on another problem here with my education. Alot of time is spent passing around these boxes and not enough time is spent explaining how or why they were produced. I didn’t fully understand Bordieu’s work until just recently and I’ve been hearing the words “Bordieu,” “habitus,” and “taste” for some time now. Specifically, I think Bordieu’s concept of taste can be taken out of context quite easily, and if a student failed to indicate how their use diverges or mutates from Bordieu’s work would it be safe to assume they would be marked down? I’ll admit Glen, you are much better in this regard than some other tutors I’ve had. You make a good point here:
[i]Part of the problem with all this is that the secondary readings are produced by people who have not read all of Foucaultâ€™s work, either in the past when not all of his major work/interviews/essays had been translated, or because they have been taught by people who didnâ€™t know (because they were taught by those who had only read part of Foucaultâ€™s work, etc).[/i]
I think this problem compounds itself when you get to the student level. Not having the exposure to material that aides or is required to understand other material, like a lecturer might of had, makes it that much harder. I’m fairly confident that I am able to use other resources to make better sense of something but sometimes I just don’t have the time of day to gain any degree of fluency.
So far this dicussion is helping me though so keep up the replies.
“Itâ€™s true that concepts are formed in response to problems. Itâ€™s also true, though, that concepts travel; they disseminate. They are uprooted via the machinations of a discipline and transplanted in all kinds of â€œforeignâ€ soils (and they become something else in the process).”
There is a danger in this though, rob? That they’ll become too mobile, a bit like the town bike (to cross metaphors!).
I have been reading a book at work that I haven’t made up my mind to buy yet, The Trouble with Theory. It is by Gavin Kitching, an academic from UNSW in politics and international relations. His book is about how honours students have used ‘postmodern theory’. Article here: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24096901-25132,00.html
He is an expert on Wittgenstein’s theories. I actually agree with much of what I have read so far (first 4 or 5 chapters, can’t remember, they are very short), but for very different reasons. He makes a similar point about the mobility of concepts. I’ll do a post on it later. For now I want to engage with this point about mobility in the context of the duration fo scholarly work (rather than some intrinsic capacity of a concept).
My position is best summed up by a brief anecdotal example from O’Farrell’s book on Foucault (which I have lent to someone!! arrgh!). Anyway, she talks about how scholars baulked at his suggestions in an interview that his historical method (of ‘eventalization’) meant reading ‘everything’ on whatever problematic was being researched. She continues to say something like scholars were relieved when he allegedly changed his method to focus more on the (philosophical dimensions of the) problematic rather than the research-based rigour of tracing the problematic through the archive.
To construct an account of a discourse of anything requires a huge amount of work. On the other hand, talking about a problematic which inspired the research into a given archive to understand a discourse does not require so much effort.
I am certainly not suggesting scholars are lazy, although I think some are unwittingly when they think that isolating a problematic is enough, rather that they do not have enough time. A similar critique can be levelled at the honours students (and by extension to their supervisors) that Kitching uses as his research material. The time they have to do their theses (a year) is nowhere near that required to carry out sufficient research.
Interpretations of Foucault have been shaped by these time-based constraints and other issues, such as a belief that one has to keep up with the academic joneses, ala Wark’s comment about D&G being the D&G of academia.
What hope does a student have when concepts are invoked by academics without a patient account of the individuation of a concept and correlative problematic? This harks back to the original problem inferred in the post regarding lectures as involving a kind of academic commodity fetishism.
“I think I may be touching on another problem here with my education. Alot of time is spent passing around these boxes and not enough time is spent explaining how or why they were produced.”
I think I beat you to it Glen.
And do you know how had I tried to NOT use the words fetishism or alienation!?
The above was in resposne to:
“What hope does a student have when concepts are invoked by academics without a patient account of the individuation of a concept and correlative problematic? This harks back to the original problem inferred in the post regarding lectures as involving a kind of academic commodity fetishism.”
I’m loving that phrase too, ‘academic commodity fetishism’. Gold.
“Specifically, I think Bo[u]rdieuâ€™s concept of taste can be taken out of context quite easily, and if a student failed to indicate how their use diverges or mutates from Bo[u]rdieuâ€™s work would it be safe to assume they would be marked down?”
yes! of course!
Bourdieu’s work is another classic example. Students too often pick up Bourdieu’s conceptualisation of ‘taste’ as indicating some sort of status game without appreciating that 1) Bourdieu’s concept of distinction relies on what is mostly a neo-Marxist concept of class, 2) the signifying status game part of it is mostly for the bourgeois, and 3) Bourdieu argues that the working class have a different relation to commodities that is not based around a (neo-Kantian) ‘recognition’ and which privileges immediacy and certain phenomenological experiences. (And 4) it is bloody french!) This indicates the taste classifies the classifier not because of a simple signifying hierarchy of goods, but because different classes have different ways of valorising goods over others. It is a class-based distinction between entire value-systems. Think about how art house cinema is valorised (or derided) over (or under) hollywood blockbusters.
‘Habitus’ describes the value-system structurated, competency-based capacity of someone to engage with the contingencies of practice. Habitus is not about what someone ‘does’ but what they probably will do and have the capacity for doing when, for example, a new film hits the market. Do they check their RSS feeds from art house blogs to keep up with new developments or do they wait for the latest blockbuster to be announced on evening news tv broadcasts? Do they see midnight screenings with a bunch of friends or wait until the weekend and see a mid-evening screening so as to have a dinner with friends afterwards?
To relate it to Foucault’s work, a habitus is like a field of possibility for action, while discourse delmits a field of possibility for utterances. This speaks to the Kantian dimensions of both approaches.
There is a danger in this though, rob? That theyâ€™ll become too mobile, a bit like the town bike (to cross metaphors!).
Well, yes and no. I was describing a reality rather than evaluating it. The fact is that in certain disciplinary spaces (e.g. a certain form of cultural studies, though it happens in other disciplines too), you will encounter discussions of traveling concepts as though they were general, and that such a way of presenting concepts might even constitute one of their main intellectual techniques. But as to whether concepts may become “too mobile”, I’m inclined to say better that than not mobile enough. Or to put it another way, I’ll defend the general principle of allowing concepts to be driven as far and as widely as anyone likes, while reserving nevertheless the right to criticise specific â€” and particularly unlikely or unproductive â€” journeys (have I overdone the travel metaphor yet?).
The problem (i.e. of referencing concepts) that we’re discussing is actually bound to wider transformations to higher education, I think. These transformations have their “internal” and “external” dimensions, to use a convenient though misleading distinction. Internally, there’s the intellectual transformation that has occurred in conjunction with the “spread of theory”, such that disciplinary problems are routinely approached in terms of the application of one theory or another. It’s this notion of application â€” premised, as it is, on a particular concept of the concept â€” as much as anything that enables theory to travel in this way.
I’ve got things to say about specific facets of that transformation, and those things are neither consistently critical nor consistently affirming of the spread of theory. To that extent, and taking in what I said just a moment ago, I’m disposed in principle to find little to agree with in Kitching’s book and to find a great deal to dispute. But I’ll save my fingers for your post on the topic, glen.
This internal transformation is surely tied partly to the expansion of the higher education system â€” both along its “research” arms and its “teaching” arms. With regard to the latter, the effects of such “external” transformations have included a change in the way that curriculum is organised both within a unit and across the program. Put bluntly, there’s little to no space, outside philosophy programs and Honours units, to engage in the close, detailed study of particular figures in continental thought. In that context, the concept of discourse simply does not belong to Foucault (if it could ever be said to have belonged to him), nor the concept of taste or habitus to Bourdieu. They “belong” to “cultural studies” (or to sociology or to literary studies, etc.)
And this brings us right back to anon’s problem: How do you reference a concept that belongs to no one?
My in-principle answer is to say that you cite and discuss those concepts in the context of particular sources — and especially those sources that have been set as required reading for the unit. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve developed a great understanding from the lecture/tutorial; when it comes to writing up the assignment, any discussion of ideas needs to be understood as a discussion of sources. It’s not about acknowledging that you’re using “someone else’s” ideas (and distinguishing that use from “your own” ideas). It’s a matter of working through and with particular arguments, forms of explanation, etc. If you really want to use the concept of discourse (or whatever) as part of your discussion and none of the readings use it, then find a source that does use it and which you can fruitfully engage with as part of your discussion. Again, this isn’t so that you can be “honest” about where your ideas come from; it’s because there are no ideas, only specific formulations of ideas (etc.), and the objective of most humanities scholarship is to respond to such particular formations, arguments, etc.
“itâ€™s because there are no ideas”
omg, that is awesome! I am making another t-shirt.
“There are no ideas”
(I imagine it would work best in a really small font, thus actualising the class-based distinction between convenience and accessibility of large fonts and the distinction and duty required for small fonts lol!)
I am not advocating a mode of commentary that indicates what an author was trying to say, but couldn’t. Or a mode of commentary as judgement on the capacity of students (ie they can’t/do reference because they are crap/good). Rather, I think it is important to trace how concepts become individuated and differentially repeated in relation to the different dimensions of a given problem to appreciate the power of the concept.
Here everything can be mixed up in traversal connections if we understand concepts to have a problematic basis. I completely agree with your formulation regarding specific formulations of ideas. The caveat is there can not be a singular series through which the concept-problem is diferentially repeated but a crazy drunken spiderweb of connections between differential repetitions (as specific formulations) on a whole bunch of different temporal and spatial scales. Taking care of the institutional space within which this formulation building work happens is a necessity, and this is to isolate and privilege (as it needs to be) a certain spatio-temporal scale of the spiderweb.
I am reminded of how D&G spoke in interviews of ATP as a failure because it was meant to herald a popular philosophy and yet became as rareified as just another philosophy (and critiqued at the same time as being some kind of excess hyper-philosophy). I think this can be understood as trying to expand the drunken spiderweb, that is premised on a sober experimentation, even if it did produced a few intoxicated acolytes along the way.
omg, that is awesome! I am making another t-shirt.
dammit, glen. I can’t tell whether you’re taking the piss or not…
To everything else, yes, yes and yes (especially to every mention of drunken spiderwebs). With a coda:
I am not advocating a mode of commentary that indicates what an author was trying to say, but couldnâ€™t. Or a mode of commentary as judgement on the capacity of students (ie they canâ€™t/do reference because they are crap/good). Rather, I think it is important to trace how concepts become individuated and differentially repeated in relation to the different dimensions of a given problem to appreciate the power of the concept.
That last bit about events of individuation, etc., is part of the reason why I insist on the discussion being grounded in the an engagement with the required readings (though not only those). Hopefully â€” well, in my units at least â€” these readings have been chosen for a reason: i.e. on the basis of their differential repetition of a problem-concept nexus, their momentary singularity. The “good” assignments are those that constitute themselves as part of the lineage that they simultaneously seek to stand apart from so as to account for. There’s a mutual, if asymmetrical, constitution: the “lineage” (which is much more and much less than the “works cited”) makes possible the reflection and the reflection organises, retrospectively, otherwise disparate iterations (i.e. “the “works cited”) as the lineage. Of course, students would probably never understand it in these terms, nor would I as a marker think about it explicitly in this fashion (except for when we come to reflect on the question in blog postings, etc.)
My jokes are terrible and I am never funny (ask my students and ex-g/f’s).
It is only when I get excited by the seriousness of a situation do I make people laugh.
Heh. Don’t know why, but this discussion prompted me to look back at our exchange over (and with) Paras and his Foucault 2.0. Just had another read of it, and it turns out that the above exchange amounts to a differential repetition of our first few responses to that topic…
Re: Sloganosophy. Nietzsche did it first. (And that could almost, but not quite, qualify for another t-shirt)
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