Two Challenges that I Face as a Writing Instructor and How I Deal with Them

by Jennifer Haber, Professor of Communications at St. Petersburg College

There are many challenges that I deal with as a writing instructor, but there are probably two that come up the most often: the inability to paraphrase and cite correctly.

First, students have a very difficult time paraphrasing. Especially with the accessibility to cutting and pasting, many students would rather copy and paste a quote into their papers rather that put the information into their own words. Second, students—for many different reasons—forget to add citations in their papers. Some of them say that they didn’t know that they needed a citation; others think that they don’t need a citation because it is their own words. Others are just careless. But, I tell my students all of the time that they will not leave my class without knowing when, where, and how to cite.

So, with these two issues in mind, I have my students complete a few tasks. First, we talk about paraphrasing, we workshop, and we work with sources and paraphrasing. Then, after they have written their papers, they submit them to Turnitin. I explain to them that if they receive a 0% on their Turnitin reports, they are done with the assignment. However, if they have a percentage higher than 0%, then they must complete an additional assignment (see the chart below).

Once they have completed the chart, then we meet to discuss what they found and how they will make changes to their paper.

The great part about the assignment is that they are thinking about their papers—before and after the submission. They don’t want to complete an extra assignment, so they are working hard to get a 0%. And, if they do not get a 0%, the questions on the chart make them examine their sources and citations carefully.

Now, too, I am getting fewer quotes and more thoughtful paraphrases about the research. Students are actually thinking about the research that they have found. More importantly, I have fewer plagiarism issues in my classes. Just a few years ago, I was averaging five a semester. Now, I typically have one a year. It seems like a win-win for the students and me.

Related Resources: 
Turnitin Revision Assistant 
Finding Integrity Beyond Integrity