A National Board Certified Teacher offers advice on how to teach elementary school students to research and write papers. The PlagTracker website helps teachers show what NOT to do.
Elementary school teachers struggle to teach students how to write a research paper. Every single step is hard:
Choosing a topic (some kids aren’t interested in ANYTHING!)
Finding resources (most nonfiction goes over kids’ heads; some kids choose difficult-to-document topics)
Behaving in the library or computer lab during research time
Taking notes (some kids copy everything; others have no notes)
Writing the rough draft in your own words (does changing “the” to “a” count?)
Revising the rough draft (no kid cares about this step)
Writing the final draft (with some kids, the whole process was such a struggle that not even the teacher honestly still cares at this point)
PlagTracker can help with at least part of the research-paper process. The free website lets you copy and paste your paper into a form box. Then PlagTracker scans the paper against 20 million academic works (and the Internet) and generates a report showing whether your paper has issues. Each issue is highlighted and the site explains exactly what the problem is.
Elementary school teachers can copy-and-paste past and current papers to show students just what constitutes original work. Many students think that if they change a few words here and there, they can basically copy out of reference books. Other students don’t even bother to change a word here and there. PlagTracker shows why this is a problem.
The site really works. For my first test case, I uploaded a blog entry I wrote about the Tuskegee Airmen. PlagTracker calculated that my blog entry was 92% non-unique content—because PlagTracker knew about my blog entry! PlagTracker must be really thorough if it even checks ClassAntics. (Just to be clear—I didn’t really plagiarize the post. I did real research, honest!)
Additionally, PlagTracker can be used to scare students about the dire consequences that can arise from plagiarism.
“Many college and university students face extreme penalties for plagiarism such as failing an assignment, loss of privileges, academic probation, or even expulsion. In some cases, punishments can include lawsuits, criminal charges, and sometimes imprisonment. Even if you commit unintentional plagiarism, it can still be viewed as plagiarism in the eyes of the law. Why risk being penalized for plagiarism when with PlagTracker.com you can be 100% sure that your writing is unique?” (http://www.plagtracker.com/)
Scary stuff! I think we’ll all be more careful about what we write and how we cite!
Happy research paper writing! Quick help with some of the other research paper issues:
Get kids to choose topics quickly by scheduling topic-choosing time about 10 minutes before recess. Once kids choose a topic, they can go out to play.
As for the behavior in the library and computer lab—may I suggest a bribe? Extra recess (or even just a lollipop) for every child who remains quiet during research time and emerges with at least two actual sources.