Sunday, December 30, 2012

Evaluating a Quote Attributed to Me

It has come to my attention recently that someone still in college has credited me with a quote regarding William Shakespeare Burton’s The Wounded Cavalier. That post of mine from 2008 no longer exists. The quoted passage doesn’t sound like me or anything I once wrote about the painting. I suspect what has happened is that the student followed a link in my post to someone else and then attributed that quote to me.

My writing students come to learn that any quote used in an essay needs to be introduced with a tag so that it is made clear who is speaking and where the quote appears. More importantly, the students come to learn that every source needs to be evaluated so that the audience can recognize what authority any one source carries. Sometimes the authority is obvious when the article appeared in say, The New York Times. What someone named firstcitybook says about a Pre-Raphaelite painting doesn’t carry any authority because my familiarity with the work has not been verified.

Whenever possible, I check my students’ sources, particularly when I have concerns about plagiarism and when the authority of a particular source is in question. Using quotation marks is a common problem among the college students that I encounter in my classes. Some students believe that providing in-text documentation eliminates the need for quotation marks; other students believe that providing the author’s last name at the end of a paragraph is sufficient even when all of the words borrowed from that source have not been enclosed in quotation marks. It doesn’t take TurnItIn, a software program that detects plagiarism, to discover these problems. Those students who tell me how much they hate to read and how little they have read encounter the most problems with quoting, documentation, and plagiarism.

The Puritan in The Wounded Cavalier can be described as an aloof male who doesn’t express sympathy for someone else. It’s possible that his political views prevent him from lending aid despite his religious faith regarding the wounded, the sick, and the poor. The student who credits me recognizes these things about the Puritan.

Probably one of the hardest essays I had to write in college as an undergraduate was an analysis of Edouard Manet’s The Balcony for a five-hundred-level art history class in French Impressionism. If I had not been writing essays about literature for the classes in my major field of study, I would have been overwhelmed. As I recall, I studied a dictionary of art terms and read the preceding chapters in my art history text before I started writing. The assignment didn’t require outside sources. I certainly would not have considered using a blog post if the Internet had been available at that time. I would have recognized, I hope, that a quote taken from a link would not have been attributed to the author of the blog who provided the link.