Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Acknowledgement Website

I just wanted to put in quick plug for the Acknowledgement project – a joint endeavour between the University of Melbourne and Monash University to develop plagiarism and academic integrity materials designed for academics, rather than for students. I attended a brief presentation about the project yesterday, and have just been playing around with the Acknowledgement website this morning (note that the current website is still in demo form, but will apparently continue to be available to the general public even after the website has been finalised; also note that the link above goes to the University of Melbourne, but the resource is apparently also available via the Monash University website).

Aside from providing the standard assistance with, e.g., developing student assessments to minimise opportunities for plagiarism, or managing cases of plagiarism once they occur, the site also provides resources on the thornier academic integrity issues confronting established academics – asking us to explore how we feel about “self” plagiarism; investigating the academic integrity responsibilities of an academic reviewer or editor; wondering how we should acknowledge more intangible forms of intellectual influence over our own work; etc.

The website provides quite clear and well-organised materials, including extensive references to further resources. It also includes a series of videos – under the “academic stories” sections within individual topics – that are based on interview material conducted as part of the research for this project, gathered into narratives that, to preserve anonymity and confidentiality, attempt to pull together and express the major points from a range of interviews. These stories generally attempt to provide a sense of the range of views present within the mainstream academic community on specific issues. Occasionally, the videos (which star actors apparently normally used to act out specific medical complaints for real-time medical simulations at one of the partner universities) veer a bit into camp: I particularly enjoyed this video on the virtual university, for example, which begins with a man ranting:

I know that in the 21st century we are supposed to be all about the virtual university and so on. But I have opted to use the Internet as little as possible; I am not a fan of email or Google; in fact, I don’t watch television; I avoid “news” in all its forms.

Why? Because I believe that the mass media erode the kind of originality that I am bound to strive for as an intellectual. Academic freedom to me means, in part, freedom from constant superficial chatter, and from overloading with what passes for “information” these days.

The humor-value, I should note, is mainly in the delivery: I have known people who espouse very similar views, so I can’t argue that the content doesn’t represent a certain approach to academic work. I’ll pass over, for present purposes, what I think about this approach… ;-P

The website also includes some very interesting self-tests – like, for example, the self-test on how to “proof” assignments against plagiarism – that enable you to measure your own thoughts about academic integrity, against findings from the broader research literature. The site also works hard to provide sic et non links to conflicting opinions in the literature on various topics.

My brief look suggests there is some very good material here – for students as well as academic staff. The website is open access, so anyone can have a browse around.


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