Writing History: From Students to Scholars
Grade Level: High School Students (Grade 9-12)
Estimated Time: One class period to introduce plagiarism, to read the Online NewsHour story and to complete the worksheet. The extension project would take two more class periods: one to go over the footnoting worksheet and begin the pamplet or play; one class period to finish and present.
Lesson Overview: The purpose of this lesson is to teach students the definition of plagiarism and how to avoid plagiarism in their own work. Students will be exposed to a current debate over scholarly ethics and the correct method of citation in popular works of history. Students will work in a group to create a pamphlet for their peers about how to avoid plagiarism in their own work and how to cite sources correctly.
Dictionary defines it as:
Ask students to redefine plagiarism in their own words. If students need prompting,
ask them if they understand what it means to use another person's words, and what
it means to use another person's ideas. Ask students if they know how to define
paraphrasing. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as "a restatement of
a text, passage, or work giving the meaning in another form." Make sure that
students understand that plagiarism consists of stealing both exact words and
paraphrased words, as plagiarism covers the theft of ideas.
3. Explain to students that historians (professors and other professionals) have to be particularly careful about plagiarism due to the nature of their scholarly work. Historians often read hundreds of books and sources while they are in the process of conducting research for their own books. Historians are supposed to bring original ideas, opinions, and perspectives to historical facts and events, and they can and should critique the work of other scholars. However, historians must cite all of the sources that they use. If they use exact words, those words should be contained in quotation marks and accompanied by a footnote. If the historians paraphrase the words or original idea of another historian, this statement should be footnoted as well, even without quotation marks.
4. Ask students if they know what a footnote is. Explain that a footnote is a method of giving credit to an appropriate author, and that footnotes have particular formats that are used by schools, universities, and publishers. It is not unusual for a history book to have at least three footnotes per page, and therefore there will be hundreds of footnotes in most history books.
5. Ask students to read the article on the Online NewsHour about the current
debate over alleged plagiarism by professional historians. If your school
has a fast connection, they can also watch the streaming video segment. The link
6. Students then can complete a worksheet that will help them understand the main argument of the NewsHour article as well as the different perspectives on plagiarism.
7. Students can share their ideas about whether Ambrose and/or Goodwin committed plagiarism with the entire class. Is there a clear majority opinion as to whether Ambrose and/or Goodwin plagiarized?
8. Explain to students that the debate over plagiarism has an effect on their own work. Students should appreciate the lessons that historians such as Ambrose and Goodwin have learned, and that students need to think about issues of scholarly ethics when completing their own work. Students must get into the habit of citing sources correctly, as academic honesty is critical throughout and beyond their educational career. Students in secondary school and in college can face disciplinary action if they are caught plagiarizing, and as the article in the Online NewsHour indicates, adults and scholars face public scrutiny. The best lesson to remember is that when in doubt -- footnote!
9. Ask students to look at various Web sites that explain proper formatting for footnotes and bibliography. There are correct styles both for traditional sources (e.g., books, newspapers, encyclopedias, journals) and electronic sources (e.g., Web sites).
10. For homework, ask students to complete a worksheet that will help them learn to cite different types of works correctly.
11. Explain to students that there are now software programs and Web sites that
help teachers to identify plagiarized material in student papers. Teachers can
use search engines such as google, alta vista and alltheweb.com to identify plagiarized
text. Web sites that find plagiarized material include: www.plagiarism.com, and
can design a Web site or a pamplet-- or put on a play that illustrates the consequences
to National Standards:
Author Stephanie Schragger has been teaching American and European history for seven years. She has taught at The Lawrenceville School, and currently teaches at York Preparatory School in New York City. She has an A.B. in History from Princeton University and a M.A. in History from Yale University.
To find out more about opportunities to contribute to this site, contact Leah Clapman at email@example.com
This site is funded in part by the Knight Family Foundation.