That’s Professor Fail to you

Remember my high dudgeon over my students’ failure to appreciate the convenience and effectiveness of Chicago-style citations?  I had my panties in a wad over a stack of papers I collected a few weeks ago, in which about half of the students used (or attempted to use) Chicago-style citations, which I thought I had made a requirement of the essay assignment.

Looking over the essay assignment once again as I sat down to record the grades last night, I noticed this instruction on my essay assignment:

As always, your essay must have a clear argument and use proper citations (either Chicago- or MLA-style is fine, so long as you cite both your primary and your secondary sources faithfully.)

The professor who wrote that essay assignment seems perfectly reasonable!  The professor who marked the essays, however, is kind of an idiot.  The good news is that 1) the students followed my directions, 2) most cited their sources consistently and appropriately, and 3) they all appear to have done an honest job on their essays.

What a jerk!  But I still will stand up for Chicago-style footnotes or endnotes in history papers.  I’ll just do a better job next time of RTFM’ing my own assignments.

9 thoughts on “That’s Professor Fail to you

  1. Hahahahahah!

    I gave a seminar at another institution a few weeks ago on a new topic I had never spoken about before. The post-docs whose work I presented gave me slides depicting their data, which I then massaged into my own style. As soon as one slide went up, I realized that the labels on a graph were all fucked uppe, and I then had to explain to the audience what the correct labels should have been.

    Of course, afterwards I assumed that the post-doc had fucked them uppe, and I was all composing a peeved email upbraiding him for not being more careful. But a little voice told me to take a look at the original slides he sent me. Sure enough, I was the one who fucked uppe the graph labels during my stylistic massaging process.


  2. Oh, and in case it isn’t obvious: the massaging I’m referring to was emphatically not of the data themselves, and only of the style of presentation, including typefaces, naming conventions, etc.


  3. Oh, my; that sounds rather familiar. The chances of my making similar mistakes are heightened by the fact that I teach writing in the disciplines for several gtoupd og disciplines, so most semesters I’m requiring (or at least creating examples using) APA in some classes and MLA in others, and sometimes forgetting which class I’m in (or even which class I’m writing a handout for).

    I have nothing against Chicago, though I’ve never taught it. I do think it’s odd that footnote styles went out of fashion in many disciplines just about the time it became much easier to insert foot/end notes. (I’m old enough to have had hands-on experience with trying to estimate the number of lines I had to save at the bottom of the page while typing in order to insert a footnote, using Turabian as a guide — so, come to think of it, I do have some experience with a variation of Chicago.) I do dislike one version (I think) of Chicago (used by, for instance, Southern Cultures, a journal I otherwise very much like), in which there is a single footnote at the end of a paragraph listing all the sources for that paragraph, with no indication of what came from where. Or maybe the author whose article I read was just using Chicago badly (but she’s a pretty well-respected author). One of the main things I emphasize with my students (in addition to the basics, such as giving credit for words and ideas and allowing a reader to go find your source easily) is the need to make it clear, through clues *in* the text (in addition to or instead of in the notes, foot-, end-, or parenthetical), exactly which information came from where, and where cited information ends and the student’s own ideas/analysis begin. So I spend a lot of time emphasizing what Diana Hacker calls signal phrases, and others call introductory or lead-in phrases (“As Lee argues. . .”). If by the end of the semester my students are including those as appropriate and using some kind of consistent citation style, I’m happy.


  4. Hah! Hoist by your own petard.

    When students write primary source critiques for my tutorials, I allow them to document with nothing more than a parenthetical page number. That’s because they’re using only one source and I’m more interested in developing their close-reading skills in these exercises.

    Besides that, I’m an utter stickler for Chicago notes/bibliography references in my assignments. In my experience, it takes approximately twenty minutes to look up and get the basics of any citation style – I’ve had to document my work in several different formats over the years given the vagaries of gen-ed courses in my youth and various publishers in my present.

    Especially since I provide my classes with a link to the Chicago Quick Guide website showing how to cite everything they will encounter from books through websites, I get a little bit irked when students use another method and that one incorrectly to boot!


  5. We all throw a boomerang now and again. Like, when I post a comment and then think, first google, then comment. Today I ironically allowed a student to do in- line citations for a take-home exam essay, but that genre shouldn’t even really need citations of any kind. Students just sometimes feel more secure if they’re attributing something to something else. The weirdest thing is to have someone footnoting something to a lecture that I’ve given, down to the very date.


  6. What a great post! Gave me my one good laugh of the day. It reminds me of me, when I was a newly minted 16 year old and had my very first vehicle: a used moped. I went tooling around everywhere, absolutely loving it. And then the damn thing just sputtered and died half way up a hill in a godforsaken suburb with not a soul in sight.

    There was, however, a pay phone on a corner. (This was long before cell phones.) So I called the dealer up and chewed him out for selling me crap. He drove all the way out to deal with it.

    He arrives. He looks at the moped. He says, very nicely,

    “It’s out of gas.”

    I haven’t really gotten over the red face yet.


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