Week 8: Musing Over the Final Project

In thinking about this project, I would like to do something that would be beneficial to me as a GTA and to my students in the future. As an English major, I’ve dealt with MLA citing and format for all of my academic career. In spite of this, I still need to refer to PurdueOWL almost every time I do citing of some sort, just to be sure that I remember correctly. I am currently sympathizing for my students because these nearly all of these freshmen are going into STEM fields—fields that do not use MLA formatting—and are being required in most English classes to use MLA format. After they leave this environment, most of these students won’t ever interact with MLA again, so effectively, they’re being required to learn in for one or maybe two semesters, and that’s that. And so far, I see they’re confused on how to correctly cite and format according MLA guidelines.

As a GTA, teaching students about plagiarism is part of my job. I also think that teaching them MLA citing and formatting should be part of my job as well. Thinking back to the beginnings of my college education, I only remember instructors telling students to buy an MLA formatting guide and figure it out ourselves. Ok thanks. Very helpful. Inevitably, I’d run into a source that seemed unprecedented as far as previous citing went and would nervously try to format it myself, hoping that I wouldn’t get in trouble for doing it wrong. I don’t want my students to feel this way.

So for this project, I’m thinking about making lessons for these two concepts that I’ll divide into different days: plagiarism and correct MLA citing. By means of Google Slides and a lesson plan, I’ll compile definitions and activities to make sure my students know what academic integrity at Virginia Tech is (because they should be familiar with the institution’s definitions/do they take the time to read the Honor Code?) I will also create a MLA Citation Guide, including popular sources that students may choose to cite and go over any questions my students have on citing. In all actuality, this project will be a large PowerPoint-like presentation on plagiarism and correct citation for my students that draws from my own personal experience of not having my instructors specifically lay down what they wanted us to know as freshman entering the academic world characterized by academic integrity.





Work Cited:

Butterworth, Natalie M. “MLA Citation.” MemeCenter. n.d., accessed 11 March 2017.


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Week 7: Authorship Issues

I’ve never had to deal with authorship issues before. Collaboration is definitely a thing in the Humanities and in English, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the norm. As far as I know, I will be focusing on writing my own work during the time that I am here. But is that really true? According to  the TEDx Talk “Steal  Like An Artist,” what I just stated was false. I can totally see how Austin Kleon gets his argument that art is theft (Kleon). I agree, for the most part. Within higher education, especially in English, faculty tell students to “enter into a conversation.” This means that if I’m looking to publish an article, I don’t blindly write about whatever I want, but I look to see what conversation is going on amongst scholars at the moment and look for ways that I can enter into this conversation. If I look at this through Austin Kleon’s lens, I’m looking at these conversations, seeing a point that I find interesting or maybe one that I don’t quite agree with, and formulating a response to this point—I’m stealing something I found interesting and building off it, making it my own (Kleon). But the idea wasn’t necessarily mine to begin with. So yes, I see how his argument can ring true. Often, I’ve felt discouraged though, like he suggests. Is there really anything new I can contribute to a conversation? Are there things to say that haven’t been said before in some way or another? It’s definitely something that people in the arts think about.

Jumping from the arts to the sciences—was the article from  The Chronicle of Higher Education appalling or what? The stories about those grad students whose work was stolen from them by their advisors were quite shocking. I’m sure it’s not the norm, but the stories provoke the thought of what a person should do in that situation. What do you do? In Padma Ashokkumar’s case, she became a pariah to her whole department and had to leave without obtaining her degree because she chose to stand up for herself (Patton). She practiced academic integrity and paid for it. I’m sure the pressure in the sciences is only going to increase. What was your reaction to this article, STEM friends?

Works Cited

Kleon, Austin. “Steal Like an Artist.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 24 April 2012, link.

Patton, Stacey. “‘My Advisor Stole My Research.'” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 November 2012, link, accessed 28 February 2017.


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PFP: Code of Ethics

After searching the Virginia Tech Department of English website, I couldn’t find a code of ethics for our discipline. The website does link to the graduate handbook, which I’m sure has a section on academic integrity. Since I couldn’t find anything specific on our site, I decided to look to the Modern Language Association (MLA), a giant association that caters to the humanities. They’re kind of really important. The MLA offers a Statement of Professional Ethics that would definitely apply to students, GTAs, and faculty in Virginia Tech’s English Department.

This statement has sections entitled “Preamble,” “Ethical Conduct in Teaching and Learning,”  “Ethical Conduct in Service and Leadership,” and “Conclusion” (MLA). The following section is taken from the Preamble, which I believe encapsulates the rest of the document:

“As a community valuing free inquiry, we must be able to rely on the integrity and the good judgment of our members. For this reason, we should not:

  • exploit or discriminate against others on grounds such as race, ethnicity, national origin, religious creed, age, gender, sexual preference, or disability
  • sexually harass students, colleagues, or staff members
  • use language that is prejudicial or gratuitously derogatory
  • make capricious or arbitrary decisions affecting working conditions, professional status, or academic freedom
  • misuse confidential information
  • plagiarize the work of others
  • practice deceit or fraud on the academic community or the public” (MLA)


    I think these points contribute to the overall idea that we as students, teachers, and faculty should treat one another with respect—no exceptions. We should learn, research, and teach with a belief in fairness and integrity. If we live according to the values of fairness and integrity, the way we treat someone, the way we write and research, and the way we teach will create a healthy and fruitful environment. Later on, in the section dealing specifically with teaching and learning, the MLA sets guidelines for how faculty members should act toward their graduate students in particular, stating that they should not take advantage of the students’ being there to work as well as learn and that faculty should be willing to help guide the students when it comes time for them to go out into the career field. It think this is a great addition because it serves to foster the mentor relationship between student and teacher as well as make suggestions that would foster a community within the department itself. I think that the MLA code of ethics works for every department in every school, which suggests that the basis of good ethics should be the same at every institution.


Work Cited:

The Modern Language Association (MLA). “Statement of Professional Ethics.” MLA. 1991. link. Accessed 28 February 2017.

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PFP: The Humanities and the Job Market

I’ll confess. I’m here for my Master’s in English, and I have, at the moment, no intention of applying to PhD programs after my two years here is over. I’ve been given the opportunity to teach freshman English courses while I’m here, and I have found within this semester that I quite enjoy my time in the classroom interacting with the students rather than holed up in my room researching. I’d rather teach than research—a bold confession considering that I’m attending a research institution.

For the past five or so years, I’ve been hearing that the community college jobs are moving more toward part-time, that I’m more liable to be an adjunct forever than get a full time job. This may or not be true, depending on where one chooses to live. I’ve been looking around and have found plenty of full-time, even tenure-track, jobs at the community college level. But my question is this: how many of us recently graduated English grad students will be applying for these kinds of jobs? Will there be hundreds of applications for one position? Is it less than that?

While looking around on The Chronicle of Higher Education,  I came across the very recent article “The Great Shame of Our Profession” by adjunct Harvard English teacher, Kevin Birmingham. Birmingham writes:

So why do we invite young scholars to spend an average of nearly 10 years grading papers, teaching classes, writing dissertations, and                            training for jobs that don’t actually exist? English departments do this because graduate students are the most important element of the                        academy’s polarized labor market. They confer departmental prestige. They justify the continuation of tenure lines, and they guarantee a                      labor surplus that provides the cheap, flexible labor that universities want.

As a member of this “cheap, flexible labor” employed by the University, I understand his argument. Elsewhere in the article, Birmingham states that the academic system is taking advantage of our love of literature in order to allow the tenured faculty to research and have more freedom. They allow more students into the academy  than there are jobs available for them after they graduate, so these graduates end up being adjuncts who don’t make enough to live on (Birmingham). An article that was supposed to be on literary criticism ended up being a criticism of the “establishment,” if you will.

Not finding a job that allows me to live. This is my fear; I’m sure its everyone’s fear. How do students, especially in the humanities, reconcile what we’re doing with the possibly bleak reality of our potential future? It’s disconcerting. And Birmingham doesn’t offer an answer.I’m not here to be part of the echo chamber of bleak sentiments regarding the jobs of graduate students once they graduate. But this whole system of economics—supply exceeding demand— is something we’re constantly thinking about and rightly so. It’s a topic in the Chronicle! But like I said, I’m hopeful. Because despite what I have heard and what I’m reading, the jobs at the community college level are there to be had. It’s just a matter of landing one.

Work Cited:

Birmingham, Kevin. “The Great Shame of Our Profession.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 63, no. 24, 2017, link, Accessed 22 February 2017


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Week 6: Citation Methods

Thank God for Purdue OWL. I’ve been depending on that website for MLA help since the very beginning of my journey in higher education. I still use it very often and have linked the site into my syllabus so that my own students know how valuable of a resource it truly is. Actually, as far as forming citations, Purdue OWL is the only online resources or resource, in general, that I use. As an undergraduate, I found that websites that claimed to do the citations for me always ended up screwing it up somehow, and I was left with markings on my paper telling me that I needed to recheck the formatting. I quickly learned that it was much more reliable and in, most cases, more efficient for me to do the citations on my own. Because citation methods are ALWAYS changing, at least for MLA, I can’t depend on the sites to account for that.  Often times, the citation-for-you sites are not up to speed with the current citation format. For example, even the game that was linked into this week’s module, has not been corrected for the newest MLA update. I’m sure citation managers work well for many other people, yet I do think it’s important for scholars to learn how to format citations on their own.

Last semester, I was introduced to cites like Zotero and Endnote in my online Library Research class. Mendeley is my new best friend. Somehow, I had never been introduced to Mendeley. While it has a reference/citation manager feature, I still never use it, but rather use Mendeley for the simple fact that I can store, read, and annotate all of my articles for my multiple research papers in one place. It’s great.


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PFP Blog Post 2: Ethics

For this week’s blog, I chose to read the case summary of Julie Massè, a former postdoc at Pennsylvania State University who “engaged in research misconduct in research supported by National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), [and] grant 4 R00 CA138498” (ORI).  She was found to have falsified or fabricated images, data, and analyses of the images/data. As a resul,t she is no longer a postdoc at PSU and agreed in a settlement that she would have any further research supervised and any company that employed her would have to abide by certain other regulations stipulated in the settlement (ORI). Which leads me to wonder, who would hire her with a scandal like this in her background?  I can’t imagine job offers would be rolling in.

This case summary shocked me, though I know I shouldn’t be shocked. It was appalling to see that someone who was involved in cancer research would falsify data or create data that she wanted to see. I know people are under a lot of pressure in the sciences to conduct successful experiments and publish their findings to the public. I also don’t know that much about cancer research, which I would assume is a high stress field, but it seems utterly shocking that someone would falsify cancer research. It seems like this misconduct would get found out quickly or that it could endanger many people! It’s a very interesting misconduct case that I’m sure affected more than just the person that was guilty of research misconduct. I would assume that labmates or the lab itself  were affected in some way. ORI also has an interactive video that we watched in the Academic Integrity and Plagiarism class that allows viewers to see just how much someone’s choice to engage in research misconduct could affect the lives of those around them, whether they meant for it do so or not. Check it out here: The Lab

The Office of Research Integrity. “Case Summary: Massè, Julie.” The Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed 15 February 2017, link

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Week 5: Violations

This was all very interesting because last week in my ENGL 1106 class, I went over the Honor Code and plagiarism with my students. I began by asking why students choose to plagiarize, and the answers that popped up matched the ones that the Turnitin.com video suggested, except I didn’t consider undermotivation as a category (Yeo). I mean, in other words, laziness might be considered lack of motivation, but this reminds me that though its ultimately up to the students to resist the temptation to cheat or not to cheat, I also have a responsibility to them to do as much as I can do to motivate them to develop the skills they need to complete an assignment.

The last slide of that video offered suggestions for teachers to apply to their course calendars. Many of these suggestions were based off of process pedagogy, of which I am a big fan. When teachers focus on the process vs. the product of an assignment, I believe it makes the assignment in general much more beneficial and less overwhelming. Building in draft days or assigning things like annotated bibliographies not only serve to help the students get started on the project earlier, leaving less room for procrastination and the stress that goes along with that, but also serve as a blockade for academic dishonesty. Students will most likely have to do this work themselves as opposed to finding drafts or anno bibs online. I appreciated seeing this idea reinforced.

Within that class last week, we also examined articles from popular newspapers that shared stories of successful people being accused of plagiarism. We got  to see what consequences went along with the decision of engaging in academic dishonesty. I think the interactive movie did a good job of displaying consequences as well, making it more personal. For example, in one of the scenarios, if Kim chose to report her labmate for academic dishonesty, her labmates ostracized her and she became the recipient of retaliation (The Lab). This retaliation became so bad that she ended up transferring to another lab that had a different focus, a move that set her back a year in completing her PhD. So her decision to report dishonesty ultimately ended up hurting her—the cost of integrity. Her labmate’s decision to fudge his numbers affected more than just him; it affected Kim significantly. Our actions affect other people whether whether or not we intend for them to do so. I think this is an important thing to keep in mind in academia, especially as graduate students.

Works Cited:

Yeo, Ikram. “Turnitin Webcast—Why Students Plagiarize.” YouTube,  31 January 2013, link

The Office of Research Integrity. The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, accessed 14 Feb 2017.


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PFP: The Stigma of Community Colleges

I didn’t want to go. I really didn’t. All of my friends were moving all over California to attend “real colleges,” and I, because I was paying my own way, was staying at home, basically friendless, to attend a community college before transferring elsewhere. When people asked what I was doing after graduation and I answered with this plan, the conversation tapered off and the responses were patronizing and condescending. The school I went to seemed disappointed when its students chose to remain in town and attend AHC. What did I do to deserve this humiliation?

Now that I’m well past my last year of undergraduate studies, I think the better question to ask is “Why is there such a stigma regarding community college?” Maybe this is just my experience in the town in which I was raised. (I would greatly appreciate hearing other people’s experiences regarding how community colleges are viewed in their particular circles!) But based off of my own experience, I’m left wondering why adults and peers alike try to discourage young people from attending community college because let me tell you, I have hefty student loan debt just like most graduate students, but it would certainly be substantially worse had I not attended community college for the general education courses. It’s made to seem like it’s not “real.”  The work load at community colleges is very real, especially when many students, including myself, are working full-time or almost full-time. Some even have families. It’s real. I got where I am today thanks, in part, to the education that I received there and the professors with whom I worked.

I really enjoyed my experience at a community college. I enjoyed the professors that I interacted with and the people I was able to meet. I enjoyed the classes that I took, particularly the small sizes within the higher level English courses. And I enjoyed saving money. I don’t regret my decision at all. It was refreshing to hear Dean DePauw praise community colleges, praise that I didn’t expect to hear coming from someone so prominent at Virginia Tech. I think this reinforces my belief that the student should be the primary concern of the university, not the prestige it gains by having high enrollment or the money it obtains by having these students. This also reinforces my belief that Virginia Tech does care about its students. For many people, community college is the only viable means to begin the journey in higher education. I think we as graduate students and potential future professoriate should work to change the stigma associated with community colleges.

What have your experiences with community college been? Similar to mine? Different from mine?



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Week 4: The Honor Code

When I first arrived here at Virginia Tech this past summer, I quickly learned that the Honor Code had undergone recent reconstruction and evaluation. I heard from multiple instructors and professors that the new Honor Code was indeed an improvement. Apparently, in the past, the burden of proving academic dishonesty fell mostly upon the instructors (who had multiple other things to do obviously than reporting plagiarism and taking on the load of work to report a student). This new system delineates that burden of research and hearing cases to a board. This seems to make things easier on the instructor or the professor as well as the student. For example. the Honor Code is structured so that the terms are defined and the punishments are tiered according to the severity of the act. I think its useful that for less severe transgressions there is the Probation option of punishment. This educates the student not only in how serious academic dishonesty is, but also educates him or her in how to avoid committing the same mistake again. So, it reminds the student of the why and how, so to speak. While more severe punishments might be appropriate for certain acts, the new Honor Code’s Probation option takes into account unintentionality  or carelessness on the part of the student and works to educate him or her in a less harsh and more beneficial manner, educating and rehabilitating certain students as opposed automatically expelling them every time. This is not to diminish the gravity of academic dishonesty because I do think students need to realize right away how serious a violation these types of actions are in the realm of academia —and the world for that matter.

I think the Honor Code and Constitution is communicated very well. We’re required to have links to the Honor Code in the syllabus so that the students are aware of its existence. As a graduate student, I think I was required to attend three separate talks on the Honor Code last semester alone; this makes me think that not being aware of the Honor Code is almost impossible for students here at Virginia Tech. I think its important, again, that the Code defines its terms, describing what Virginia Tech views as plagiarism, cheating, falsification, and academic sabotage, leaving little room for ignorance on the student’s part.

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Week 3: Ethics in Teaching Composition

The article for English students was the CCCC (four C’s) “Guidelines for the Ethical Conduct of Research in Composition Studies.” Last semester was the first time I had ever heard of the IRB, which is largely due to the fact that as an English major undergraduate, my papers were on literary topics and never studies that involved speaking to a person of any sort. Even now, the majority of my papers are still on literary topics; however,  these ethical guidelines would be useful if I decided to do a study on, say, my pedagogical approach in my classroom this semester.

I found the timing of this reading uncanny because I just began my section on the Fieldwork Paper with my freshman writing students this week. Tomorrow, I will be going over interviews, surveys, and questionnaires. Because of this, I planned to talk about the IRB with the students, and its role in the process of publishing or sharing any study that uses human subjects as evidence, even in composition. I hadn’t thought to bring up the CCCC Guidelines for Ethics, but now I think I will show them this particular section from the Guidelines:

  • “Some studies may include populations who may be considered vulnerable and protected, including but not limited to children and adolescent minors, students, prisoners, pregnant women, military veterans, disenfranchised groups, persons with disabilities, and adults with legal guardians. In these cases, as researchers, we consult carefully with the IRB/reviewing agencies, colleagues, and (when allowed) with prospective participants to develop a protocol that protects their rights, privacy, well-being, and especially, dignity.” (CCCC)

The concern of preserving the “rights, privacy, well-being, and…dignity” of the people who voluntarily involve themselves in a project is the main ethical concern, in my opinion (CCCC). Granted, reporting accurate facts and citing them properly is important, too, but our concern as members of the Humanities should also be to preserve the rights and dignity of human beings. I think this was an important inclusion in the code of ethics and is definitely something that I will bring up in class tomorrow because none of these students are English majors whose papers deal solely with literature and could very well have to go through the IRB before their time here at Virginia Tech is over.

Work Cited:

Conference on College Composition and Communication. “CCCC Guidelines for the Ethical Conduct of Research in Composition Studies.” National Council of Teachers of English, November 2003, link,  accessed 31 January 2017.

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