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wushijiao

Paraphrasing

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wushijiao

My school works in coordination with an Australian university, so we use the same textbooks and curriculum that corresponding students in Australia would use. Currently my students read academic texts and then have to write papers responding to certain prompts. Our curriculum places enormous importance on the process of academic writing itself, with little emphasis on content. That means the students practice writing citations, utilizing “academic” and “appropriate” vocabulary, summarizing and paraphrasing. Then the student write 3-4 page papers, but they are only allowed one direct quote. The rest has to be paraphrased.

For me, teaching and correcting paraphrasing has been one big pain in the a**....I mean, academically speaking, due to current cross-cultural, cognitive and socio-economic misunderstandings and inherent and unavoidable linguistic and pedagogical differences, one might, subjectively speaking, call into question the appropriateness of instructing paraphrasing to L2 students that have of yet not mastered L1’s functional grammar.

In other words, do you think it is a good idea to teach paraphrasing to students that struggle with academic texts in English? Paraphrasing seems like a great idea to make sure that some lazy 18 year-old Australian who has spent all of the weekend pissed isn’t turning in a plagiarized paper. I’m not sure if it is a good idea for many relatively low-level Chinese students though. Instead, I think it would be better to allow student to write the same papers but allow them to use as many direct quotes as they need. The assignment length could be lengthened by a page or two.

I realize this post will probably get no responses, but I just want to see if some one out there has been experiencing the same frustrations.

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gato

How much latitude do you have in what you teach? I see a tendency for Chinese writers to overquote, that is to appeal to authority as a rhetoric technique. I wonder if it would be a useful exercise to forbid both quoting and paraphrasing in some assignments and instead require the students to set forth their own logical arguments.

What's the source material for the paraphrasing exercise?

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wushijiao
What's the source material for the paraphrasing exercise?

Well, they have to write about 1) to what extent is the digital divide of concern , 2)the role of culture in business, and 3) what role does business have in sustainable development. The texts they use are academic journal texts or articles of 6-10 pages.

I see a tendency for Chinese writers to overquote, that is to appeal to authority as a rhetoric technique.

We have that problem as well. The students who struggle tend to paraphrase (or plagiarize) word for word what the original texts say.

How much latitude do you have in what you teach?

Almost none. We have the same course across many campuses and countries. We try to make each class, regardless of its teacher, to be a similar as possible to the other classes. We thus try to calibrate grades to minimize a particular teacher's biases. Generally, I think this is better than a random teacher teaching whatever material with no thoughts as to what happened before that year or what will happen after, which I have done before.

I wonder if it would be a useful exercise to forbid both quoting and paraphrasing in some assignments and instead require the students to set forth their own logical arguments.

This is more or les the idea that a teacher from L.A. and I came up with. I think it would be best if they could first read the texts at home and then take an hour to write an essay in class, with no notes or original materials. This idea was shot done because the idea is to get them to be able to write academic papers, which also has merits.

The interesting thing is that a student will often turn in a paper of complete gibberish. Then I will usually sit down with him or her and ask, "what did you mean by this?" Then he will say nothing, in which case I know it was plagiarized or he didn't understand the texts. Or he will say exactly what he meant to say in fairly fluent English.

Likewsie, of our students who don't pass the IELTS test, the writing section seems to be their weakest section. I'm trying to figure out how to solve this. It would be helpful to know how they were taught writing in Chinese classes back in high school.

Also, I think one of the problems is that students seem to write Chinese-style sentences that fit ten ideas in one sentence, strung together with commas. The appeal to authority and the random quoting of idioms are also problems.

:conf

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wushijiao

I also think my program ignores some of the cultural aspects. It might be useful to collect a few good essays (散文) by Chinese writers (鲁迅, 王小波, 余杰...etc?) and then compare them to essays by Western writers (Orwell, Brooks...etc?) in order to compare and contrast.

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gato
Well, they have to write about 1) to what extent is the digital divide of concern , 2)the role of culture in business, and 3) what role does business have in sustainable development.

Hmm, sounds like a course for People's Daily editorial writers.

I think it would be best if they could first read the texts at home and then take an hour to write an essay in class, with no notes or original materials. This idea was shot done because the idea is to get them to be able to write academic papers, which also has merits.

Maybe some of the students can't complete the assignment without cheating because the papers are too long. What if you use the no-quoting/paraphrasing approach and ask students to do some shorter (1-2 page) essays on a more regular basis? Writing 1-2 page responses to reading assignments was helpful to me in overcoming writing blocks when I was in college. It's like writing an email almost. You never hear people getting writing blocks when writing emails. (They might not write, period, but that's another problem ;-).

The interesting thing is that a student will often turn in a paper of complete gibberish. Then I will usually sit down with him or her and ask, "what did you mean by this?" Then he will say nothing, in which case I know it was plagiarized or he didn't understand the texts. Or he will say exactly what he meant to say in fairly fluent English.

Are you authorized to assign these students extra homework, like an extra 1-page essay a week (which you'll help them correct) until they improve.

Also, I think one of the problems is that students seem to write Chinese-style sentences that fit ten ideas in one sentence, strung together with commas. The appeal to authority and the random quoting of idioms are also problems.

It would be amusing if they wrote sentences made up of strings of Chinese "idioms" translated literally, an English version of what some Chinese writers tend to do when they want to bolster their credibility.

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wushijiao
Are you authorized to assign these students extra homework, like an extra 1-page essay a week (which you'll help them correct) until they improve.

I don't know. Certainly writing in volume would help though. The "writing one or two page papers on a frequent basis" is a good idea though.

I've thought of making an extra "Writing Club" for next semester. I could then use a lot of these extra ideas to fill in the gaps in their education. Althoguh I'm not exactally a qualified to set curriculum.

It would be amusing if they wrote sentences made up of strings of Chinese "idioms" translated literally, an English version of what some Chinese writers tend to do when they want to bolster their credibility.

This happens more than you'd think. Last year I got a "air middle castle", which I pinned down as 空中楼阁. I've had other that I don't remember.

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