Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Systemic Disturbances in Thesis Production Processes #ecil2015

My next liveblog at the European Conference on Information Literacy 2015 in Tallinn is about Systemic Disturbances in Thesis Production Processes by Juha Kämäräinen, Erja Moore, Ilkka Mönkkönen and Jarmo Saarti
They used Engestrom's activity system approach: looking at the process of preparing and finalise a thesis, in which the elements were fullfilling administrative tasks (factitive system), the thesis process as the thesis research and reporting process unique to each student, (the object system) and the activities to support students in completing the thesis (the support system). In addition to this the speakers looked for anomalies in information use. For example the ideal is to write an original text, plagiarism is an anomaly; the ideal is to do a rich information search, not doing one is an anomoly. This opposes the idea of accepting that there is a "new normal" (of superficial search and copying).
They took the example of "unclear references within a text" - a student might use many references in a paragraph, but the role of each reference may be unclear. The second case was of a thesis detected to have plagiarised material; it was implied (I think) that this might be ignored or remain undetected. Another example was where student and others including supervisor made assumptions that were in fact incorrect (should the librarian intervene here?)
In conclusion, the speakers felt that at the moment the actors were seen to be the student, supervisor and (if present) project or client partner (i.e. not the librarian). They proposed that institutions should be more open about it being OK for theses to be "quick and dirty" or take things like plagiarism more seriously.

I think it would be interesting to have learnt more about the use of activity theory here. In teh questions there were various questions raised about plagiarism (including what IS plagiarism)
Photo by Sheila Webber: more food at the reception last night

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