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by Deborah Zornes.

Good evening everyone. Below is part of an email that Leigh has given me permission to share with you. It was as a result of feedback regarding the Activity where you reflected on academic writing. I hope it provides some guidance for you and please discuss in residency with Loni if that would be helpful as well.

Leigh’s question ......There were two other instances that you noted that a reference was needed, that I had taken the idea from somewhere; however, they were definitely just my thinking on the issues, my own words - having spent much time in K-12 classrooms as a teacher, and now as a teacher trainer with a digital learning platform speaking about such edtech issues with developers and end-users (students and teachers). What do I do in this situation? Do I just come back to the professor and explain that these are quite simply my own words and thinking on the topic and issues?

My response ......... This is a great example of where things are tricky in academic writing. I love that you’ve raised this.  This might be something to explore further in residency and Loni will be able to provide some guidance I’m sure. I’ve cc’d her on this message in case it’s something you want to raise. And sorry for the likely long ramble here, but this is a bit complicated.

In academic writing it’s all about credibility, validity, references, etc. So, when you look at your own thinking, you need to look at what has influenced that – your time in the classroom, your time talking with people, etc. Is it also any reading you’ve done that has contributed to that? And if the answer is yes, it’s those references that we like to see included. If it is more that it is ‘speculation’ or just totally your own view, can you do some reading to see if what you are concluding can be backed up with research. And if so then you could make your statement and they something like …. Author (year) has found that teachers in the K-12 system in place X have had similar experiences noting blah blah blah.  If it is solely your opinion and you have no anything to back it up, then there is a major caution with including it. Unless you have actually done well designed research that you can point to as unbiased, and credible, drawing those conclusions is not based on solid data and analysis. It’s just your opinion, and, while I mean this in the nicest way, your opinion isn’t what we are looking for, unless it’s reinforced by legitimate research. SO, for those statements that you are speculating or concluding, either back them up, or seriously consider removing them.  Here’s an example, when I did my PhD it was about what happens when you adopt business principles in universities and what that means for their role in society and the research that’s undertaken. I’ve been in research admin for almost 25 years, and so I’ve seen a lot of changes. And I note those changes – increased funding for research, the establishment of the CRC program, the greater focus on STEM disciplines, increased accountability and compliance, etc.  But I’m not making any judgement calls, and for each of those I can reference the programs, the  records, the government documents that show the focus on STEM for example. So, my own observations are there, from what I’ve experienced and in talking with colleagues over many years, but it is not speculation and not a judgement – it is fact and the facts are backed up . My views and observations are not in isolation and they are not part of answering a question.

I hope helps as you work on your assignments.

Deb