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Degrees of Quotation

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Activity name: Degrees of Quotation

Class: PWR 1/PWR 2

Schedule: Anytime during the quarter when students are working on quoting from sources - works well during the TiC

Activity Brief Description: Drawn from Joseph Bizup, this “Degrees of Quotation” activity shows students that the way they quote others has rhetorical effects and that they need to be strategic when they quote.  It helps them see that paraphrasing is a way to “turn up the volume” on their own voices.  By contrast, when they quote another, they are allowing that voice to speak loudly in their writing.

Activity length: Approx. 60 min.

Activity goals: To help students practice paraphrase and to think about the rhetorical effects of different quoting strategies.

Activity details:

  1. I ask students to come to class with a source they’re using in their TiC.  They need to have identified a crucial point in the source, one that they are discussing in their TiCs.
  2. I begin the activity by giving students a couple of paragraphs from exemplary TiCs. We discuss how the sources are represented on the page — how often are the writers quoting and why?  What other strategies are available to writers?  At this point, the terms paraphrase and summary often emerge; I ask my freshmen to define them. On the board, I usually list the conventional uses of quotation, paraphrase, and summary.
  3. Then we turn to the handout to discuss the rhetorical effects of degrees of quotation. They can usually see that as we move down the handout, attribution becomes muted and the voice of the writer more pronounced.  We talk about rhetorical situations that would demand direct attribution and quotation v rhetorical situation that don’t (scientific disciplines tend to paraphrase more than quote, e.g.).
  4. Then I have them turn to the source they brought to class and ask them to write a couple of versions of its key point — one modeled on a “degree” from the handout and another from just below or above it.  Which one do they prefer in the context of their TiC paragraphs?  Why?  For those who have chosen to paraphrase, I have them share their paraphrase with a peer.  Is it ethical?  Is the language both accurate and sufficiently independent of the source?  This usually leads into a useful discussion of the challenges of paraphrase and the dangers of inadvertent plagiarism.

Additional notes: This activity was originally featured as an Activity of the Week in winter 2014.