Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Open Letter

Dear EasyBib: Turnitin

I love you.  You make my life easier, and my students' lives easier. But You have a lot to learn about  21st Century searching!

I recently read a white paper from you entitled "The Sources in Student Writing."  In it, you state
"50% of matches lead to sites that are academically suspect, including cheat sites and paper mills,
shopping sites, and social and user-generated content (italics mine)."  A few paragraphs later, you included a chart, part of which showed  more specifically, the social sources you meant.

I didn't know whether to laugh or groan when I read this,  because it's so old school, privileging traditional sources and failing to recognize the dynamic shift in research sources and strategies "hip" librarians teach today. You see, we are all curators now, and search-savvy students recognize that and add social sharing sites to their personal search arsenal.

I was talking to a student today who is writing a paper about pollution in China and its effect on other countries.  He was having problems finding data, but did know the names of a few people studying the topic.  With his science teacher there, I told him:  Get on  Twitter and Technorati  or Google Blog Search to see if  your experts keep a blog or Twitter feed.  Follow them.    Comment on his posts or respond to his tweets.  Ask questions.  That's called primary source research. Or use this hashtag guide to search specific topics.

Then, dig through Scribd, Scoop,it and Slideshare.  Have they uploaded papers or presentations there?  Maybe they're on Diigo or Delicious--follow their bookmarks and read what they're reading.

Face it, EasyBib Turnitin. When even the MLA tells you how to cite a tweet, you know you've made it into the research Big Time!

 Of course students still need to be careful about authority, but that's true no matter what source they use.  The bigger picture, and the one your white paper didn't acknowledge, is  that authority no longer lies merely in books or databases. You can find it in blogs, on Facebook,  and certainly on Twitter.  Smart students create and follow their own PLNs, using a variety of tools  not only to expand their learning, but to bring it to them, rather than going out (or online) to find it.

And that's my beef with your article.  It didn't acknowledge that social sharing sites potentially great sources; it just lumped them together with Yahoo! Answers.

So pardon the rant, but, please--a little more nuance next time?

Jeri Hurd
HS Teacher Librarian

UPDATE: Aack!  It was, indeed, from Turnitin, not Easybib.  See grovelling apology here.


  1. Hey, just noticed that the white paper was from Turnitin. Perhaps writing your rants at 2 in the morning might be a bad idea.

  2. Hi Jeri,

    I'm a content developer here at EasyBib. I just wanted to point out that while this is a great blog post, the article was published by turnitin, and not EasyBib.

    EasyBib's website evaluation tool does in fact take a somewhat more nuanced approach to user-generated content, pointing out to students that content found on Wikipedia may be credible, and that they should investigate more before they use it. User-generated content is not inaccurate, but should be approached with more caution.

    Please let me know if you have any more questions! I can be reached at caitlyn"at"