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How Do You Write What You Don't Know?
Posted 24 September 2003 - 07:38 AM
If I am asked to write a few hundred words to entice people to buy purple frammistans, and I have never seen one before, then some research (using the techniques given by others in this thread) is in order. But if I am asked to write an e-book about installing, servicing and maintaining purple frammistans, then I may not have the background to understand my subject matter. The first example is copywriting, but the second is what I have always thought of as technical writing.
I've been involved in SEO for about 18 months now, but I would feel very uncomfortable writing an e-book about any but the most basic aspects. Since I feel strongly about plagarism, I would have to refer anyone wanting copy on advanced SEO to another writer. At least until after Jill's seminar.
Maybe we should start a thread where writers could list their areas of "technical" expertise. It could be a good resource for those asked to write about something outside of their field.
Posted 24 September 2003 - 07:58 AM
And I can't even believe that teachers are telling students that THIS is the way they should write. Oh please.
Oh, no no no! The teachers aren't telling them this, the students are figuring it out themselves because they all have computers and the Internet.
No, the teachers would fail the kids for doing that if they could just catch it.
Posted 24 September 2003 - 08:46 AM
That's how we did the copy for our page. I'm having trouble now, though, because one of our two sales reps isn't getting back to me about my questions. RRRGHH!
> teacher to try to determine if stuff was copied or not
My mom's a middle school teacher. It's very easy to tell whether stuff was copied or not. If it doesn't sound like the kid, she goes, copies out a distinctive phrase into Google, and clicks "search". She then prints out the web page, brings it in, and says, "You didn't cite this source. You fail." It only has to happen to one kid...
The thing that gets her is when they DO list the source at the end. Do they think she's not going to GO CHECK IT? Sheesh.
She has over 100 students but it only takes a little time. Especially since most of them obviously don't cheat.
It's easier now, because before you'd have to find the encyclopedia they'd used. THAT took up tons of time. Now it's much easier.
A decent teacher can always tell if a child is cheating, unless that child is cheating using such an elaborate method that they're probably learning more than if they'd just done the work to begin with. Most of her students aren't that sophisticated and honestly, if they were, she would be glad to see it. At least it would mean they had some brains or creativity or potential or SOMETHING!
This is quite a timely thread, though. I'm certainly glad to hear where people do their research to write good copy.
Posted 24 September 2003 - 10:58 AM
I also do extensive client interviews if it's in an industry that I don't understand, or ask if I can speak to someone in their firm that is an expert in the area I will be addressing. This is especially important with technical writing, where understanding exactly how some software works, or an application's benefits is especially important.
Posted 24 September 2003 - 01:34 PM
There are tons and tons of educational resources available for teachers to help them combat plagiarism in the classroom. Some are quite sophisticated, integrating a teacher's grading and report needs into the same database that checks the web for "probable" infractions. The best, unfortunately, aren't free and most schools (at least in my area) can't afford to pay for the frills.
I spend a few weeks each summer working with GearUp, a Federally subsidized program for at-risk kids, generally in the 7th to 8th grade levels. The program in my area, headed by WMU, brings together kids from seven different Junior High Schools, spread across a few hundred miles, so I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of the teachers who are on the front-lines. I've spent some time with them in the past, usually individually rather than organized, showing them the tools available and explaining how to use search engines to combat cheating. I honestly feel our real breakthrough came, however, when I decided to teach the same thing to the kids.
I spend about two hours in a classroom, first teaching the kids exactly how to cheat, and then showing them how easy it is for the teachers to discover they are cheating. Because poetry is such a personal thing, much more so than cheating on Social Studies or English, I close the class by having each of them select a poem they like from the Teen sections on my main site. Then I have them use Google to search for a unique phrase out of their poem. Because my site has been around a few years and is pretty popular, almost every single kid in a class of seven to twelve usually finds at least a few instances of plagiarism. Typically, at least one or two of the kids will find a few pages of SERPs on their poem. What's really cool, I think, is that invariably the kids get really outraged that someone would do such a thing. I've been told that several of the teachers have taken the nexus of that two-hour class back to the schools and made it part of their curriculum. Teaching the kids HOW to cheat, and then impressing on them why they shouldn't, seems to be surprisingly effective.
Since this post is still briefer than most of mine (LOL), I'd like to also comment on the original question.
I actually got into the computer field, circa 1981, because I was free-lancing articles for a number of magazines and got tired of using a typewriter (anyone actually remember those?). Once I bought a C64, every article published for the next several years was about computers (which led to returning to school in 1983 to pursue it professionally), but prior to that I had covered a wide range of issues, from Truth-in-Menu laws, to business law for women, to comic books and their psychological effects on children. The writing was fun, seeing my name in print was cool, but the biggest rewards for me was the research. I still remember a phone interview with Dr. Joyce Brothers and how what should have been a five-minute sound-byte for the Parent's Magazine article on comic books turned into almost two hours of laughing and learning (and how the long-distance phone bill took a huge chunk out of what I was paid for the article). Learning new stuff, I think, is what life is all about, at least for me, and I have never yet found a better way to learn something than to try explaining it to others.
Research, I think, shouldn't be an onus for writers. Rather, it's part of the reward.
Posted 24 September 2003 - 02:30 PM
Posted 24 September 2003 - 02:46 PM
Very novel and good approach! Letting kids *see* things for themselves really helps them out!
She can't do that, though-- there's one computer in her classroom, and it only just got online this year, and she has an average of 27 kids in each class, and classes are only 40 minutes long.
But, I think it's interesting for her to know about. She might suggest it to the computer teacher or the English teacher. (She teaches Spanish.)
Definitely good work.
Research is fun but I'm so lazy. It takes quite an effort for me to want to get up and look at outside sources. Which is why the Internet is a boon and a blessing-- I can do it from where I sit!
Posted 24 September 2003 - 05:53 PM
Sheesh - that's nothing!
I'm not sure whether this was featured on the US news, but a month or two ago, the UK Government was exposed as having plagiarised from the internet a large part of a 'secret' dossier on Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction - I kid you not!
So if the government is doing it, what example is that to schoolkids!?
(Stands down from soapbox.)
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