Prevent the plagiarists

20th June 1997 at 01:00
COMBATING COPYING: TEACHING ENQUIRY AND RESEARCH SKILLS. By Chris Taylor and Gillian Temple. Devon County Council. Pounds 8.50 from Devon Learning Resources, 21 Old Mill Road, Torquay, Devon TQ2 6AU. HISTORY SKILLS: A STUDENT'S HANDBOOK

Edited by Mary Abbott. Pounds 8.99

If, like me, your heart sinks when you see the word "skills" in a book title, then these volumes will come as a very agreeable surprise. Combating Copying has lots of bright ideas for tasks which will get pupils away from simply copying huge chunks out of books, which is, let's face it,a habit which we all pick up when young and never lose.

Although the booklet concentrates much of its attention on key stages 1 to 3, there is lots here for GCSE and A-level teaching, and a good thing too, because starting off with the wrong sort of question for an inquiry ("What kind of food did Julius Caesar like?") is as common a fault in primary schools as it is with A-level personal studies.

So here you have ideas on how to make notes, selecting information rather than transcribing whole chapters, with some nice ideas about how to present what you have found: take a whole textbook account and send a telegram of no more than 25 words based on it, or a soundbite, or write it up for young pupils.

For those who like such things, there are Venn diagrams, as well as some sound but effective ideas for creative use of word processors and a set of examples drawn from some of the major core units at key stages 2 and 3. The whole thing is written in a cheerful and enjoyable style, but above all the booklet is obviously rooted in practical classroom experience. Well worth buying.

History Skills, produced by the history faculty at Anglia Polytechnic University, is aimed at undergraduates but will be very useful to A-level students, both as a preparation for university and as a handbook for their own studies. The style is breezy ("It is important to explode the myth that essays are a burden imposed on students by sadistic tutors") but, again, firmly rooted in real experience.

As you would expect, there is lots of sound advice on note-taking and essay writing, and some useful guidance on how to present research findings; but there is also one of the clearest one-chapter surveys of history and historical writing that I have come across.

Not everything works: in the early chapters important words and phrases are picked out in bold, but this approach is not maintained, and the choice of words is sometimes a bit odd.

But there is a marvellous chapter on quantitative methods for historians,which will take even the most fearful numberphobe through the mysteries of statistical analysis.

Sean Lang is head of history at Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge

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