As I mulled it over, I realized that my attitude toward teaching proper website citation was exactly like the logic behind handing out condoms in schools. Most arguments I've heard for teaching safe sex go something like this:
We really don't want to encourage teens to become sexually active, but we know that we can't do anything to stop them. If they're going to do it anyway, we may as well educate them so they can do so safely.
Here's how I feel about teaching my students to cite websites:
- Using websites for research can be helpful and legitimate.
- I don't trust that most college students can make good choices about what constitutes a reliable source of information on the Web, but I know they're going to go to Google anyway, no matter how many library databases I show them.
- Since they're going to use websites as sources for their research papers, they should at least be taught how to cite them properly.
I realize that in this analogy, I've equated plagiarism with STDs and/or unwanted pregnancy, and this might seem a little extreme. But hey, both can have serious consequences for your academic career.