In your own words

The New York Times has a great piece today about the impact the Internet has had on plagiarism. Apparently, there’s a lot of reckless cutting and pasting going on out there in student land.

…the tip-off to one student’s copying was the purple shade of several paragraphs he had lifted from the Web; when confronted by a writing tutor his professor had sent him to, he was not defensive — he just wanted to know how to change purple text to black.

So I got to thinking: At what point in your education did you receive a really good talk on what constitutes plagiarism? Does the university do enough to help students understand what it is?

And finally, how much Internet-generated plagiarism happens by accident versus deliberately? (BTW, I am not sure which category the guy referred to in the excerpt above falls into.)

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6 Responses to In your own words

  1. alyshalove says:

    The librarians and teachers in elementary school taught us about plagiarism when we started doing research projects, in fourth grade. We were still using encyclopedias at the time, not the Internet.

    I think the article is right– a lot of people our age and younger just don’t understand intellectual property since the words are floating around the Internet rather than solidly printed in a heavy, leather-bound book. Some people just don’t get it.

  2. Plagiarism education sucked at my high school and college. To be intellectually honest was to read something, rearrange the words, and write it back down again. Frankly, that standard seemed idiotic to me. I could never see how a person who followed it could be credited with having original thoughts. It was taking the material and performing a paint by numbers rather than a photocopy. I don’t know what Mizzou teaches their undergrads, so maybe it’s better.

    Perhaps intellectual honesty could should be taught from both the negative and positive side: what is forbidden and what is credible, emphasizing what intellectual honesty actually is. But then I’d be in favor of any type of what I call “thought literacy.”

  3. I learned about plagiarism from grade school, high school and college teachers. Whenever I have done a research project, I have been taught about it. High school and college taught more intensely about the need to not plagiarize. However, students still would try to get away with whatever they could. In some of my classes at MU, we had to turn our papers in to an online database that would see if we copied from the internet or previous papers and I think that stopped some students from not plagiarizing.

  4. Gianna Volpe says:

    I’ve been plagiarized before and it was, by far, the worst thing to ever happen to me.
    Back in 2000, before blogs were called “blogs,” before livejournal, before they had html in online journals- I was a writer on a site called “teenopendiary” and was decently well-known in that community.

    One day, surfing the main page, I clicked on an entry about september 11th and at first was thinking “hm, wow, I agree,” “this is actually pretty good,” and then about halfway through I realized, “Oh my god, this is mine.”

    The person had copied and pasted my entire entry.

    I looked back in the person’s entries to find that their journal consisted entirely of my poetry and prose, with all of the titles changed.

    I was furious.

    Because I had so many followers at the time, I pretty much just wrote an entry explaining that I was being stolen from and let my fans have at ’em, but I have to say that that was the worst feeling that I’ve ever experienced.

    If you’re ever thinking of plagiarizing, put yourself in the writer’s shoes.

  5. rsmp7c says:

    I don’t necessarily think we can universally say that because we live in the ‘digital era’ that we plagiarize. As far back as I can remember I’ve had professors go through what plagiarism is, how to avoid it etc. This could be because of all the journalism classes I’ve taken and how important this topic is for this career. I feel like it’s been beaten into my head why and how to cite sources, but I do wonder about those in majors like Biology or something not writing-related have been taught about plagiarism.

    My point is that it’s definitely easier to lift information from the Internet now, but it still is a personal decision and responsibility of the student/person.

  6. emcneill says:

    I think the idea of “accidental” plagiarism is baloney. Like many of the other commenters, I also received education on what constitutes plagiarism and how to properly attribute other’s work within your own from elementary through my senior year of college. Maybe I’m just cynical, but I am hard-pressed to believe that there are students that genuinely don’t understand how copying someone else’s work and claiming it as your own original thought is wrong. It just sounds like a convenient excuse.

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