Aaron Pontsler

Aaron Pontsler
Mrs. Trahan
English 101
12 November 2009

Plagiarism Presents Problems

What if I copied this paper off the internet? What if I had my roommate write this for me? What if I took information off the internet, but restated it in my own words? Would I be penalized for plagiarizing in those situations? This is the issue Howard, Miller, and Hourigan address in their essays. Since essay writing has been a common practice in classrooms, plagiarism has followed. Plagiarism is a very controversial and prominent issue that floods college and high school campuses around the world; the biggest problem of all though is what exactly plagiarism is? Howard, Miller, and Hourigan present the different views in their writings, leaving it up to the individuals to create their own beliefs on the important issue.

The first essay we examined was “A Plagiarism Pentimento” by Rebecca Moore Howard. Howard’s essay focused on patchwriting, “copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one-for-one synonym substitutes” (Howard 115-116). Early in Howard’s career as a teacher, she viewed this as plagiarizing, giving her students failing grades because they did not properly cite the source. She then reanalyzed her policy and view on plagiarism. Studies have shown that patchwriting is simply a summary technique. Inexperienced writers use this because they know no other way to present their information. Some professors view this type of writing as immature and undeveloped. They believe that mature summary consists of the authors own, unique writing style to relay the same information their sources presented. Although this is what some believe, others think that patchwriting is a positive way to write, because “paraphrasing well usually requires them to understand a passage” (123). Overall, patchwriting allows the writer to understand, comprehend, and reach out to a new target market but putting the sources’ ideas into a new form.

The next essay we analyzed was “Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition” by Keith D. Miller. While most discussion concerning plagiarism deals with written essays, Miller takes a different approach, analyzing Dr. King’s inspirational speeches for plagiarism. In his speeches, such as “I Have a Dream” and his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Dr. King used sayings from other prominent works without citing the sources at all. Supporting King’s use of oral plagiarism, Miller discusses the common practice of Pastors sharing their sermons without citing sources. With these examples, Miller presents the issue that we need to take another look at what plagiarism exactly means. He says, “I am convinced that the process of securing fundamental human rights – such as those King championed – outweighs the right to the exclusive use of intellectual and literary property” (Miller 131).

Maureen Hourigan, in “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills” takes a much more direct look at plagiarism than the two other essays. In Hourigan’s essay, she describes the evolution of plagiarism and how it has become much more prominent in today’s English classes. It has really began to take off because of the internet and the sources it can students can find so easily. With the amount of plagiarism taking place, Hourigan discusses the seriousness academia has began to take in patrolling it. In the past, papers were passed around the Greek community and it was very hard to keep track of all of it because there was no documentation of all the papers. Nowadays, all papers are electronically passed, making sites such as turnitin.com, very prevalent in catching plagiarism. Hourigan illustrates a very obvious and direct form of plagiarizing that is present in today’s society.

It is very interesting how three essays addressing the same topic, plagiarism, can be so different. I believe this is only a direct representation of the broad interpretation the word plagiarism carries. Contrasting Miller and Hourigan, Howard presents both sides of the argument dealing with patchwriting. His approach is interesting compared to the others because it leaves the definition of plagiarism to the readers’ own interpretation. Hourigan and Miller are forcefully persuasive, while Howard questions the reader on their definition of plagiarism. Leaving this question open for interpretation allows the reader to fully comprehend the problem of plagiarism that concerns many professors.

Whereas Howard and Miller are somewhat unsure of the line that separates plagiarism from honest writing, Hourigan presents detailed description of a very common version of plagiarism. This is a different type of cheating than the other authors analyzed, and I believe this is the most prevalent form today. While most students are aware that turning in papers that they, themselves, did not write is considered plagiarism, many believed that if a paper another student wrote was not plagiarized, borrowing this paper would not be plagiarism either. I believe Hourigan makes a very clear point in his essay, writing “Plagiarism, representing someone else’s ideas as your own, is dishonest and a serious breach of academic integrity, the foundation upon which education rests” (Hourigan 165). By no means could a professor debate this topic, because using someone else’s work as your own is, indeed plagiarism. Hourigan’s viewpoint is very different from Howard and Miller’s proposals, as borrowing a paper is a word for word copy of someone else’s work. No matter how much the work cost or who wrote it, if it is not the student’s own work, then plagiarism is definitely the case. Hourigan makes this point very apparent during his essay, using many different examples, and leaves no room for debate on whether paper mills foster plagiarism.

An important rhetoric technique that all of the writers used was exemplum. Exemplum is using an example to support the idea the writer is presenting to the audience. In order to solidify their beliefs about plagiarism, Howard, Miller, and Hourigan used multiple examples. I believe their examples solidified two different points, one directly and one indirectly. The direct example of using quotations from specific instances of plagiarism was effectively used by all three authors. Howard, Miller, and Hourigan each provided common situations that portrayed their topic of discussion, such as patchwriting in Howard’s class, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, or Hourigan’s story of Elizabeth Paige Laurie. An indirect example of how not to plagiarize is the works cited at the end of Howard’s and Hourigan’s writings. The in-text citations and works cited at the end of both of these works are examples of how to write without plagiarizing. Correct citations used by the authors are significant because in all of the essays, the main issue discussed was the lack of citations. In patchwriting, they did not cite directly; in Dr. King’s speeches, he did not cite his sources; and papers from paper mills were not cited. The only line directly addressing plagiarism was the lack of citations; if you use a source but do not cite it, you have plagiarized.

After synthesizing these essays, I believe it leaves the writer not with a definition of plagiarism, but with the same question the authors tried to answer; what is plagiarism? Through their direct and indirect examples, their two sided arguments, or their clearly disappointing views on paper mills, it still leaves me thinking what exactly plagiarism is. In Hacker’s A Canadian Writer’s Reference, plagiarism is defined as “(1) failing to cite quotations and borrowed ideas, (2) failing to enclose borrowed language in quotation marks, and (3) failing to put summaries and paraphrases in your own words (Hacker 331). While this definition seems to be specific in discussing plagiarism, Howard, Miller, and Hourigan are able to explore uncommon situations not covered in this straight forward definition. Following the readings, I have concluded that plagiarism needs to be dealt with on an individual basis, as the definition is very flexible and depends on the professor’s stance on what defines plagiarism.

Works Cited
Hourigan, Maureen. “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student.” Essays on Writing. Ed. Lizbeth A. Bryant and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 156- 165. Print.
Howard, Rebecca Moore. “A Plagiarism Pentimento.” Essays on Writing. Ed. Lizbeth A. Bryant and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 115-125. Print.
Miller, Keith D. “Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition.” Essays on Writing. Ed. Lizbeth A. Bryant and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 127-131. Print.

My Thoughts on English 101
As you knew from the first day of class, English was never really a class I had enjoyed. Throughout all of high school, I clashed with my English teachers because I felt as if they gave me no room to write what I wanted. Instead, I had to interpret the essays and novels the same way as them, and if I did not, I was wrong. Following their rules, English became a dreaded class, but I persevered through and always maintained a good grade. I was in Honors English throughout all of high school, including AP English my senior year. Coming into English in college, I figured I was just in for more of the same. I believed I was going to be given a lot of in class essays, similar to AP English, write a few boring essays, and not really be taught too much. Well, this is hard to say, but I was wrong. Walking into English class on my first day of college, I quickly understood that this was different than any other class I had taken. I felt the freedom of ideas flowing, the collaboration our class was going to take part in, and the spectrum of things I was going to learn. As I said in my other letter, English 101 was an entire different experience for me. I really enjoyed being able to analyze essays the way I wanted to and you positively commenting on my views. It helped me enjoy English to the highest level possible for me. I am not saying by any means that I want to become an English teacher or will take as many English classes as I can, but I did enjoy this required class and that is all credited to the open mind you taught and graded with.
“Another essay to read and another analysis to write again,” that is what was going through my mind when I was assigned bell hooks “Writing Autobiography.” Quickly, I realized that it wasn’t another assignment. This was an essay that I could really connect to and immerse myself in. bell hooks seemed to have a way of writing that really grabbed my attention, as I sat there and went through my life story just as she did. With my strong connection from the start, it was easy for me to pinpoint the pathos rhetoric she placed throughout her essay. When hooks described her meeting with the black man and the trigger it pulled, I immediately thought about my friend’s death. They were both undesired events, but they provided an amazing ‘ah ha’ moment for each. “Writing Autobiography” rhetorical analysis was by far my favorite analysis to write this year and I believe my best. It gave me a chance to continue to remember my friend and realize the impact he had on my life, and having that connection from an essay really allowed me to enjoy it.
The second essay we were assigned to read was “Writing to Connect” by Mary Pipher. Personally, I did not feel an amazing connection with this essay but still thought it was interesting. I analyzed the rhetoric used, the use of cause and effect, examples, and quotes in order for Pipher to establish her view on writing. Pipher included her personal feelings into her essay to try to grab the readers’ attention but I did not relate to her. With the lack of connection I felt to this essay, it was definitely my worst of the three unfortunately. I wrote it at a time where I was extremely busy with school and my fraternity and I did not put my full effort towards it. This managed to show through as I received my lowest grade, a C, and you commented on the lack of effort I put into the essay. Fortunately, I was able to revise it and using your suggestions, I believe it is a much better essay now.
My third and final essay of English 101 dealt with the issue of plagiarism. Plagiarism is a very confusing topic and I could not really develop any connection to it. Rebecca Moore Howard, Keith D. Miller, and Maureen Hourigan use their experiences with plagiarism as basis for their essays. With these three different views, I felt as though these essays did not accomplish anything other than reiterating the point that plagiarism is a very confusing topic. I felt as though this topic was a bit broad and repetitive, as I have dealt with plagiarism since the beginning of high school. Without any connection to the three essays, I believe I was able to write a good synthesis on the topic. I really enjoy writing persuasive and controversial papers and this was the closest we were able to get to that type of writing in this class. Since I enjoyed the format of this paper, it allowed me to explain my thoughts a lot better than the previous essays.
As I type the last few sentences for English 101, I am thinking about what I have learned over the past 3 months. Compared to my high school writings, I was able to be a lot freer in these essays than those. It is ironic because it is not only in English class that I have gained more freedom but college in general. This is the first time I have been on my own in life and in English. I was able to express my own views and not be criticized. It was a great experience and I hope that it will continue throughout the rest of my college career. Thank you.

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