Ashley Morano

Is Plagiarism really as bad as it seems?

Plagiarism is often thought of as theft; stealing the ideas of someone else and presenting them as your own. It is often said that the most sincere form of flattery is to mimic another. Are we stealing their ideas or are we paying a tribute to the author by supporting our ideas with their thoughts and words? As we explore the act of plagiarism in the following paragraphs, I ask that you keep the same open mind as I when I reviewed this highly controversial and not well known subject. In the works of Rebecca Howard, Keith Miller, and Maureen Hourigan, you will receive a firsthand look at how actually professors/authors feel and their beliefs on how it should be acted upon to fix this horrid act.

In Rebecca Howards essay “A Plagiarism Plentimento” she is expressing her idea of a concept known as “patchwriting”. Patchwriting though it is a very sketchy form or summarization; it can provide a way for students to more easily comprehend and show understanding of a difficult piece. Due to being a professor herself, Howard has experienced her fair share of plagiarism. Before she adopted her theory of patchwriting, she thought the appropriate response for punishing the act of plagiarism was to hand out failing grades. This soon led Howards to believe that her students didn’t understand the “lines” drawn against plagiarism, as well as a misunderstanding of how exactly to cite sources. But when noticing the common occurrence, she began to wonder if this was something different all together, and that is where patchwriting was born. In the words of Howard, “Because we teachers innocuously accept this definition and act upon it, we persecute students for crimes they did not commit” (Howard 115). This proved to be a very important discovery on her part. Though many writers know how to summarize, they do not notice when they are just rephrasing another authors words. So if the writer does not truly intend on plagiarizing, can we still accuse them of doing so? According to Howard’s patchwriting theory, we cannot. Though there are fine lines between both the ideas of patchwriting and plagiarism, the writer needs to be sure to have a common understanding of both to ensure they are staying true to what it is that they are writing.

It has been known for centuries that known American figures, like Martin Luther King Jr., have stolen the words of other famous writers to make what they had to say more powerful. As stated by author Keith Miller, these works “electrified millions of people” (Miller 128), and helped change a very stubborn America. If these so called “National Figures” are allowed to plagiarize, why can’t college students or any student for that matter practice the act of plagiarism as well? This tends to be a very controversial question. But an even bigger question takes rise as writers, and scholars begin to look even more closely at this subject: What about oral culture? This made many stop dead in their tracks as they took in that great possibility. As students at a large University or College, like our home here at the University of Cincinnati, every student’s background is greatly different. Though many of us come from a written culture, there are some out there that come from an oral culture. Oral culture is the passing of oral testimony or messages passed on from one generation to another by word of mouth. Author Keith Miller made a valid point when stating “In this context, striking originality might have seemed self-centered or otherwise suspect” (Miller 130). So when stepping back and looking at the big picture, we truly cannot punish writers (no matter the age or social status) for borrowing the words of more powerful and famous writers. But we can advise them to place mention of these writers where it belongs, or where they feel it is needed. Doing so will place credit where it is due, and help the student to prosper in their writing.

In today’s world, students have a vast amount of access to the internet, which undoubtedly allows them access to paper mills. This can all be found with a typed word in a search engine, and a click of your mouse. In case you don’t know, a Paper Mill is a collection of previously written papers by past students/or professionals. Primarily students use these paper mills because they are busy and/or lazy. As stated by author Maureen Hourigan, “students have always had the pressure of getting good grades, either from parents or employers who will reimburse proportionally (or not at all) depending on the grade earned in the course” (Hourigan 157). But should this be an excuse they can use? I believe not. When students search for the easy way out by avoiding responsibility, they form bad habits that can adversely affect their careers and lives in the future.

Before reading these articles my view on plagiarism was very simple: DON’T do it. Though I am not a famous writer, I have experienced fighting to keep the credit for my words and thoughts about an issue or even a piece of literature. But after reading these past articles I still believe that plagiarism is wrong, but the arguments made by the authors showed that there may be some valid reasons behind the act of plagiarism. Plagiarism provides a broader knowledge then some students may be able to form on their own. Though many professionals consider plagiarism wrong, many students find it as a way to express their understanding of a piece by using the words of another individual to make their point. By using the words of a possibly more famous person, the student can give more power or clarity to their point. The real problem is not the use of the words or ideas of others, but the fact that they are not properly citing those ideas.

Learning more about the act of plagiarism, and the “exception” to the rules has allowed me to grow as a writer. Though citing tends to be difficult for me, as it is for any student, I feel relieved that I am giving the original author credit in the proper way for what they have created. Even if that creation is just an idea; it is still something the author came up with, and not someone else. Every individual has a unique way of thinking, and the excerpts they choose from other writers are unique as well.

Most students throughout their educational career are never truly taught how and when to properly cite a reference. I myself can vogue for this statement; I too was never taught how to cite properly. To me, I thought citing was just placing the authors name in quotations and that was it. But when I stepped into my senior year, I was in for a rude awakening. As a student there have been many times and opportunities that I could have “spiced up” my work with the words of a more famous writer. I didn’t in the end because I know that plagiarism is wrong, and thought better of using their words when I did not know when to properly cite them. I began failing papers due to this fact; I then became highly frustrated and began to seek out help. I was very grateful to have a teacher that was willing to teach me the proper way. I believe that writing can be more powerful and excite the audience as a whole if the writer used the words of more famous writers, and has the knowledge of how to properly cite. Giving credit where it is due not only shows your ability as a writer, but shows that you can prosper off another individual’s thoughts and ideas, no matter how famous they may be.

Work Cited
Howard, Rebecca Moore. “A Plagiarism Plentimento” Essays on Writing. Eds Lizbeth A Bryant. And
Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 115-126. Print

Miller, Keith D. “Redefining Plagiarism: Martian Luther Kings Use of an Oral Tradition”
Essays on Wrtiting. Eds Lizbeth A. Bryant. And Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009.
127-131. Print.

Houngan, Maureen. “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student” Essays on Writing.
Eds Lizbeth A. Bryant. And Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 156-166. Print.

This is my life :)

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The Struggles that help me grow

As a writer, I have had my accomplishments, struggles, “hair pulling” frustrations, and even some tears. All of these tend to occur when I am writing a difficult or very complex piece. Early on as a student, when I was beginning to write, I tended to just rush through it, not caring if it didn’t make much sense or began to run off topic. Being a teenager, we have other interests outside of the classroom. Sports, friends, and even going to the mall are much more exciting then working on an assignment. But as I continue to learn and grow as a writer, I have begun stepping back and looking at things in a different “light”. I have begun finding different strategies to use, that allow me not to come across as many frustrations and tears as I had in the past. Some of the things I have begun to use are: writing a little bit at a time, take frequent breaks from what I am learning, and even sometimes removing it from my mind all together. I have found that when I remove my mind from what I am doing, I can then look at it with “fresh eyes” and come up with things that weren’t present originally.

When reaching places where my brain just “quits” (which normally tend to be at the introduction and conclusion phases) I step back, take a breath, and refocus. Though the introduction and conclusions used to be the easiest for me in most cases, NOW when writing difficult papers it no longer is. I have begun leaving those paragraphs for last and began focusing my attention on the “middle” of the paper. But even when the middle of the paper is completed, I still seem to draw blanks every time I begin to write. Instead of coming out with something useful, I would quickly delete what I had just written and again stared at a blank section.

I then decided to try something new; I closed the window with the rest of my paper and opened up a new screen. I then pretended that I had not yet written the “gut” of my piece and started to write how I was taught when dealing with introduction paragraphs. When I was satisfied with what I had, I then proceeded to do the same thing with my conclusion paragraph. Once I had both completed, I then added them to the rest of my paper. When I read it all the way through and looked back at my introduction and conclusion, I only had to make a few changes till I was finally satisfied with what I had written. I was relieved that though they were not wrong I got through my blank brain and finally got out what I needed to say. I was really relieved when my paper was finally completed. These techniques have allowed me to more easily complete my academic writing without as much constant stress that commonly followed. The remove of this stress has allowed me not to be so “irritated” when I have to complete an assignment.

But writing is not the only place that I have continued to grow as a student, reading and understanding what I have read is quickly becoming an accomplishment as well. For example, I used to have a very hard time understanding scientific captions below photographs. I was never able to wrap my head around why that specific caption was more important than the surround text. For years I have struggled picking up textbooks, and reading the assignments given, and actually understanding what I have read. I always find myself skimming the text to answer questions, and not really looking at the other surrounding material that is EQUALLY important. Now instead of skimming, I read and re-read the information and then apply it to the questions that are placed at the end of the reading.

Essays By: Ashley Morano (||yaonarom)

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