Carly Campbell

Carly Campbell

Mrs. Trahan

15 ENG 101-041

Essay #3-Synthesis

11 November 2009

Plagiarism: Wrong or Human Nature?

Throughout the United States, plagiarism has become an epidemic. What exactly is plagiarism? One definition states that plagiarism is, “Submitting another's published or unpublished work, in whole, in part, or in paraphrase, as one's own without fully and properly crediting the author with footnotes, citations or bibliographical reference” (UC Handbook). In colleges and universities, and even in corporate America, plagiarism is seen on a regular daily basis. Some may not even know that they are plagiarizing though. Some may do it consciously and just do not care. However, different views of plagiarism will prove it to be wrong or just human nature.

It is a known fact that Martin Luther King Jr. was one to plagiarize in his addresses to the public. “In much of King’s public career, he drew on an oral tradition, forged during slavery, that rarely acknowledged sources” (Miller 128). King did not cite sources as he followed the tradition of slavery. Slaves had carried on stories passed on from generation to generation without mentioning the original source.
“He mined others’ words for key passages in his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, in his ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail,’ in his lecture accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, in several of his books, and in literally scores of published and unpublished addresses and essays”(Miller 128).
All of these works had inspired a majority of people. However, King was committing a crime. Would one of the greatest speech givers be punished for this large amount of plagiarism that he committed? Or would this crime be looked over due to the amount of people that he influenced? Is this fair that someone of “higher” power should get special privileges when committing?

Would Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches been as effective if he had stopped in the middle of a speech to cite his source? Most would not feel the same effect from a speaker that had to stop every so often to cite a source. If every time King used a quote or passage from someone else, he stopped to cite his source, many people would stop listening. Many would get bored and tune King out. However, the question still remains: Is this plagiarism? King grew up in a society that carried on the oral tradition that did not cite their sources. This trait was expressed by “folk preachers and seminary-trained white preachers who would swap sermons” (Miller 130). Growing up in this type of environment, King may not have known that this “borrowing” of ideas was wrong.

As Miller states, “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). Many people feel the same way. If King did not inspire such a great amount of people, many may not feel this way. However, his influence was so great that many people factor this into deciding whether or not this plagiarism should have had some sort of punishment. Obviously, there was no punishment for Martin Luther King Jr. Even if one wanted to go back and try to give him some sort of punishment, it wouldn’t be possible.

The situation of students writing a term paper does not affect a large number of people though. For this reason, students are more likely to be punished for this academic crime. This punishment could include anything from a zero on a paper, to expulsion from the educational institution at which the student is attending. This decision is also based on different views of plagiarism. A teacher, principal, or president of an educational institute will be the one deciding whether or not a student has committed the crime of plagiarism.

Rebecca Moore Howard, a writer and teacher, certainly has her own view on plagiarism. She has viewed the use of “copy-deletion, a preliminary way of participating in unfamiliar discourse, is, as she calls it, ‘patchwriting’”(Howard 121). Some academic professionals may view this “patchwriting” as plagiarism. “Patchwriting” however, is just a form of summarization. As students summarize without citing sources, they do not realize that they are committing an academic crime, known as plagiarism. Summarization helps students to better understand the topic of which they are writing about. Without the use of summarization, a student may not even know how to begin a paper.

Should students be punished for actually wanting to learn and gain knowledge on a subject that they are assigned to write about? “Their (the students) patchwriting is a positive rather than negative trait. It is not “immature summary”; it is the outsider’s membership application, a way of acquiring the language of the target community” (Howard 122). As Howard states, many works that students are assigned to read and write about use language tools that many undergraduate and high school students are not familiar with. As students “patchwrite” they are exploring and educating themselves on the use of such language tools. Students should not be penalized for trying to further educate themselves.

Plagiarism on accident is very different from plagiarism that is done on purpose though. As Maureen Hourigan, writer of “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Students,” states, there are many reasons that students may plagiarize. For example, some students may be “too busy, too indifferent, or too lazy to compose their own” papers (Hourigan 157). As college students take on school and all of the pressures that come along with it, they must also take on the responsibility of becoming an adult. With this said most students must take on a part time job as well as completing their school work. After a long day of going to classes, then heading straight to work, many students do not have the energy to sit down and write a four to six page paper. This is where some acts of plagiarism come in.

Now, teachers and students have much more access to make it easier to plagiarize, but also much easier to catch plagiarism as well. Students feel overwhelmed when they are assigned long papers. With this said, “Students don’t see themselves as “authors” who own ideas, when they purchase a paper from an online service, they see it not as unethically “stealing” someone else’s ideas and words, but as purchasing a document that is theirs to own” (Hourigan 161). As the media has pushed the consumption of just about any item on the citizens of the United States, students have come across the idea that whatever they buy, including a term paper, is theirs to keep and do with it as they please. However, this is not the case in the academic world.

Teachers now use online resources to catch students who plagiarize. Even in high schools, teachers are using tools such as to catch plagiarism. These plagiarism-catching tools are easy to use. A teacher will submit a student’s work to the website and it will automatically pick out every word, sentence, and paragraph that resembles another piece of writing that is online. It will also give the source from which the plagiarized pieces came from. Now if a teacher suspects plagiarism, all they have to do is resort to one of these tools. Internet is now helping both sides of the academic world with plagiarism.

Through these readings, one can infer many different ideas on plagiarism. Plagiarism can be done on a level of different categories. One can buy a paper online, have another student write it for them, plagiarize by oral tradition, or even do it themselves and plagiarize on accident. Is plagiarism human nature? Has our society become too lazy to write their own papers? No. Plagiarism, as seen by many American’s is the borrowing of another’s idea or ideas and using them as their own, has become part of the human nature for America’s society. One cannot be blamed or punished by plagiarizing on accident by such writing methods like “patchrwiting”. Plagiarism done on purpose however should be punished. Determining whether plagiarism is done on purpose or on accident is where the punishment becomes a problem.

Works Cited

2009-2010 Student Planner Campus and IT Handbook. Cincinnati: Directory Services: University of Cincinnati, 2009. Print.

Hourigan, 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. 156-170. Print.

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

Miller, Keith D. “Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition.” Essays on Writing. Eds Lizbeth A. Bryant and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 127-134. Print.


Carly Campbell

Mrs. Trahan

15 ENG 101-041

Essay #4- Reflection

28 November 2009

The First Steps as a College Writer


Dear Mrs. T.,

Throughout this course, I have learned many new things about writing. I have learned how to write an essay about an essay, how to synthesize, and I learned what rhetorical analysis is. These things did not come easy to me though. As you and I both know, I’ve had my struggles in this class.

It began with the fact that class just happened to be at eight in the morning. Apparently I was not aware that I was falling asleep in class but you most definitely were. I probably did shut my eyes occasionally in class. But, it’s not that I find your class boring or that I’m not interested; I’m just not a morning person. I have your class on Tuesday and Thursday at eight in the morning. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I get up and go to work from five thirty in the morning to ten thirty in the morning then go home, get my books, and I have to be at school by twelve. On weekends I work the early shift as well. I guess I just wish that I had a day to sleep in. Or you can call it sleep deprivation. Either way, this is no excuse for falling asleep in your class and I apologize for it. If it makes you feel any better, this is not the only class that I have fallen asleep in.

However, on the writing aspect of this class, I feel like I have come a long way. When I first started taking this course, writing was one of my least favorite things to do in school. I always dreaded getting assigned research papers and essays. I would put these assignments off until the last minute, and then fill in with nonsense paragraphs when I could not reach a length requirement. Once we got more into the course, I realized that this was not your typical research paper type of class. This was more of a course teaching you how to build a paper. Not necessarily a set structure, for example, an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a closing paragraph. This writing that we have learned in class is the type of writing that sets a length requirement, gives us a topic, and pretty much nothing else. We were free to write as we pleased, but we used peer review as an editing source throughout the course.

This type of “free” writing made me feel a bit more at ease. However, on a few of the papers I was still a bit unsure about how and what to write. With that said, I received two “NP” grades on two of the three pieces that we had to write. I felt ashamed of these grades, like I was not good enough writer to make it at the college level. However, with an “NP” assigned, I was given the chance to redeem myself for a letter grade, which I did. I was still not pleased with my grade, but I still have a chance to work on these papers, which I will.

Also, from the course, I have learned that the body of a paragraph should not consist of only five to seven sentences. Wow! I cannot believe that I was so naïve as to believe that I could get away with such a short paragraph structure as that throughout life. In this course, I quickly learned that short paragraphs and sentences were no longer “acceptable” in the world of higher education. As I am continuing to write, I have been trying to make my sentences and paragraphs longer but without rambling on with, as you would say, “space-fillers”. I admit that I did use a few short paragraphs as “space-fillers” in one of my papers though. That was one paper that I had just ran out of things to write about. My introductory paragraphs remain short, as well as my closing paragraphs, but I’m still trying to work on these aspects as I continue writing.

After this course is over, I’m sure writing will not be my favorite thing to do still. However, I don’t feel that writing is such a hassle anymore. Now, writing to me is a free expression of an opinion or idea on a certain subject. Writing is not meant to please others, but rather to convey the thoughts of one’s self as one may not otherwise get to express these thoughts. Writing may bring joy to others; however, it should always bring joy to the author. If the author is not pleased with her or his own writing, then how may it bring joy to anyone else? There is no way that it could. That’s why I feel that writing is primarily for the author’s sake.

My goal, which I will achieve with the help of this class, is to take what I have learned here and apply it not only to my future education, but also to my future career. Although I am not sure what exactly I wish to do in life, I’m sure that I will need some sort of writing in any career that I choose. I don’t want to be the C.E.O. of a large corporation and write a proposal that looks, and sounds, as if a freshman in high school wrote it. No, I want to be looked at as a professional and I want others to look at me and know that I am intelligent and that I know how to write. I’m going to take everything that I have learned in this class and use it to my advantage in the future.

And lastly, I would like to thank you Mrs. Trahan. You’ve been a great teacher, especially for only teaching four classes before us. And you’ve taught me a lot about writing. You’ve been the first teach to actually give me constructive feedback on my papers and make it so that I knew that I was doing wrong and how to fix it. You helped guide me in my writing and I appreciate that. Even though I have not always shown interest in your class, I really enjoyed it. I just wish it could have been a bit later in the day (haha). I now know how to make creative, and interesting titles and I know how to persuade my readers with supporting details from text. Before this class I would fill in with random ideas that I got from the reading and just leave the paper jumbled. I feel that in my portfolio, I have done a great job at editing my papers and I am really proud of the writer that I have become, even though I know that I could use some more work. And I have you to thank for all of this. So, again, thank you Mrs. Trahan for everything.

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