Emily D'Allura

D’Allura 1
Emily D’Allura
Mrs. Trahan
Synthesis Essay
15 November 2009
The Different Views of Plagiarism
Everyday, people are faced with the occurrence of plagiarism. When we are inspired by another person’s words, we will quote them and use them in our conversation. But, we do not stop mid sentence and quote the person. We just keep going. This is considered plagiarism- quoting someone and not citing them. For my English class, I read three essays that took different stances on plagiarism. The three essays I used to synthesis were “A Plagiarism Pentimento” by Rebecca Moore Howard, “Redefining Plagiarsim: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition” by Keith D. Miller, and lastly “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student” by Maureen Hourigan. Each essay had a unique view on this topic. In my own words, I am going to attempt to analyze and synthesis each of these pieces and create my own view on this controversial topic. What is ultimately the true definition of plagiarism, or is it really just a personal opinion?

In “A Plagiarism Pentimento”, Rebecca Moore Howard goes into detail about her views on plagiarism. She talks about “the positive value of a strategy which [she] calls “patchworking”: copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one-for-one synonym substitutes.” (Howard 115) Throughout her essay, Howard gives examples of former students who seemed to have plagiarized some part of a paper they had written. She goes on to say that she had to fail more than half of her class, and then proceeded to give a lecture on how to avoid plagiarizing. She decided to research different views of plagiarism and tried to understand where her students were going wrong. Howard argues that in order for a student to get away from “patchworking”, they must be taught how to get around it and write according to what they have absorbed from reading text. Howard states that “…instruction in summary-writing turns student not into rote recipients of others’ ideas but into members of a community who meet, challenge, modify, and perhaps replace its constructs.” (Howard 125) She feels that this instructional session would assist students with their writing and help them to avoid the problems associated with plagiarism.

Keith Miller attempts to define plagiarism in his essay “ Redefining Plagiarism”: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition.” Miller uses Martin Luther King’s oral essays as an example of plagiarism that goes unaddressed. He states that “we wish to lionize a man for his powerful language while decrying a major strategy that made his words resonate and persuade.” (Miller 128) He argues that Martin Luther King plagiarized a majority of his speeches and writing. This all went back to the art of preaching. “Mr. Edwards and others taught [him] that folk preachers-who were not formally trained- often swapped sermons…slaves created a highly oral religious culture that treated songs and sermons as shared wealth, not private property.” (Miller 130) Miller argues that there are very large differences between the many cultures of the world. To understand better, they will use similar wording so that it will make sense to them. He does not think this to be plagiarism, rather a way of comprehending the words we use. Miller describes plagiarism as an ethical issue and believes that scholars should start looking at it that way.

The last essay I looked at was “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student” by Maureen
Hourigan. She talks about the hurried life of a college student and the different ways they go about getting papers. Hourigan talks about students buying their papers online so that they could have time to do what they wanted. She says that busy schedules lead students to bypass the writing process. They figure they can buy the essay, so they might as well not write it. Hourigan gave an example of a USC student who thought money could buy anything. She argues that students will always want good grades and will do anything to get them. Hourigan also says that some fraternities and sororities will keep graded essays in the house and pass them down the fellow pledges, all before the invention of the Internet. Hourigan states that “When you purchase a paper from an online site you are cheating yourself by not gaining the writing and thinking skills the assigned paper was designed to foster.” (Hourigan 164) She believes that buying your paper online not only hurts your integrity academically, but also your integrity as a person. Hourigan concludes by saying to not plagiarize, no matter what the costs are.

For the first essay, Rebecca Howard uses very real situations to get her point across. She talks about t
he various students who clearly had no idea that they were plagiarizing. Howard does a nice job connecting to her audience. Rather than bashing students for plagiarizing, she makes the effort to try to understand where they are coming from. Her tone is very light and not too serious. She comes off as understanding a student and not trying to fail them. Howard’s view on plagiarism is that for students to understand text, they will summarize it using similar words. It isn’t always an intentional thing.

Keith Miller’s essay has more of a serious tone to it. He uses the example of Martin Luther King for the entire essay. King was a prominent figure in our society, when he was speaking and when he was writing. He had power to inspire people and also to persuade them to change. Miller brings up a good point though. Most of King’s speeches were full of plagiarism. King would pull in other people’s works and not necessarily cite them. One of the greatest public figures was guilty of this controversial act, but he was not really scrutinized for it. No one ever said anything about it until recently. But, if a college student plagiarizes, they fail the class and get into big trouble. Miller goes into the cultural aspect of plagiarism and how a person’s culture can play a role in the way they understand a piece of writing.

Maureen Hourigan’s view of plagiarism centered around the Internet and ways that students acquire papers. She talks about buying papers off the internet, paying a roommate to write it for you, and even using a previous paper as your own. She used an example of USC student who payed her roommate to write her paper for her. This person thought that money could buy her anything, and she clearly suffered the consequences. This particular student gave her diploma back and had to live with that for the rest of her life. Hourigan really thinks that plagiarism goes back to students being too busy. They have a lot going on in the personal life, academic life, and also their social life. Buying a paper or paying someone to write it for you is the easy way out. It gives the student more time for their own interests, and it doesn’t allow academics to overtake their lives.

After reading all three of these essays, I realized that these three authors offered very different view
s about plagiarism. There were few similarities and many differences that I noticed and recognized. Howard and Miller more or less sided with the student or the person who is being accused of plagiarizing. Howard understands that students are merely trying to summarize, even though it appears to be plagiarism. This is very similar to Miller’s view. He sees the ties between cultural differences and tries to explain how people will summarize a piece and overlap with the author’s words. Each of these authors take a more optimistic view point of plagiarizing. They were striving to understand why, rather than bashing the accused. Hourigan on the other hand has a very negative view on plagiarism. She never explored the different aspects of this act. Her entire essay was mainly about buying papers and paying people for your grade basically. It is almost as if she sees plagiarism as a one-sided act. Most students now do not buy their papers. Plagiarism occurs in so many different ways. I feel like Hourigan’s view is outdated. I understand where the other two authors are coming from, but Hourigan really does not explore the real acts of plagiarism.

After analyzing and synthesizing these three essays, I was able to conceive my own theory about plagiarism. I believe that plagiarism is really a personal opinion. Different people will view it in a different way, and it is ultimately your professor’s decision on how to punish you if you plagiarize. I do not believe that quoting someone is plagiarism. When we are inspired by someone, their thoughts, words, and beliefs are instilled into our minds. A quote from them might seep into conversation, but we are not going to stop mid sentence and cite them. I think that as long as you cite most of the quotes from different author’s then you should not have a problem with plagiarism. But, once you start buying papers and paying people to write papers for you, then you have definitely crossed the line. It really is a fine line, but I think that if you try to avoid it, no matter how late you have to stay up to finish the paper you were assigned, you have truly done your job as a student.

In conclusion, there is no definite definition for plagiarism. Each of us will define it in a way that makes sense to us. Sure, there are some really obvious forms of plagiarism and I think that most people would recognize that. But to categorize plagiarism into one big act would be a mistake. You have to do some research and you have to really look at what has been written or said. Then, and only then can you accuse someone of committing this academic sin.

Works Cited
Hourigan, Maureen. “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student.” Essays on
Writing. Eds. Lizabeth A. Bryant and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009.
156-170. Print.
Howard, Rebecca Moore. “A Plagiarism Pentimento.” Essays on Writing. Eds. Lizabeth A.
Bryan and Heather M. Clark. New York : Longman, 2009. 115-127. Print.
Miller, Keith. D. “Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of and Oral Tradition.”
Essays on Writing. Eds. Lizabeth A. Bryant and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 127-134. Print.

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