Nina Bianchi

Nina Marie Bianchi


nike_dunk_hi_317982_062.jpg audrey-hepburn.jpg pittsburgh_skyline.jpg FashionRocksLogo.jpg j0433156.jpg

How I feel about Writing:

circaware-endless.jpg personalbranding2.jpg

Plagiarism Stands Corrected

The word plagiarism has the same connotation as stealing. Growing up it seemed like plagiarizing was the worst crime a high school English student could commit. As a college student I read the essay’s A Plagiarism Pentimento by Rebecca More Howard, Redefining Plagiarism: Marin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition by Keith D Miller, and Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills and the Harried Hurried Student by Maureen Hourigan and got to look at different viewpoints on plagiarism and how it should be handled in the classroom. In A Plagiarism Pentimento, Howard argues that as young, inexperienced writers students will “patch” the words and voices of other writers. She views it as a learning technique that students use when writing papers at the college level and about new difficult topics that they have no prior knowledge in. In Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition, Miller discusses the famous Martin Luther King Jr. He talks of Martin’s powerful, world changing speeches and how many of them were “plagiarized.” Keith D. Miller encourages the academic world to redefine plagiarism. He feels that plagiarism needs to be explained to other cultures and he states, “we also need to appreciate the difficulties that some may have in negotiating the boundaries between oral and print traditions” (131). And Lastly Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student Hourigan writes of the consequences of plagiarism. She provides a description of plagiarism throughout time and discusses what is more prevalent today. This essay comes from the perspective of the university and the instructor. These persuasive essays have complementing and contrasting ideas, together they worked to convince readers that the policies of plagiarism need to be redefined and they helped me to develop my own stand on plagiarism.

Rebecca Howard and Keith Miller have many contrasting and complementing ideas in their essays. Howard and Miller both see what a large role culture and the desire to be accepted play in the reasons students plagiarize. Their takes on cultures, however, differ. Howard’s view is of an academic culture of freshman in college trying to meet the demands of their new college setting, and Miller’s is the oral tradition of past culture. Rebecca Howard speaks of the culture being a college setting. Students use “patchwriting” as a way to emerge as a writer in their college classes. At the freshman level students are faced with college level material and college level standards that they have never had to meet before. Writers, especially when writing about unknown material, will substitute their own words around an author’s main point. To Howard this is not plagiarism; it is the process of a freshman in college who has not entirely developed cognitively to become an accepted writer. The presence of “patchwriting” in essays is a signal to teachers that the students is not intentionally plagiarizing, but in fact is striving to write at the college level. Howard states, “That this effort involves a transgression of the values of that culture is indeed an irony, for patchwriters, far from being unethical plagiarists, often strive to observe proper academic conventions” (Howard 118). Keith Miller also talks of culture. He speaks of oral culture, and its influence on written work. Miller’s point is summed up in his statement, “slaves had created a highly oral religious culture that treated songs and sermons as shared wealth not private property” (130). Miller’s essay goes even farther to say that writing something original, filled with your own thoughts and opinions was looked down upon. It was considered self-centered or suspect to write something with out the aid of past sermons. Cultures who practiced this tradition raised young students to “plagiarize” because it was not only accepted but also encouraged. Students who have been taught this from a young age were then accused of plagiarizing in their schooling. This was unfair. To students they are honoring the work of past writers, but to teachers they are committing a composition crime.

Culture was not the only similarity between Rebecca Howard and Keith Miller’s view on plagiarism. Miller’s voice merging and Howard’s patchwriting were similar techniques writers used to develop and be accepted at a higher level. Howard directly states in her essay, “Keith D. Miller’s argument that Martin Luther King Jr., was engaged in “voice-merging” also illuminates the patchwriting practices of undergraduate writers.” (121). Martin Luther King Jr. is an excellent example of someone who used voice merging in his speeches. He was raised in a culture were African American folk preachers gained prominence by using the words and ideas of past, influential preachers. This practice was called voice merging. Similarly Rebecca Howard’s view of patchwriting is also based around students wanting to heighten their stature as writers. They do this by taking fragments of voices used to write that paper and then adding personal insight. In essence they are merging their thoughts with the words of their sources. Both voice merging and patchwriting are done for one simple reason, acceptance. Members of an oral culture want to write an influential speech while not coming off self-righteous and by honoring past writers. By doing this they will be looked on favorably in their community. Those who use patchwriting want to be accepted into a higher level of writing and composing. They want to write at the college level and be accepted by their professors.

The essay, Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student had a different take on plagiarism. It talked of the blatant unethical means of plagiarism. Maureen Hourigan brought to the reader’s attention the way lazy, dishonest students have committed plagiarism throughout the years. Hourigan blames today’s generation and our selfish lazy attitudes. She states it has to do with the, “… ‘Me first’; ‘I should get what I want when I want it’: and ‘It doesn’t matter’; and ‘As long as I don’t get caught, it’s OK’”(159). It varied from Redefining Plagiarism and A Plagiarism Pentimento in which both essays talked of students who were striving to write a good paper and be accepted by their professors, community, and leaders and were not intentionally being dishonest.

Before reading all three essays on plagiarism I had a pre-determined idea of what they would contain. I felt they would explain how horribly unethical plagiarism was and that it was wrong in any form. This view on plagiarism is what every student has been brought up to believe. Before reading the essays I was whole-heartedly against plagiarism. I thought of it as stealing someone else’s work and I felt it was done for all of the reasons Hourigan spoke of. Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills and the Harried Hurried Student was the only essay that lived up to my previous view and expectations. The other two essays gave me new ideas to consider and helped me to develop my personal take on plagiarism. After reading them I now feel that the definition, and the punishment for plagiarism needs to be reconsidered. I am not alone in this thought. After Miller’s persuasive and informative essay on oral culture and plagiarism, he concludes by saying, “Clearly, we need to re-examine our definition of plagiarism…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” (131). He believes that King changed the world through his words and it should not matter where those words came from. This belief is something I also share. I still believe that plagiarism is wrong. I feel that a large part of students who commit plagiarism do if for unethical reasons, but I also feel that there are exceptions. In order to redefine plagiarism you must first understand the withstanding policies. Plagiarism is defined in the Code of Conduct for the University of Cincinnati as an act of submitting someone else’s work without correctly citing it, turning in your own work with material obtained from another person or agency without reference to that outside source, and submitting one’s own original work that has been produced through unknown collaboration with others without release in writing from collaborators. This policy can continue to be the basis, but the English department needs a policy that can accommodate to students coming from different backgrounds and coming into college at different writing levels.

Plagiarism is a very controversial topic and there is more behind it than just copying someone else’s work. Coming up with clear guidelines involves understanding different cultures, ethics, and writing styles. Reading different perspectives gave me a chance to break down the stereotypical image of plagiarism and decide my own personal opinion.

Works Cited

Hourigan, Maureen. Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student.
Essays On Writing. Ed. Bryant, Lizbeth A., and Heather M. Clark.
New York: Longman, 2009. 156-170.
Howard, Rebecca Moore. A Plagiarism Pentimento. Essays On Writing. Ed. Bryant, Lizbeth A., and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 115-126.
Miller, Keith D. Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition. Essays On Writing. Ed. Bryant, Lizbeth A., and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 127-134.

Nina Bianchi||mnhcnaib

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License