Sarah Johnston

Ughh, Plagiarism!

Plagiarism is evil! Eh, I cringe every time I hear it. This word is haunting, leaving its sting every time, but after reading Rebecca Moore Howard’s “A Plagiarism Pentimento,” Keith D. Miller’s “Redefining Plagiarism,” and Maureen Hourigan’s “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills,” the sting becomes less painful. Each author brings something different to the discussion of plagiarism, although a few parts of their essays can go hand in hand. Howard, Miller, and Hourigan share their thoughts and opinions which in turn influenced and transformed my views on plagiarism.

Throughout Rebecca Moore Howard’s essay “A Plagiarism Pentimento,” she takes a strong stance on plagiarism that impacts and influences her audience. She explains to her reader that “patchwriting” (deleting words, altering grammar structure, and substituting synonyms) is borrowing from other writers, so it is plagiarism but acceptable. Even though she does not think that it is wrong it does not mean that all professors would agree with her. Many professors would take action as she once would have done, and either fail the student or reprimand them in another way. After taking this course of action, she realized that these students borrowing from other authors were not plagiarizing. Howard takes time and looks at how many different students changed a text into another form and initially borrowed someone else’s writing. This effort is made by these students because they are striving to learn how to write at a different level, “rather, they were ‘patchwriting’, a composing phenomenon that may signal neither a willing violation of academic ethics nor ignorance of them, but rather a healthy effort to gain membership in a new culture” (Howard 118). Students are not trying to plagiarize because most of them recognize and state the authors name in the sentence. Another reason a student may be “patchwriting” is because they are dealing with material and vocabulary that is over their head. Students rely and incorporate other authors’ ideas because of their struggle in learning how to write at a college level. They need to be taught how to summary write, it is not something that can be thrown at them and known how to do.

In Keith D. Miller’s essay “Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition,” he shows that plagiarism is used by many admirable people, proving to one that it is not uncommon and wrong. Most of his essay focuses on how Martin Luther King has used others words besides his own, but also incorporates other important writers such as preachers. When Miller researched who influenced King he realized that his mentors, teachers, father, and others, had all swapped ideas. The culture that King and his influencers lived in made it acceptable to use others thoughts and words. It was normal for King to use sources and not acknowledge them because in this time frame it was part of tradition, “Failing to understand King’s source means failing to understand King’s speech and its roots in the black pulpit” (Miller 131). In the past speakers found it important to use other materials besides strictly their own because they have a large crowd to stand for and reach. Many preachers and ministers borrow and adapt sermons; in oral tradition we cannot trace it back to who said things. Stemming from this, many students especially those who were raised in an oral culture have difficulty with plagiarism, “While we must teach students to avoid plagiarism, we also need to appreciate the difficulties that some may have in negotiating the boundaries between oral and print traditions” (131). This is why in our country with our print tradition we can be considered “caught” in the midst of plagiarism. Miller believes that we need to take a step back and redefine plagiarism, “Simply put, the offence of plagiarism is much more complex and much more ethically relative that we have wanted to admit” (131). In the end, Miller is arguing that whether this is right or wrong, plagiarism is intricate and morally relative.

In reading “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills,” by Maureen Hourigan, my views and opinions of plagiarism are changed. In the past until now plagiarism has always been present, but now that we have the Internet more opportunities for plagiarism are available. But on the other side of it, the Internet also makes it more difficult for students to get away with plagiarizing, “while the Internet makes plagiarism easier for students, ironically, it makes the detection of it easier for professors as well” (Hourigan 158). Hourigan argues that the main reason students plagiarize is the fact that they have lives that are busy, before and during the Internet period. Knowing your college’s plagiarism policy is crucial. Many colleges are now using the website to detect if their students have plagiarized or not. On the other hand, there are now paper mills. Students are able to access papers online that they can buy and turn in instead of writing the paper at This is where students need to learn to take their stance on plagiarism and decipher what is most important in life, cheating themselves or succeeding. “Plagiarism, representing someone else’s ideas as your own, is dishonest and a serious breach of academic integrity, the foundation upon which education rests” (164), it is not only about getting caught, but how you are hurting yourself.

In the essays “A Plagiarism Pentimento” and “Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition,” the authors are arguing for plagiarism. With their experiences they piece apart plagiarism and realize that it is not all bad. They both believe that certain areas of plagiarism are acceptable, but in other ways not. They have formed their own opinions and stand strong, influencing their readers view. Both Howard and Miller believe that the heart of plagiarism is wrong, but all the branches that stem from it are not. They both agree that there is a time and place for plagiarism. Neither contradicts each other but the contexts in which they place plagiarism are different. Howard talks about “patchwriting” in the classroom setting, where as Miller talks about borrowing words in an oral culture. Both authors believe plagiarism is acceptable in their different atmospheres and they each justify with reasons and ways to explain it. Howard tells that when his students plagiarize it stems back to their capabilities as young writers that are still adapting to summarizing and where they come from, where as Miller talks about how King plagiarizes because it is part of the culture and was an oral tradition. These two essays and view points on plagiarism contradict each other in the time frames that they are dealing with and what is now appropriate in society. In Howard’s essay he deals with a more up-to-date topic/ view point, while Miller deals with more of the past. When Howard is speaking he directly relates to me, whereas Miller is attempting to redefine plagiarism and search his audiences’ minds for their opinions/definitions. Both authors shine light on different viewpoints, helping their reader to better understand plagiarism and the not so negative side of it.

Hourigan’s essay is different from Miller’s in that she talks about from the past and until now, whereas he focuses on one main time frame of plagiarism. Hourigan discusses the fact that plagiarism has always been a problem while Miller pinpoints a certain time period of plagiarism. While over viewing plagiarism, Hourigan’s tone of voice associates plagiarism as a negative thing, “plagiarism, representing someone else’s ideas as your own, is dishonest and a serious breach of academic integrity, the foundation upon which education rests” (164). She continually talks about how students have/can plagiarize and the ways that now have to prevent this from happening. On the contrary, Miller speaks about more of the past where plagiarizing was a way of life incorporated into their culture. Miller’s tone of voice during his essay is more laid back than Hourigan’s. Miller insures the reader that the definition of plagiarism is not set in stone and can be flexible but needs to be examined, creating a not as strong bias on plagiarism for his audience. She is trying to prove her point and is emphasizing with the way she presents it, her aggression in her essay shows her passion for this topic. I think Miller also feels strongly about plagiarism, but is not so high strung on the fact that plagiarism is wrong. Through reading different authors approaches on plagiarism, it opens my mind even more to redevelop my stance on plagiarism.

Before I read the essays on plagiarism by Howard, Miller, and Hourigan, I believed that plagiarism was forbidden. Plagiarism was an intolerable act that consisted of stealing and misusing another author’s writing in order to benefit ourselves. I was taught by every teacher that plagiarism was wrong in every way, and results in many consequences; ranging from failing the paper, to failing the course, or being kicked out of the school. I remember my sophomore year in high school when a friend of mine procrastinated until the night before our 5 page paper on Thomas Edison was due. He decided to go online and found a paper similar to the one we had to write; he copied and pasted the majority of the paper along with some paraphrasing, not thinking he would get caught. But sure enough when our teacher returned our papers she asked him to stay after class. She began questioning him and eventually he told her the truth, she decided that this time he would fail the paper but if it happened again she would fail him for the course. This experience added to my fear of plagiarism, and writing in high school became even more difficult for me.

Plagiarism used to be a serious matter that had no explanation or justification. When I heard the word plagiarism I would cringe. Through my years in high school and into college, teachers and professors have made plagiarism an extremely negative aspect. In many of my classes it was as if teachers found pleasure in busting students for copying someone else’s ideas. I am not a teacher so I could be viewing this wrong, but it always seemed to me that teachers immediately jump to conclusions about students plagiarizing. If they sense plagiarism it seems to me that they blame the students, no questions asked. In several ways they tried to prevent plagiarism, such as This website made me fear writing; I knew I was not plagiarizing but what if a certain percentage of my paper came back as being plagiarized and I failed? But now that I have read these essays, I have been able to broaden my view on plagiarism.

In “A Plagiarism Pentimento,” by Howard, the concept of “patchwriting” is talked about. In reading her argument, my views on plagiarism eased up and I realized that it is not as awful as I have been taught my whole life. It is not acceptable to steal another person’s piece of writing, but with reading and using others ideas it allows us to develop our personal views and feelings on an issue. In Miller’s essay and her discussion of Martin Luther King plagiarizing, I grew angry and frustrated with King, but then came to a realization. I found it appalling and completely unacceptable that Martin Luther King has stolen other people’s thoughts and ideas. But after reading this essay the second time I decided I could not let my previous feelings on plagiarism overcome the way that Miller was influencing and helping me to form my own opinion. Now that I think clearly without any prejudices on plagiarism I find it acceptable that King used other’s words because others influence us and this is the way that he reached his audience. But in the same way I think it shows that students should be able to take from other writer’s pieces and use it in their work without it being looked down upon and considered plagiarism. These authors do not consider plagiarism this awful and unworthy thing that I have been taught and they allow me to come out of my bubble and create my own opinion.

From reading these essays I have realized that it is no longer what my professors say about plagiarism that is my view on this issue, but it is my own. But I will continue to respect their plagiarism policies for their classroom. I now define plagiarism as a useful resource that allows us to form our own views even if they combine our thoughts and another author. Using others ideas is no longer stealing or copying, but a way to expand our thoughts and allowing us to develop our opinions. Plagiarism is a no longer a horrible word I hate to hear or a term that means stealing, but a word that incorporates using others opinions to capture our own.

Plagiarism is not evil! Writing a paper should be about getting our thoughts and ideas down onto paper and not worrying about if our professor will think our writing is plagiarized, but sadly it is. Furthermore, I will respect my professor’s wishes, but will no longer let my hatred of the word plagiarism come in between me and my writing. While all three of these authors shine light on plagiarism, they bring up many different aspects of it. Through taking their thoughts and forming an opinion in their essays, they also influence my personal thoughts on plagiarism. Plagiarism will no longer be this word that I fear and cringe toward. Many people have very many different views on plagiarism and they way students are taught that it is right or wrong influences the way that they write.

Works Cited
Howard, Rebecca Moore. “A Plagiarism Pentimento.” Essays on Writing. Eds. Lizbeth A. Bryant and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 115-127. 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.

Hourigan, Maureen. “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills.” Essays on Writing. Eds. Lizbeth A. Bryant and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 156-170. Print.


Ideas improve.
The meaning of words participates in the improvement.
Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it.
It embraces an author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea.
-Guy Debord


When I entered English Composition 101, I was not too excited when I heard Mrs. Trahan tell us that this course was mostly about writing. I did not really enjoy reading or writing, but if I had my pick I would prefer reading. So, from the beginning I began to have a negative attitude towards this class.
We were rapidly assigned our first paper, “Reading, Composing, Responding,” and it was due not too soon after. I understood that we only had this class twice a week so we would be expected to write papers at a fast pace. First of all, I struggled with the first paper because I did not enjoy writing and second of all because I did not know what was expected for college writing. I eventually got something down and worked with it for a few days and turned it in. I was proud that I received a B on my first college paper, but was still not satisfied with the grade. That is why I revised this paper. I took what I had and the advice that Mrs. Trahan gave me and went deeper. She said that I had particularized too much, so I went back and made it more personal and in depth. Although this was hard for me to open up in my writing, I understand why she wanted me to do it. Opening up and generalizing my writing made the paper much stronger than it was.

After our first paper, I was a bit drained and not really up for writing another paper. Slowly but surely, I pieced together my Rhetorical Analysis. After several days of planning and drafting my paper I was able to pull my paper together. I knew it was not the best that I could have done, but I was pretty confident in it. Once I got my paper back and saw that I received a C, I was highly disappointed. I was not planning on revising this essay, but I had to improve it, a C was not satisfying to me. When I met with Mrs. Trahan during the quarter, I discussed this paper and the “Reading, Composing, Responding” paper and discovered what I could do in order to improve them.

While I met with Mrs. Trahan about the first two papers that were assigned throughout the quarter, I also got her guidance for my third paper. This became the turning point in the quarter for me. I had always had negative thoughts about writing, and never wanted to write, but after I met with her she had changed me. I was used to making an outline and strict guidelines for a paper and sticking to them. She helped me to realize that this was not benefitting me and not the best way to write a paper. She suggested a new type of writing for me, and challenged me to try it for my Synthesis essay. So when I sat down in front of the computer to write my third essay, I did not begin with an outline or any guidelines. It was weird but I just sat there for hours, just me and my “Essays on Writing” book, and wrote about the three essays we had to read. I wound up with an enormously long draft, which was exciting because I had always come up short on what to write with my other essays. Although I had plenty written and obviously more than enough, I struggled with hacking it down to the requirements and importance. But in the end, this paper also received a B and was the best paper I had written all quarter she said. When I turned this paper in I was concerned and worried that it would not be good, but I was ecstatic to see that I did well. Mrs. Trahan brought me out of my bubble and allowed me to see that writing has no set definition or requirements, and that it can be fun! This paper did not need much revision, but I did find it enjoyable. There was no pressure that I had normally felt with this paper, I found a new way of writing that is easy going and met requirements.

Throughout English 101 we did many peer reviews with our drafts. I found them very beneficial and liked to get feedback from my classmates. I liked that we were expected to have a draft before we had a paper. If we were given an assignment and not required to do a draft, I do not think that in the end my papers would have been as strong as they had been. Also during the course, revising papers became important. Yes I wanted to improve my grade, but I also wanted to prove my writing. Revising gave me the opportunity to fix my papers and grow in my writing. Never before had I been challenged to improve my writing, it was always just turn in a paper and get a grade. If I ever had revisions to do my teacher would just tell me exactly what to fix. But in English 101, Mrs. Trahan guided me in the way to revise my papers but allowed me to learn and discover how to make a paper better. When I look back on the papers that I have written over the quarter I can see how I have grown as a writer. In the first essay I was caught up in generalizing, and when I look back at my summary I see that it was weak and did not have the important things in it. When I went back and revised it I tried to hack away the extra summary and add in more particular and over all details instead of little ones. In my second essay, I begin to see myself taking a stand in my writing, but I needed to explain more and have more me in it. So when I went back to revise I tried to add more of my opinion, slow down in my writing, and add details. When I came to my third essay, I had really developed myself as a writer. I have taken a stand, given detail, and improved my writing. This paper was the best to revise because I just had to make tiny changes. I also see in over viewing that my rhetorical choices in my first essay are not concrete, but through the second and third essay they become more established. Overall concepts become stronger and more natural throughout the progression in my essays.

I have learned that is time to step it up and write at a higher college level. In writing at this level it is no longer about generalizing and writing but adding more knowledgeable concepts and thoughts into my papers. I have also had my eyes opened to the fact that there is no one way writing, I have broadened my perspective and see that an outline does not benefit me. For certain papers I will outline, but for the most part I am going to steer away from restricting myself to guidelines. This will allow to me enjoy writing more and let my thoughts flow out and show who I am through my writing. Overall, I have found this course extremely beneficial in helping me learn how to write and enjoy it!

Sarah Johnston||hstsnhoj

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