Victoria Hahn

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Victoria Hahn
Mrs. Heather Trahan
17 November 2009
My thoughts or Yours?
What if I fail the class? What if I run out of time for my deadline? Should I plagiarize? What if I get caught? These are some of questions ask when students are given the temptation to plagiarize. The topic of student plagiarism is addressed in three essays, “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student” by Maureen Hourigan, “Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition” by Keith D. Miller, and “A Plagiarism Pentimento” by Rebecca Moore Howard. These essays argue the facts of plagiarism and why plagiarism needs to be taken more seriously, or why plagiarism is not as threatening as most people think it is.
In “A Plagiarism Pentimento” Howard describes plagiarism patch working has a direct link to the students understanding to the material. Howard believes that most plagiarism is most pronounced in the early stages of learning how to write. As Howards studies prove here, she believes that plagiarism is just another form of learning how to interpret and write, “These studies suggest that the students didn’t plagiarize at all. Instead they engaged in a summary technique characteristic of writers in a difficulty, or writers in relatively early stages of cognitive development” (120). If the students are taking the time out to actually do their work more than likely they do not make a mental decision to plagiarize, however they do it because they do not fully understand and comprehend the material. When the student understands the material they are able to explain the material in their own words. If they are unsure in what they learned then it is easier for them to switch out a few words and synonyms so they know that their point is correct. This is not done on purpose because the student doesn’t know how else to phrase the facts.

Also in “Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition” Miller points out some of the positive benefits of the “plagiarism” Martin Luther King Jr. used. Large portions of Kings speeches and papers were plagiarized. King used other people’s words and thoughts to construct his speeches and writings. This addressed the question, is plagiarism still horrible even if it changes millions of people for the better? Many groups of people, for example slaves and preachers, take a great part in oral tradition. Is this still plagiarism? These stories and thoughts did not originate from the current preacher, however they do not site who first told that story, and in a lot of these oral traditions the stories go back hundreds of years where it would be impossible to cite the right person. Miller points out “clearly we need to re-examine our definition of plagiarism. That will be a long and difficult process, but scholars can take a first step in doing so by recognizing that some groups, for example preachers, will continue to share discourse, whatever copyright restrictions are imposed on them” (131). Also, King changes the United States of America with his plagiarized speeches.

In “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student” Maureen Hourigan addresses some of the more serious plagiarism of students. Hourigan explains how students buy papers of all kinds online and submit them as their own. This presents an endless amount of wrong doing according to Hourigan. In the past students could not achieve this level of plagiarism very easily, but with the source of the internet plagiarism is literally within one stoke of the key board for any student, no matter what class or subject the paper is on. This temptation is often too much for the student to deny. The internet sites promise so much to the students as explained here, “The custom term papers we provide will be 100% original, written specially for you. You can be absolutely certain that your term paper will pass through all plagiarism detection software successfully” (162). These websites make empty promises to these students and make the students believe that all of their problems for this essay would evaporate with one click of the mouse. They take advantage of the students need to do well in the class and make plagiarizing seem harmless.
Students receive a challenging assignment and end up resorting in using outside sources to complete the assignment because they think they will receive a good grade. More than anything the student is in the end hurting themselves. Hourigan recognizes all of the reasons students would choose to plagiarize. Students are often pressured with time the need for good grades. In college students have to juggle a social life, work and school work on one plate and are expected to excel in every aspect of their life. During heavy stress times like finals week and heavy test week’s one simple five page paper can seem anything but simple. Having that extra work load can push the student over their ability to deal with this stress and force them to resort to plagiarism.
Hourigan has very harsh feelings toward this form of plagiarism as expressed here “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). Hourigan should realize that no student goes into a single paper wanting to plagiarize, they do it because they feel forced to. The students can feel that they do not understand the information well enough, that the teacher is too harsh of a grader, or that they simply are not good enough writers. Instead of Houigan feeling so harshly on plagiarism she, as a professor, should worry more about the route of the problem. Houigan should realize that the only true person plagiarism is hurting is the student. They are not obtaining any of the information the writing was supposed to teach them.
These essays differ in how serious the problem of plagiarism really is. After being more informed about plagiarism from reading these essays am left with the feeling that plagiarism is being taken way to seriously. Too many teachers are “out to get” their students. As addressed in “A Plagiarism Pentimento” Howard proves that the normal everyday student that plagiarizes is just trying to understand the subject of the writing. Patch working is not done to “rip off” the writer’s thoughts, but just to make sure that the facts are right in the paper. Most students just need help as writers when they are plagiarizing, because they do not have the writing basics to express their thoughts without patch working. After all patch working is not even such a serious offence. It can be used to have a greater effect of people, such as the way Martin Luther King Jr. used it in many of his uplifting world changing speeches.
Along with the less harmless patch working there are more serious plagiarism offense taking place. In Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student” Hourigan explains how students buy their essays. Students don’t understand this as plagiarism because they feel that if they are paying for their papers then they are buying those thoughts and words. Students are often under a lot of stress and don’t know how to deal with the pressure. The only person the students are truly hurting is themselves. They need to learn from what the teacher is trying to teach them from the assignment. The students shouldn’t be completely at fault for this. Teachers, parents, bosses and coaches ask way too much from students. They need to understand and realize that class is not the only class that student has to worry about, let alone a job and sports. If teachers and students work together we can resolve the more serious plagiarism issues and have the students get as much out of the coarse as possible, instead of having another person write their essays.
Plagiarism needs to be redefined and thought over. Many of its effects are not harmful, and in fact can have a positive effect, like the way preachers use oral traditions. Writers and speakers should not have to site their thoughts and feelings on a certain subject just because someone previously shared the same beliefs. Students and teachers should try to work more together to make sure the student doesn’t reference to outside sources to complete their works. Plagiarism can be understood better and can be controlled if we work together and see all of the effects of plagiarism, not just the bad ones.

Works Cited
Miller, Keith. “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. 29-35. Print.
Moore Howard, Rebecca. “A Plagiarism Pentimento.” Essays on Writing. Eds Lizbeth A. Bryant and Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 29-35. 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. 29-35. Print

Victoria Hahn
English 101
Mrs. Trahan
I was not expecting this class to be anything like the way it is. I remember getting my books for this class. This was what first got me thinking about what the class was going to be like. When I saw the books I knew that it wasn’t going to be any other English class I have ever taken. In high school I took the grammar classes and the British Literature, these books looked nothing like that. It seemed that for once I was going to be working on my own writing. I had always written essays but they were summaries on characters and short stories, not like the writing I knew I had a head of me. I took honors English all thorough high school and I didn’t know half of the terms in the guide books. I was also surprised when I looked though “Essays on Writing”. For the first time for an English class I saw essays that I would enjoy reading. For the most part they weren’t bland essays on literature, instead I saw essays with catchy titles like “Dyr Mom: Wy R You So Laveable?”. Even before the first class I was excited to see the changes in my writing though out this class.

I thought that the first essay was good to start out with. I was actually interested in reading bell hooks’ essay “writing autobiography” and what she had to say to her readers. I liked examining her writing style. I had never had thought of the steps of writing an essay, reading writing and composing. It seemed so obvious to think about, like why would you write about something before you read it? It was so much more then that. I learned that I had to personally reflect about a paper then just try and to spit it out. For the first time for a class I really “read” an assignment. I went over what hooks’ was trying so say and thought about all the points she brought up. I learned how writers can be truly personal with their writings. I loved the way she wrote without feeling held back. She wrote without caring if other people would judge her, I had never read anything like that before and that’s what I liked the most. This essay was hard because I wasn’t used to critiquing other authors style. I found that as long as I just said what stuck out the most in the essay to me that it would end up truly showing what I thought about hooks.

The rhetorical analysis essay was the hardest one for me to write. It seemed like no matter what I didn’t know how or what I was supposed to say. “Writing to Connect” by Mary Pipher was also my least favorite essay to read. It seemed like common sense, writers write to tell the reader something. The entire time I was readying it I just thought about how all of what Pipher was saying was a given. I didn’t know how to critique it because the only thing that made me think twice about her essay was the examples she used. I struggled the most with this essay and I don’t think I got a lot out of it. I think that if it was on a different essay I thought was more informative I would have been able to critique it better. I also think a lot of it was because we hadn’t had class in a while. I think it was a combination of all these things that made this my least favorite paper.

I think I learned the most though the synthesis essay. It made me go through all of the steps I learned in the first essay like truly reading and understanding the essay, but I had to do all of the steps for all three of the essays. I also found it challenging to put all these essays together to prove my views on plagiarism. I thought all of the articles were very interesting because I had always been warned about plagerism as a high school student but never really understood the big deal about it. Writing this paper allowed me to express my views while having these essays to support it. That’s why I found this essay the most enjoyable.

Now looking back on this course I have truly changed my views on my writing. I think I am still good at the normal five paragraph essays but have dramatically expanded my writing abilities. I know how to break down essays and reflect on the authors writing style. I will be able to use these lessons for the rest of my life. I now take a deeper look into what I am reading and reflect on it and think about my stances on the topic. I get more out of reading then I did before this class. I also think I can express my thoughts more effectively though this class. Over all I believe this course made me a better writer overall.

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