Wait Did I Just Plagiarize

We have all read essays that we might have thought that the writer “borrowed” words from someone else. What really is plagiarism though; it is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work. In the three essays Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition by Keith D. Miller, A Plagiarism Pentimento by Rebecca Moore Howard, and Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student by Maureen Hourigan, we read about three different views of plagiarism. All three of these essays bring about good points on plagiarism and also make us think on what really plagiarism is.

Keith D. Miller’s Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition brings to our attention that a very important person in American History plagiarized large portions of his work, whether it was speeches or dissertations. Keith mentions “Fewer people realize that King used unacknowledged sources throughout his entire public career.” (Miller pg. 128) He later goes onto make points that plagiarism or copyright infringements goes further than just within the “English Community,” that it can occur everywhere. Towards the end of his essay Keith brings about that if public figures such as Malcolm X, were to speak directly from their own words that they would me criticized and crucified for it. This means that their words would not get their point across, unlike King, who used others words. Lastly he says “Clearly, we need to re-examine our definition of plagiarism.” (Miller pg.131)

Many questions arise from reading Keith Miller’s essay redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition, such as should he have got into trouble for his speeches, should we not acknowledge his speeches as great works that changed the United States of America forever, and was what he really did considered plagiarism. All of these questions were racing through my head when I was reading this essay. It literally tossed the way I looked at plagiarism right out the window. If you were to say that King Jr. was to get into trouble for his plagiarism during his speeches, then would you not have to say that basically every single person in the world who passed down a story to their child or gave a speech in a class would have to get in trouble for plagiarism. I for one am sure that at some point I did not cite words that I took from an author in one of my speeches. I did not cite it because when I read it, it moved me, and hoping to have the same effect on my audience I did not want to ruin it by saying as Jack Johnson said in his book The Memories of High School. I believe that his speeches still need to be recognized, not put down at all, because they changed the US and even parts of the world. Yes, I will acknowledge that some of speeches did have words from another person that were not cited, but it was not written down so is it really plagiarism? Not only in speeches did King Jr. “plagiarize” he also did it in his publications which I do believe, that at the time if people recognized it, that he should have got in trouble for it. In a book, paper, essay, or article I think that unless unintended you should always cite another person’s words. For example, in Martin’s book Letters From Birmingham Jail he should have cited other’s words. Miller makes a good point at the end of his essay which is “Simply put, the offense of plagiarism is much more complex and much more ethically relative that we have wanted to admit.” (Miller pg. 131) Also we need to better define the definition of plagiarism.

A Plagiarism Pentimento by Rebecca Moore Howard starts off by her talking about how many teachers as well as herself are very critical when it come to plagiarism. She states “Because we teachers innocuously accept this definition and act upon it, we persecute students for crimes they did not commit.” (Howard pg. 115) She goes onto talk about how students do not realize that they are even plagiarizing, that they chop up the sentences, or in her terms “patchwrite”. Howard says that teachers still shoot down students and categorize this as plagiarism, and try to offer advice such as adding footnotes or citations. Rebecca dates back to the Spring of ’86 when she thought one of her students plagiarized something, but then realized that it was a reoccurring incident in most of her students papers. What the students had done was rephrase and reorder the sentence, therefore making their own words. She gave all those students failing grades and then began to do research on what had happened. She came to the conclusion that when teachers talk about the do’s and don’t’s, the ok’s and the not ok’s, and they do not talk about the gray area, which includes patchwriting.

Moore Howard hits the nail on the head with this essay, she knew that some of the time students do not intend to plagiarize it is them just changes words in a sentence to help them understand the point they want to get across. This has to be true because from when we were a little kid our ideas come from someone else’s ideas. Obviously there are correct ways to summarize, but sometimes the easiest way and the best way to get the main point across is to, rephrase and reorder a sentence. I have done this a few time because when you read something, the way it was written down may be the exact way you want to write it down, so you have no other choice, but to change up the wording. It can become really hard to think of a different way to re-say or restate what the writer said, when you want to say the same thing. What I believe a teacher should do if they come across a student who was patchwriting in a paper, is to ask them why they chose the lettering they did and not mention anything about plagiarism. I am not sure how well this would work out, but I this way the teacher could get a better idea on what the student’s intentions were when he or she was writing that part of the paper.
In the essay Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student by Maureen Hourigan, she focuses on hardcore facts about plagiarism. Hourigan states that in “one conducted in 2001 where 41% of undergraduate students admitted to one or more instances of cut and paste Internet plagiarism,”. (Hourigan pgs. 157-158) Later in her essay Maureen talks about how Universities are buckling down on plagiarism since the era of the Internet has made it a lot easier to do it. Many colleges make sure that on the transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a few other documents, that it is known that this student plagiarized. She bought up Paper Mills, which is where students can buy papers online or buy them from someone else to turn in the paper as their own paper. Also she mentions that many sororities and fraternities have the brothers and sisters save their papers so that other members could use the papers to turn them in. Towards the end of her paper she talks about how students sometimes think of being caught and not being caught as a game, and when you buy a paper online, not only do you waste your money you are wasting your mind.

I found Hourigan’s essay to be very informative because there was a lot of stats and research to back up her own information and points. To me it was interesting to see the extent that a student would go to, just to not write a paper. It sounds like some of these students spent more time, effort, and money to get someone else to write their paper for them, then it would have been if they would have just wrote the paper themselves. For example, that one lady who spent around $20,000 over her college career to have other people write her papers is just plan insane. I personally think that the people who provide paper mills should be punished and also the people who get their papers from Paper Mills. It is one thing to rearrange sentences in a paper, but to completely have someone write a paper for you or to copy someone else’s paper is just wrong. I am sure that the brothers and sisters are just trying to help out the fellow members, but that is just dumb. If you want to help, give the ideas for what they could write about, do not give them the paper that you put your time and effort into.

Overall the three essays Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition by Keith D. Miller, A Plagiarism Pentimento by Rebecca Moore Howard, and Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student by Maureen Hourigan, helped me better understand my stance on plagiarism. Keith D. Miller’s essay changed my mind on what I thought about plagiarism in speeches because it really made me think about how effective speeches can be. Moore Howard’s essay helped me clarify what most students do when they are accused of plagiarism. Lastly Hourigan’s essay provided me with statistical evidence which cleared things up for me because I am a person who like to see some hardcore facts.

Works Cited
Hourigan. Maureen. “Of Plagiarism, Paper Mills, and the Harried Hurried Student.” Essays On Writing. Eds Lizbeth A Bryant & Heather M Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 156-166. Print.
Miller, Keith D. “Redefining Plagiarism: Martin Luther King’s Use of an Oral Tradition.” Essays On Writing. Eds Lizbeth A Bryant & Heather M Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 127-131. Print.
Moore Howard. Rebecca. “A Plagiarism Pentimento.” Essays On Writing. Eds Lizbeth A Bryant & Heather M Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 115-125. Print.

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