March 09, 2006

Plagiarism - A lesson learned


A friend of mine went through a traumatic episode this past month involving a reflective essay she wrote in a creative writing course; a required course in the program where she is enrolled as a foreign student.

Here's what happened: she was assigned to write a reflective essay comparing a 70s film and its 90s remake and to focus on the portrayal of changed family dynamics in american society. This friend had never heard about this movie let alone see it! Given that she grew up on a different continent and that she'd been in this country for just about six months, that didn't come as a surprise. Faced with this roadblock and having no support system to turn to for guidance, she turned to the only resource she had, the internet. Here's where she committed a grievous fault; she took the easy way out by doing a 'copy' 'n 'paste'!

Lo and behold! She was caught! The professor brought her to task by showing her the very piece that she'd copied from. My friend pleaded guilty to having copied the article but claimed ignorance to the fact that she had committed any sort of a crime. Her defense was that the country she grew up in did not view plagiarism as seriously as the USA did, and that students in her country 'do this all the time'. The professor then referred her case to the 'grade appeal committe'. After a torturous wait of ten days during which friends, including myself, told her of all the possible consequences that she may have to face, she feared the worst. Short of packing her bags, she was all set to go home when lady luck smiled down on her, and she breathed a sigh of relief! She would not have to go back afterall! However, she lost credit for the course($1300/-); she would now have to enroll for another remedial course ($1000/-) and then take the creative writing course ($1300/-)over. Frankly speaking, she got a sweet deal. People have fared far worse!

Here's what she learned from this harrowing experience, and she wanted me to pass it on to other students, especially foreign students, so that they don't find themselves in a similar situation:
If you have nothing to say, then say nothing. Don't copy someone elses thoughts and pass them off as your own! That's termed 'plagiarism', a punishable offense in the USA, and your ignorance of the law will not be an admissible excuse. Plagiarism could cost you a course, a semester, a year, and even an entire degree of your academic career! Now that's one costly mistake, and none of us, certainly not a foreign student, can afford the luxury of making that mistake.

34 comments:

Dr. Deb said...

I always strive to reference where I get my information. Even when blogging, I site references and resources. I am very sensitive to not taking, using or borrowing without recognition of the original author.

~Deb

Anonymous said...

surely plagirasim should be punishibale, sad not too many countries follow that.one of my blogs www.freedomforkashmir.blogspot.com has articles from diffrent sources but i surely have referred to authors. ~nasir

Anonymous said...

Any how going tru ur blog I really liked it.....Great.

EXSENO said...

So tell me this, if she would have used the same material but referenced it would it have be alright for her to still use it?

Anonymous said...

quite informative :))

Saurabh said...

Hmm ...

Honestly, I had no idea plagiarism is considered that big an offence in the United States.

I must admit though, that here, in colleges, it happens quite a lot and I have myself been witness to such things.

Though, it is frowned upon, you might not land into that much of a trouble ... unless you are plagiarising from the answer sheet of the guy sitting in front of you in an examination. Hehe ... :)

But thanks again for the very informative post.

bablu said...

Good post. I did'nt know Plagiarism was an offence of such proportion in the US.

Id it is said...

exseno,
Yes, if she had cited her sources and put qoutations marks where necessary, she would have been ok.

Dr. Deb said...

Every semester I have to go over the writing rules for the grad students. Not all, but many do not cite where there sources come from.

sivananth said...

actually, its difficult to detect plagiarism even in electronic format, unless the professor knows the original content. The plagiarism finder software checks for runs of 4 or 5 words. So some students just add a few words (articles, adjectives..) for every run and pass them off their own.

Anonymous said...

A good technique for foreign students (or anyone who knows another language) is to find a non-English source and simply translate. It takes a little more time than cut-and-paste, but it's nearly impossible to detect and still easier than thinking for yourself.

And if you're stuck for a source to support your ideas, just cite a page in a non-English source that, to someone who doesn't know the language, looks like it may, maybe, actually does say what you claim it does.

I guess like anything else, good plagiarism takes effort!

;)

Jotabello said...

I think the copy'n'paste is not a crime, the problems start when u are cought.
I know pliagiarism is a bad think, but it's worst when US try to eradicate the crime with highest punishments.
We don't have to cut the wings, we must teach how to fly.
There's nothing left to say in this world, so, sooner or later we will copy'n'paste involuntarily.

Anonymous said...

Interesting!

robmacca said...

I'm just so glad I'm not a student!
Yes the net makes things easier, but now there is more and more red tape.
Maybe the good old fashioned way was better!!

Wendy C. said...

I sure that is a lesson your friend will never forget -

Anonymous said...

whoa! *i was writing my masters' thesis when i read this i am liberally copying and pasting, from my own paper though ;)*

myaxl said...

hey i have seen so many of them follow plagiarism religiously!!I don know much bot the situation in the US, but in my country, its not seen as an offense at all..but, i hate thsi idea of plagiarism...infact, people following this shld be punished!

Anonymous said...

i do it myslef all da time, im in uft and havent been caught once

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