Friday, May 21, 2010

Final letter

Jay Keil

Sarah Fama

English 114

10 May 2010

Plagiarism Letter

Dear SFSU Administration,

As I have spent my time here I have noticed the serious issue of plagiarism at our school. The english class I am in passed out surveys at our school and found that 50% of the students admitted to plagiarism, this shows that the issue should be addressed since such a vast majority of the student population is partaking in this action. I want to suggest a few ideas on how to deter the students at this school from taking part in this academic fallacy. Our school needs to inform our students about plagiarism and motivate them to avoid it.

The ignorance of plagiarism is one of the its leading causes, which is why I suggest that a workshop is created for students. A workshop would give students an opportunity to get hands on training to cover what the different types of plagiarism are and to teach what punishments go along with them. In Pecorari’s journal he writes about an upper devision scholar who plagiarizes in her writing, and he says, “It is not plausible that she intended her reader to form the misleading impression that she had authored this passage because she was the author of the article from which she took it.”(Pecorari, 2003). He is describing how the student reused work she had already published, a type of plagiarism, and how she mistakenly did it instead of trying to deceive readers. It is sad to see such an educated person making such a simple yet devastating mistake. A class on plagiarism is a great solution because it will make sure events like this one will not happen. The students will have each type of plagiarism and its severity to the school as well as its negative effect on learning. This would not only show them what they did is wrong but teach them how to avoid doing the same thing in the future so the student can learn at a better rate and be more confident that they are doing their work correctly. This workshop will drastically cut down the number of people who plagiarize due to misinformation, therefore they will have no excuse for doing it after taking the class. Unfortunately a select few will continue to plagiarize for various reasons besides negligence, but if we can shift their motivation it will help change that.

The best way to change a students motivation is through punishment. Obviously there are already punishments out there, but they are not working. The administration should require students who are caught plagiarizing to have to attend the workshop that I mentioned earlier. The workshop would also be a good way for students that are caught plagiarizing to attend as punishment to learn more about their mistake instead of just being kicked out of the University. If the school’s biggest interest is student’s learning then it should be a priority to teach students that our caught, for whatever reason, to be given a chance to learn from their mistake. Since a workshop is so hands on and personal it can help each student in the way that they need. Knowing that a student will have to take a course like this will likely deter a serial plagiarist because they do not want to have to do all the extra work since in most cases they plagiarized from laziness.

If students actually wanted to do the work instead of being lazy, there is a greater chance they will do the work themselves. Kids are simply not interested in the papers they are writing and turn to plagiarism to get it done quick with little effort. Teachers should let students have more of a choice on what to write papers about. When the student chooses the topic, he or she would be more interested in it, hence have a higher chance of writing it themselves. The students would be able to write about something they are passionate about so not only will the students be more motivated to write it but the papers will also be of better quality due to the extra enthusiasm and interest. The teachers do have to be aware of a small problem with this approach. If the students choose what they want it is easier for them to “fluff” up the papers with pointless information. Some students will likely try to take advantage of the teacher by doing this but it is a small price to pay for the positive impact it will have. It is more of the students job to stay motivated but the extra boost from a teacher being lenient on the essay assignments can only help. It would be a small price to pay for a better outcome in the long run.

If we change just two things about our school we can significantly decrease the amount of plagiarism that goes on here. If we conquer students laziness by giving them choices on writing assignments it will increase motivation and likely get them more involved and students might even have fun researching and writing papers themselves. For those that do not even realize that they are doing anything wrong, the workshop will show them what the actual correct way to write papers and show them how to correctly use citations so they get the real help they need. It is a logical way to lower the plagiarism rate, considering these changes will not take up a lot of the school’s money and will have a large positive effect on the students here as well as staff. At the very least you should consider trying these two ideas for one year, or even just a semester to see if they are effective. I am sure these approaches will be and should be continued until they are perfected but it turns out that informing and motivating the students in these ways does not help then you can simply stop the workshop with no major loss. I hope that you take these ideas into consideration because I am sure you want to see the plagiarism problem decrease as much as I do.


Pecorari, D. (2003). Good and Original: Plagiarism and Patchwriting in Academic Second-language Writing. Elsevier Inc.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Idea draft

Although wikipedia is a popular website and the idea behind it is unique, the university should not allow students to use wikipedia was a source in academic writing. Academic writing is taken seriously and needs legitimate sources. Any type of encyclopedia should not be used as a source, whether it is edited by professionals or anybody. Wikipedia does have some desirable aspects but is not appropriate to use as a source.

The idea behind Wikipedia is what makes it an illegitimate source. Former Britannica editor Robert McHenry concluded that “Opening up the editing process to all, regardless of expertise, means that reliability can never be ensured”(pg. 900). Wikipedia lets everyone, regardless of age, background or knowledge, edit any page they would like so the information can not be legitimate. Since there are no requirements for the anonymous users anything can be said, even if it is a complete fallacy, whether done purposefully or on accident. Although there are scientists that do put accurate information on certain subjects, there is no way to tell because a high school student could have corrected the scientists post, corrupting the data. The fact is, Wikipedia should not be cited or be a primary source for your information, but it can be a good place to start to find sources.

Whether Wikipedia is accurate or not is not the question, it is more important for students to learn to get their information from primary sources. Not just Wikipedia but also any kind of encyclopedia should be avoided for sources because they are vague and just give an overview. The in depth information from primary studies or sources is what should be used for academic writing.

There are some good aspects of Wikipedia. After some tests were done it was said that compared to Brittanica, Wikipedia only had one more average mistake per entry. This shows that the information is relatively accurate but students should be more interested in the works cited to get directly to the source of the information. This will often prove if the information is right and is a much more legitimate option for citing in an academic paper.

Wikipedia is a breakthrough in some instances and hopefully will someday be considered a source suitable for academic writing. Until that day it should simply be a starting point that should still be checked. If we use it correctly Wikipedia will be a helpful resource.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

CH. 3

This chapter was very interesting and had a lot of insight from college students so I can really relate to it. It talked about your "authentic self" and your performance self" and the difference between them and why one is more likely to plagiarize than the other. The performance self is the one that is more likely to do it because it strives to achieve its academic goals and will do whatever it takes to get to those goals. The authentic self is more focused on learning and improving in its own way than getting a specific grade. The authentic self is more appreciated and is preferred but it is hard to be purely authentic. Everything we learn and do has an outside influence unless you are locked in a room creating things completely on your own, but not many people are going to go through that trouble to stay authentic. We are pressured to perform every day, from doing well at work to school, even your friends expect a performance of some kind. The authentic person disregards what people think of them completely, they don't let what other people want them to be take over their lives. It is not easy to be authentic but there should definitely be more authentic people out there. I can say that I do agree with these two types, because I have seen both kinds of people and they have portrayed these selves and even in my own life have had times where I needed to perform and may have done something I normally don't do to finish. I do believe however that these are not the only two selves, I think there is a lot more going on with people and it would be to hard to put them into just two categories. I think I identify more with the authentic self, or at least I hope I do, cheating and plagiarizing are really bad in my opinion and I try not to do either. I try to learn and create on my own with little outside help but realistically it is almost impossible to be truly authentic.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reflection of ch. 2 and Gladwell article

I found Gladwell's article very interesting because something similar, on a much smaller scale, happened to me. When I was a Junior in high school I thought the yearbooks were boring and so I had the idea to have everyone that wrote in my yearbook sign the cover somewhere, which gave it a cool, unique look. The next year when the new yearbook came out they had collected everyones signature throughout the year and filled the entire front and back cover with the schools signature. I know where the women in the article is coming from, there is this strange feeling that you have been robbed or deprived of something. In some ways however it can be flattering that they thought the idea was good enough to actually use the next year so why does it matter who gets the credit. I know where the idea came from and I was not upset enough to go talk to the yearbook staff. Even if I did complain and make a big deal out of it the yearbooks had already been printed and distributed, no person at the school would really care that much. Also an interesting question is, would I be able to charge them with plagiarism? If I did, which I would not, what would it achieve except cause controversy, embarrassment and little personal gain, if any.
It was interesting to me to see the variety of different views the people interviewed in chapter 2 had. Some of them believed that plagiarism wasn't that bad if they accidently wrote their sources incorrectly or if they just took an idea from something they read but no actual words. The thing that most people agreed on however was that if the person that plagiarized did it on purpose with the intent to pass someone else's work as their own on purpose it is different and wrongful. That is probably among the many reasons why it is so hard for punishments to be chosen for the accused. They should be forced to write essays until they get it right instead of being expelled or something ridiculous.
The other thing that I have been thinking about lately is that since their are so many different people in the world how can any ideas be original, someone has had to have thought about it before or written it down somewhere. Also the way we make our own ideas and the way we write is by the way were have been taught how to do it in the past, technically plagiarizing everyone we have ever talked to or learned from. Is it safe to write anything, is one persons pride valuable enough to ruin another person's life? To what extent do we take it?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What is an essay

An essay, in my opinion, is a structured written response to anything from a book, a movie or a certain prompt. Essays do not have to be a response to something though, they can be about anything really. I have only written essays in school so I think of them in a different way as older people. I did not realize that essay could actually be a verb so i looked it up on and it means "to attempt". I found this very interesting because I did not know that and that for most essays you do have to essay. Now that i know the other context for the word I plan on using it more.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Intro and Ch. 1

After reading the introduction and the first chapter of Susan Blum's My Word!, my view of plagiarism has become even more unclear. It seems that the penalties and charges for plagiarism are vague except for the occasional person who gets a gruesome verdict to make an example and to intimidate the other students. I do find it interesting that plagiarism can actually improve a work although it is highly looked down upon. Where is the line actually drawn on what is right and wrong?