10 May 2010
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.