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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: June ::
Re: Plagiarism
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0628.  Monday, 3 June 1997.

[1]     From:   Libby Bradford <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 1997 12:42:57 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:

[2]     From:   Ed Pixley <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jun 1997 15:01:16 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0616  Re: Plagiarism

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 1997 09:54:05 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 8.0616  Re: Plagiarism

[4]     From:   Bob Dennis <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jun 97 15:32:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0616  Re: Plagiarism

[5]     From:   Gabriel Wasserman <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jun 1997 17:43:26 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Plagiarism

[6]     From:   Stephen Windle <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 1997 18:00:30 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0616 Re: Plagiarism


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Libby Bradford <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 1997 12:42:57 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Plagiarism

>I was in a grad. Shakespeare seminar and I heard through those wonderful
>departmental grapevines that my professor was convinced that a fellow
>student had plagiarized an ENTIRE paper on "Romeo and Juliet," but that
>he was getting too old to go chasing down sources. He questioned her,
>she denied it, and he let it go, but spent the rest of the semester in
>(visible) disgust. The student in question eventually dropped out of the
>program entirely and moved to another state... claiming all the way, of
>course, that the professor who "drove her away" was completely
>insane....
>
>I know this is a serious subject, but I can't help but laugh when I
>think of this story. The student was a certified twinkie, a mental
>lightweight, and the professor was, by all accounts except hers, a
>brilliant teacher.  (I wouldn't dare plagiarize own my name within ten
>feet of this guy...)

I have been trying to hold my tongue on this matter, but after reading
more responses I feel I cannot.  I have a similar story, but this one
involved me.  About this time last year, I had a roommate move in to
share my apartment.  Well, she decided to share more than that.  She
helped herself to one of my papers (while I was at work) and proceeded
to use as much as she could in a paper for the same professor.   The
reason I know?  She asked to proofread it.  I couldn't believe what I
was reading and thought "I'm making something out of nothing, because
how could someone cheat like this and *then* ask me to proofread it?"
She went ahead and turned it in and I went home and checked my paper
against a copy of hers and sure enough...it was just as I had thought.

A very long story...made brief.... she was given a slap on the wrist and
allowed to finish school.

I have very strong feelings on this matter, considering I was told that
*I* could have been dismissed from school for something someone else
did.  I do not support cheating in any form.  I am also leery of saying
students plagiarize because they don't know any better.  I know that's
possible, but I wouldn't say that that is the reason in the majority of
cases.

After knowing this particular person and asking around, I found this was
not her first attempt at some form of plagiarism.  However, the other
student who knew more would not step forward for fear of being dismissed
from school.

I know that my situation was different than the one first mentioned, in
that the situation occurred in graduate school.  But, I also feel that
this form of cheating should not go unpunished on whatever level it
occurs.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pixley <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jun 1997 15:01:16 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0616  Re: Plagiarism
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0616  Re: Plagiarism

Sorry to beat this plagiarism post again, but at least one area has not
yet been dealt with. Do the students understand the value (not just the
morality) of citing sources?  As Aristotle pointed out, among the three
types of artistic proof is ethical proof.  Writers and speakers need to
establish their authority if they expect to have their ideas taken
seriously. How can undergraduates expect to have their ideas taken
seriously if they don't first persuade us that they have taken the
trouble to acquire that authority, that they have done their homework,
become familiar with the field?  And what better way to establish their
authority than by citing sources, demonstrating their understanding of
those already established authorities who have, by their scholarship,
laid the ground for further research and raised those questions
perceived as important by professionals in the field?  This does not
mean that students should only be repeating and reporting on what has
already been established.  But if they are breaking new ground, as an
undergraduate was recently cited on this list as doing on _Lear_, their
new ideas are much more likely to be taken seriously when they
demonstrate a knowledge of what has gone before.  Whenever I introduce
research to my students, I try to make them understand that careful
citation and selective quotation are not punishments by dull pedants
like myself but valuable tools of persuasion in the presentation of
their ideas.

Rhetorically,
Ed Pixley
SUNY-Oneonta

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 1997 09:54:05 -0700
Subject: 8.0616  Re: Plagiarism
Comment:        RE: SHK 8.0616  Re: Plagiarism

Hi, guys.

I've been enjoying the plagiarism discussion for the last little while,
but I think the central carrot vs. stick debate seems to be missing the
point.  There isn't that much of a contradiction between mutually
self-reinforcing methods like this, after all.  Knowing and having
declared to your students that you'll fail anyone who plagiarizes not
only provides you with a duty to explain what it means, but also
motivates students to ask.  Similarly, having explained correct methods
of citation one has a duty, both to oneself and to the students who were
paying attention, to at least mark down anyone who doesn't deploy them.

I usually read my students the riot act in the first class, citing
examples of senior professors fired by boards of governors meeting on a
Sunday or persons who had their degrees recalled years later, for
instance.  The purpose of this isn't merely to instill fear, but to show
that there's a system of professional ethics and disciplinary honour
into which they are entering by taking the class.  In other words, it's
not a matter of me (the all-powerful teacher) imposing rules on them
(the powerless, oppressed students), but my giving them the respect due
to full members of our profession, and accordingly expecting them to
maintain the code of honour and integrity implicit in that status.

Cheers,
Sean

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Dennis <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jun 97 15:32:19 -0500
Subject: 8.0616  Re: Plagiarism
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0616  Re: Plagiarism

Dear SHAKSPERians,

I have a slightly different take on the aspects of plagiarism.  When I
was an undergraduate, I served on the student Honor Court.  There were
two cases presented to the court in different years.  The first was a
young woman who "plagiarized" two or three sentences from something like
Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences: she placed them in her paper
without footnoting them.  This was a first offense, committed by a
freshman.  The professor involved was livid and unforgiving.  Although
the student Honor Court recommended a short suspension, this girl was
summarily removed from school by a faculty  committee without any
possibility of re-admission.

The second case was a young woman who copied extensively from two
particular sources for a paper on William Faulkner.  This was a third
offense, committed by a senior student.  The court recommended dismissal
as appropriate due to the extensiveness of the copying (more than 80% of
the paper was copied verbatim) and the offense being a repeated
offense.  The Dean of Faculty called me (as Chief Justice) into his
office and "explained" to me that some people "simply did not know right
from wrong" and that they were going to let this woman graduate,
regardless of the plagiarized material.  I vividly recall his telling me
that "just because this girl doesn't know right from wrong is no reason
that she should not have a degree like other people."  The court was
instructed to forget about the case.

These two cases, with other subsequent observations, have influenced my
general thoughts on the subject many years later in my life:

1)  Plagiarism by undergraduate students is a small offense (usually)
when considered in the general run of life.  Such offenses are _usually_
by untrained or inexperienced students; can originate in students under
too much stress; can be unintentional when a student has taken copious
notes which include roughly verbatim passages in the notes.  They can,
of course be simple laziness, also, hardly a cause for maximum
punishment.  Cases for more senior students (especially graduate
students) or repeated offenses should be treated with more severity.

2) The rules in academia appear to be commonly applied unevenly, with
some students getting an easy ride and others being tossed about quite
viciously and/or quixotically.  In addition to the inequity of the cases
cited above, I know personally of a Ph.D. recipient who was given (by
his advisor) the questions AND ANSWERS to be asked at his orals two or
three days before his examination, with the instruction, "Know these
answers."  The student had failed his oral examinations twice before.  I
know of several additional strangely unfair happenings, all of which
lead me to conclude that we are foolish to apply any rule too strictly
in a particular case.  With respect to the case under discussion, I am
suggesting that the sensitivity to plagiarism in one student's paper may
not be the same sensitivity you bring to grading another student's
paper.  Thus, to go out of your way to track down sources of which you
are only suspicious and cannot securely identify yourself, might be
close to "picking on" a certain student.  Unless it is a repeated
pattern, wouldn't it be sager to let it ride, perhaps with the personal
talks and advice suggested by other LIST members?

3) It seems neither wise nor fair that the members of an Internet
discussion forum be asked to pin down sources for a professor who
"suspects" plagiarism.  If a professor sees plagiarism personally, i.e.,
can identify the specific copying himself or herself, then that
professor may decide how to proceed with the student. The professor may
even seek advice on how to proceed from the experiences of others on the
net.  But the group should not be used to help convict the purported
offender.  The practice of trial without representation is supposed to
be illegal in U.S.A.

Just three thoughts closely related to the recent general discussion of
plagiarism.

Respectfully,
Bob Dennis

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[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Wasserman <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jun 1997 17:43:26 -0400
Subject:        Re: Plagiarism

Isn't there a web site called "schoolsucks" where people submit papers
for other students to cut and paste?

I heard once about a teacher who, to see if the students were really
being copying papers directly off the site or were just getting
information from it, anonymously submitted a paper entitled "Christopher
Shakespeare, William Marlowe, and the Epidermis of Sixteenth Cencherry
[sic] Drama".  Sure enough, one of his students submitted that very
essay, and pleaded innocence.  The teacher went into his file cabinet/
and took out a handwritten draft of the essay...!

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Windle <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 1997 18:00:30 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0616 Re: Plagiarism
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0616 Re: Plagiarism

K.  Nolan is correct.  Really folks if someone documents references ( or
attempts to ) this means they're truly putting out an effort.  Step back
for a moment...  How do you write about Shakespear w/ out Plagiarism ?

Stephen
 

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