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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Plagiarism and Update
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0823  Monday, 18 March 2002

From:           Marcia Eppich-Harris <
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Date:           Tuesday, 12 Mar 2002 15:30:49 -0500
Subject:        Plagiarism and Update

HI everyone,

I know that plagiarism was a long thread for a while, but I just wanted
to update you all on my Research Writing class in which I have been
using Hamlet and Macbeth. The students turned in their first papers -
Context papers - about two weeks ago. During the grading process, I felt
compelled to look up every bloody source that was listed on the works
cited pages, no matter how innocent a source may have appeared. It took
forever to get through the papers, but I am glad that I did what I did.
I found that, out of 43 students, eight of them plagiarized. Only one of
the offenders had absolutely no original words in her paper. Most of
them didn't REALIZE they were plagiarizing. I am not sure whether to buy
that or not. Some of them said, disregarding everything I've said in
class apparently, that they thought that if they listed a source on a
works cited page that they didn't have to use quote marks or
parenthetical documentation. When I heard this, I thought, "where were
you the three or four times we discussed this in class??"

What really slays me is that, plagiarism aside, there were at least a
dozen students who used web sites like Planet Papers.com and free
essays.com, not to mention shakespeare essays.com, as resources. I know
that the web sites say (to protect themselves) that the papers on there
are to be used as reference materials, but who in their right mind would
really consider an essay (without ANY documentation, bibliography, etc.)
on a web site like that to be a "good" source? It could have been
written by the proverbial monkey sitting in front of a typewriter trying
to produce the next Hamlet for all we know. I think that they are just
too lazy to go to the library to find a reputable source in a book, to
tell the truth, which doesn't inspire much confidence in me for the
future. One of the plagiarizers came up to me after class to talk about
his paper. He was disgusted with my accusation that he plagiarized, even
though the proof was in black and white (another Planet Papers.com user,
with word for word "borrowing" without documentation). He said something
like: "with the kind of documentation standards you have, I'll never be
able to write a word in here and pass." I was sort of flabbergasted that
he would be so aggressive, but I was even more surprised when he said,
"I'm an education major, and I've never had to do anything like this."

That's America for you.

Anyway, I was warned that plagiarism would be in my future if I tried to
use Shakespeare in a freshman research class. So here's the update to
let the skeptics know that they were right. I'm withholding my judgment
on the experience of using Shakespeare in this class until I read their
final research papers, but lately, I have been very discouraged. The one
thing that truly amazes me is that I have three Japanese students who
are all getting As in the class. They are reading Shakespeare for the
first time, obviously in a in a foreign language, and they are all doing
very well on their papers as well as in-class tests. I feel like if the
Japanese students can do it, and really are doing well, then my American
students should be ashamed of themselves. Certainly, I don't teach
English majors, but my students aren't at the kind of language
disadvantage that the Japanese students were coming in. Maybe they just
don't care. Or maybe they expected this to be easy, and they don't want
to work hard. Maybe some of them just shouldn't be in college. (not that
I think being able to read and write about Shakespeare's plays denotes
whether or not one should attend college.  But I think being able to
rise to a challenge and overcome obstacles is, indeed, a big part of
college, as well as life. If they aren't capable of taking challenges
and overcoming obstacles, what then??)

"'Tis true 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true!"
Marcia

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