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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Re: Plagiarism and Update
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0885  Friday, 29 March 2002

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Mar 2002 12:18:29 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0857 Re: Plagiarism and Update

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Mar 2002 13:44:31 -0500
        Subj:   Plagiarism and Update

[3]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Thursday, 28 Mar 2002 16:16:23 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0857 Re: Plagiarism and Update

[4]     From:   Karen Peterson <
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        Date:   Fri, 29 Mar 2002 03:38:35 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0857 Re: Plagiarism and Update


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Mar 2002 12:18:29 -0600
Subject: 13.0857 Re: Plagiarism and Update
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0857 Re: Plagiarism and Update

Edmund Taft writes,

>. . . if the instructor
>accuses a student of plagiarism and cannot prove it, in many
>institutions the big guns are turned on the instructor, and s/he can be
>doubly sued, once by the student and yet again by the administration.

'Tis true. But a little thought will show that this fact is both morally
and legally correct. You should never accuse another person of a serious
offense if you can't prove it. Just because you're sure it's true,
doesn't mean that it *is* true. A false accusation could be considered a
more serious (because more personally damaging) than plagiarism. I
consider it so.

When I have a case where I'm confident that the paper has been
plagiarized, but can't find the source (or don't want to spend the time
looking), I simply refuse to accept it. I give the student a set amount
of time in which to write a replacement, with the proviso that he or she
be prepared to show notes and drafts. I have never (yet) had a case of a
second effort at plagiarism with faked notes and a fake rough draft.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Mar 2002 13:44:31 -0500
Subject:        Plagiarism and Update

Richard Burt writes:

>I don't mean to suggest that we should not take plagiarism seriously (I
>fail offenders in the class), but  it also strikes me that the scholarly
>apparatus is being challenged in some ways.

Yes, and there really is a fundamental problem when writing about
authors like Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, etc. that is not talked about
often.  In short, is it POSSIBLE to write an essay about Shakespeare
without plagiarism?  Can ANYONE cleanly and completely categorize/know
what is entirely new (and hence one's own) and what is stored in memory
and gotten from years, decades, of reading?

I will confess that more than once I thought I had come up with an idea
(and was completely convinced it was mine alone), only to discover that,
really, I had read it elsewhere but forgotten that I had done so.
Doesn't that really happen often? -- more often than perhaps we would
like to admit?

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Thursday, 28 Mar 2002 16:16:23 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0857 Re: Plagiarism and Update
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0857 Re: Plagiarism and Update

Richard Burt writes, "At UMass, the faculty member has the option of
failing the assignment, failing the student in the course, and asking
that the student be expelled.  I am on the Academic Honesty Board...  I
also wonder if we should feel so shocked when there have been so many
recent stories about famous historians who have plagiarized.   One of my
own colleagues was accused (and found guilty) of plagiarizing by one of
his Ph.D students (whose work he stole)."

I assume we all can make a distinction between a careless error and
wholesale plagiarism?  The recent incidents involving scholars from
Massachusetts, at Mt. Holyoke and in Boston, give the state a bad rap.
I graduated with an MFA from UMass-Amherst, took my research seriously,
and footnoted _everything_.  Massachusetts has always had a gold star on
its forehead as a place of pride when it comes to scholarship.  Of
course, that was in the _good ole days_ before the dawning of the Age of
the Computer, and maybe things have changed :)

Richard also writes, "I don't mean to suggest that we should not take
plagiarism seriously (I fail offenders in the class), but  it also
strikes me that the scholarly apparatus is being challenged in some
ways. I remember reading an essay by Frank Letricchia a few years ago
that had no footnotes at all and thinking that this must be a new
fashion or version of academic stardom--once one becomes famous enough,
one no longer needs to cite.  And Raritan prides itself on publishing
essays that have no footnotes."

A colleague of mine in journalism, Jack Olsen, has written numerous
books without footnotes--but then that is journalism, and the tapes to
back up the field notes are in the college archives with the rest of his
papers.  But that is _not_ your point, of course.  And yet, with the
pressure on publishers these days, we do note new styles of
bibliographies and footnotes, do we not?  And some supposedly
intelligent readers cannot even decipher the abbreviated apparatus.  In
a biographical-thesis book I did in 1998, _Emily Dickinson's Secret
Love_, I opted for a journalistic approach and cited works in the text
where appropriate.  Of course, anything borrowed should be attributed
with quotation marks, always.

What disturbs me more, however, is the advent of our new medium, message
boards and internet websites, and the ability of the unscrupulous
writers to lift material without attribution.  Some lists make it
totally confusing as to who wrote what, if you know what I mean.  Any
solution to that?

In the same vein, I have noticed the tendency of certain cliques with
anonymous internet names to develop round certain viewpoints round
certain authors and certain scholars, so much so that their
unsubstantiated viewpoints ride herd on certain lists which if published
in book form would never fly.  I would love to have a solution for
handling the unprofessionalism on lists dedicated to authors elsewhere
in which scholars with agendas to trump are acting more like students
than scholars.  Any ideas?

Of course, SHAKESPER can pride itself on professionalism and none of the
above complaints.

Bill Arnold

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson <
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Date:           Fri, 29 Mar 2002 03:38:35 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0857 Re: Plagiarism and Update
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0857 Re: Plagiarism and Update

Ed Taft writes,

> In my view, the heart of the problem, the reason for
> the exponential
> increase in plagiarism, lies in the new notions (1)
> that college is just
> a credential (and hence to be gotten as quickly and
> painlessly as
> possible), and (2) that the students are our
> "customers" (and hence,
> whatever the customer wants is, ipso facto, right.)

As he so frequently is, Ed is in my opinion absolutely correct in this
view.  My teaching experience here in the UK has been quite limited so
far, but interestingly, I have not (yet!) encountered plagiarism
problems to anywhere near the extent that I did in US or US-format
universities.  This may just have been good luck, or it may point to
different cultural attitudes towards university-level education over
here.

When I was last teaching in a US-format public university, I did many of
the things mentioned by all the contributors to this thread (custom
assignments, drafts, checking, in-class development, etc.) and found
that this did reduce the problem considerably.  However, I also
encountered the occasional student who seemed to view the precautions as
an elaborate game, the objective of which was to manage, against all
odds, to circumvent the anti-plagiarizing measures I and others put in
place.

I was perhaps fortunate in having a couple of cultural factors on my
side.  Guam, where I was teaching, traditionally lays great weight on
respect for elders.  It is also heavily Catholic, in the traditional,
Spanish-colonial way that Latin America and the Philippines are
Catholic.  So...I played on how ashamed their parents and grandparents
would be were they to discover that their children had cheated (this was
made easier by the fact that Guam is a rather insular society and I
actually KNEW a lot of their families, AND that I had actually played
this card a couple of times).  And I told them that plagiarizing was a
SIN and that they would suffer accordingly for it in the afterlife.

It more or less worked.  But not always.

Cheers,
Karen

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