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There are 19 comments on Unoriginal Sins

  1. Cut-n-paste is obvious plagiarism. Noted quotations with attribution is not. The hard part is when a particular piece of research spawns a thought process in the student’s mind that moves a paper in a new direction: that’s creative! — but how to attribute it? Especially if the thought elicited a negative response.

    Sometimes you have an idea or even a quotation, but you don’t know remember where you read it. “I milk a lot of cows but make my own butter” is a cute quotation I saw on the web recently and I thought it would be cute to footnote it here, but doing a quick websearch couldn’t locate my source (in fact it yielded several sources, none of which I recall visiting).

    Particularly in religion and theology, Christians work with only a few dozen source documents which fit neatly into one volume (the Bible), but there has been 2000 years of scholarship since, multiplied in countless pulpits and classrooms — dollars to donuts somebody had your idea already!

  2. Most university perspectives on plagiarism narrowly assume that plagiarism can only be applied to student assignments. In fact, I think a great deal of plagiarism happens with faculty stealing from students. Graduate students often play large roles in the development of grant proposals, instruments of research, and presentations, which are readily lifted by faculty with little/no credit given to the author. Again, technology makes it easy for a professor to copy slides from a student’s presentation (often to a smaller audience) of their collaborative research and insert them into his/her own presentation (where it will be presented more broadly to the field) and credit is rarely given for the creator of the slides. Then the student is left in the position of having to create new slides or risk the appearance of having stolen them him/herself in future presentations. Perhaps it’s time to create some guidance for faculty on how to give credit where credit is due. Maybe if faculty started walking the talk, students would take plagiarism more seriously.

  3. I certainly agree with what has been said by others on this topic. As an author of a book, I find the idea of someone taking my ideas and using them without credit, is not just plagerism, but very unfair. It is an honor to publish, but it takes a lot of work and often years. I appreciate my work being read too, but if you want to use my material, please just give me credit, I appreciate it!

  4. As a student who’s been through two history programs (BA History, MA American Studies) and is now at BU getting a theater MFA, I can’t help but think the penalties for plagiarism aren’t strong enough. Both theses I’ve written have been 100% me, and frankly, I’ve busted my ass to make sure they were the best I could make them.

    It really fries me to think that these plagiarizers and I will have gotten the same degree, when they did half the work I did, and I can’t help but think this is somehow contributing to the overall devaluation of a college degree as it applies in the workforce and other non-scholastic endeavors these days.

  5. I believe the advice to “Never have anything in front of you when you’re writing” is wrong. It is important to have all of your sources in front of you when you’re writing so that you know where each and every idea came from; where others’ thoughts end and yours begin. As long as you give proper credit, including others’ work adds strength to your own work.

  6. I believe the advice to “Never have anything in front of you when you’re writing” is wrong. It is important to have all of your sources in front of you when you’re writing so that you know where each and every idea came from; where others’ thoughts end and yours begin. As long as you give proper credit, including others’ work adds strength to your own work.

  7. “Stephens says some students, undergraduate and graduate, are so ignorant of the nature of scholarship that they don’t know what an original source is and when it should be cited.”

    I agree with this wholeheartedly. I’m facilitating one of BU’s online programs, and I’ve already encountered flagrant (whole-cloth) plagiarism, warnings about which have gone totally unheeded. More than one student has demonstrated the view that when plagiarism or uncited paraphrasing is uncovered, that the student may have somehow done something incorrectly, rather than having violated an important educational behavior code.

    I would be willing to dismiss the violations as genuine ignorance, but two things prevent me from shrugging off academic dishonesty so easily: first, the sources of the plagiarized material are mysteriously absent from the list of references for the paper, and second, that every instance of unpunished cheating devalues the degree for the students who do submit their own work.

    Yet despite clear explanations of what constitutes plagiarism, it persists, accompanied by genuine-seeming exclamations of ignorance. For a graduate program, it’s depressing to see how low our standards have become, and in a class of just over a hundred, we already have three formal proceedings for plagiarism underway. That’s crazy.

    Pirating music and movies may be commonplace, but it’s up to parents to emphasize how serious a violation of the law it is to do so. The parents could be fined thousands or even millions of dollars should the family’s IP address be targeted by the RIAA or MPAA under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Without the reinforcement from existing authority figures that theft is theft – whether tangible or intellectual – students will likely see the Academic Conduct Code as a quaint relic of a bygone era. We as academics need to keep the code relevant and meaningful.

  8. Fittingly enough, Hegemann even plagiarized her justification for plagiarism.

    “Nothing is original…authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.” -Jim Jarmusch

    Full quote:
    “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery. celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.'”

    This is talking about inspiration though, not lazy students looking for an easy way out of an assignment.

  9. The comparison between pirating digital music to plagiarism is flawed. Copying a file and still crediting the original artist is nothing like plagiarism. The real comparison would be copying a file and taking credit for writing/playing the song.

    Don’t blame music piracy as a moral shade of gray that leads to plagiarism.

  10. If you don’t give us original things to think about and write about instead of the same ol’ crappy assignment, then you are sure to get plagiarised material.

    Set forth something that is inspiring to think about and write about. Less room for lifting.

  11. Joe Biden should not be included among those accused of plagiarism. In speaking on the campaign trail, he quoted AND credited an author’s words in his speech. In a subsequent speech, he neglected to credit the author. What he has admitted to is not crediting the author in the subsequent speech. Since so many campaigners get confused about even what city they are in, I don’t consider him a plagiarist.

  12. For heavens sake, don’t follow Mehegan’s advice to read all the reference material and then put it away and write the paper. That’s the BEST way to get caught plagairism — it virtually assures you don’t credit other people’s ideas.

  13. Plagiarism is the norm on the internet. Even i do it for FB or twitter. Yea sometimes you get hate for plagiarising, but usually i do it because im sharing something on social media for some laughs.

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