Monday, February 18, 2013

Have You Plagiarized Before?

We all know we shouldn't do it and we risk dismissal from the University, but how well do we understand what plagiarism is in the first place?

Our 2012-2014 University of Redlands Catalog says "plagiarism occurs when the words of another are reproduced without acknowledgement or when the ideas or arguments of another are paraphrased and presented in such a way as to lead the reader to believe that they originated from the writer." Personally, I like Teddi Fishman's (Clemson University) definition which is loosely paraphrased below.

According to Fishman, you plagiarize when
  1. you use ideas, words, or just about anything 
  2. that's been produced by another source or person
  3. and you don't give them credit
  4. in situations when you're expected to do so. Thus
  5. you give the illusion that you yourself are the original producer or you benefit in some other way.

While this helps to clarify what it means to plagiarize, it can still be surprisingly difficult to identify "situations when you're expected" to credit your source. We all learn from a variety of sources and over a spectrum of activities so it can be difficult to understand when you're expected to give credit and when it's simply unnecessary. Do you credit Wikipedia or other encyclopedia? What about textbooks, course reserves, class discussions, conversations with or text messages between classmates that improved your understanding of a topic?

There are cultural challenges as well; different cultures don't necessarily share the same understanding of plagiarism. According to Gabriela M. Gillespie from the University of South Carolina, "It is important to remember that plagiarism is a Western ideal... [S]tudents from Confucian-heritage countries, such as China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam... do not believe in citing their sources... [U]sing an author’s own words is a form of respect."

So where does that leave you? As students who are being mentored to engage in scholarly discourse and expected to discern when it's proper to credit your sources, how well can you explain what plagiarism is to another person? Try it. Also, should you ever be accused of plagiarism, how comfortable and confident are you in your abilities to defend your actions? Not 100% confident? You're not alone, and I encourage you to seek answers to your questions; there is much to learn.

Have any thoughts or questions for me? Write it in the comments below or contact me personally.

Thanks for reading!
Paige Mann
Physical Sciences Librarian


Anonymous said...

Can we see the poll results, Paige?

Paige Mann said...

I sure can. While there's no way to configure a public display of the poll results, I will manually post the poll results here for viewing.

Paige Mann said...

Survey says...

2 respondents said "No"
2 respondents said "I'm not really sure"