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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Plagiarism: Who Cares? (Part Two)

Picture of a judge's gavel.

If you’re just now joining the discussion, you should go back and read my previous post about the personal repercussions of plagiarism.  That said, let’s return to how plagiarism can ruin your current (or future) career. 

Professional Repercussions

When companies hire someone, they’re hiring more than just a resume; they’re hiring a human being, complete with all the beliefs, quirks, and personality traits that compose that individual.  That’s why the hiring process almost always includes an interview phase. 

Looking great on paper is only the first step.  The rest of the work of getting and keeping a job you enjoy is convincing the person(s) who is hiring that you are a hard-working, honest person who would be an asset to the company.  Having a recorded instance of plagiarism on your record automatically labels you as lazy and dishonest.

What’s that, you say? “Plagiarism is only applicable to jobs like being a reporter or an author; in the field I want to work in, my boss isn’t going to be hiring me to write essays all the time.”  That would be a valid argument if plagiarism’s stigma limited itself to the realm of writing.  As it is, being caught for plagiarism makes you appear lazy and dishonest in everything you do. 

Nurses are entrusted to administer dangerous and addictive medications on a daily basis.  As an employer, I’d think twice about giving you the key to the medicine cabinet if you’ve proven yourself to be someone who has no problem with lying. Even cashiers have access to cash drawers! Yes, there are ways for employers to figure out if an employee is skimming a little off the top of each transaction, but it would save a lot of time and trouble for the employer to pass on hiring the person who poses trust issues. 

Is this starting to sound a bit like the discussion about personal repercussions from part one? It should.  Too much emphasis today is placed on academic achievement and not enough on the value of actually learning and on  simply being a good human being.  That’s a whole other can of worms, though.  For now, I just want you to think about the kind of person you want to be and how easily you’d compromise your values. 

When it comes to me, I’d honestly rather fail a class and deal with having an F on my transcript than plagiarize. 


Photo credit: Joe Gratz

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Plagiarism: Who Cares? (Part One)


Well, for starters, I do.  I’m a pretty laid-back person and it takes some work for a person to make me mad.  One way to make me mad with very little effort is to plagiarize in my class.  Unless you’re my student, though, telling you that I’ll be personally insulted if you choose to plagiarize isn’t much of a deterrent. 

So forget about me and my lectures about how cheating actually cheats the cheater out of an opportunity to learn (Judging from the amount of plagiarism I caught this semester, that message doesn’t make much of an impact anyway).  Let’s instead look at what the possible consequences are, both personally and professionally, for plagiarism. 

Personal Repercussions

Remember being asked to make those “top 10 things I look for in a mate/friend” lists? If you’ve never made one, do so now. I’ll even give you a second to do it. If you’ve done it before, now’s a good time to do it again just to see how your expectations have changed over time.  (A variation to this exercise is making a list of the top ten personality traits you wish to be known for/want to develop.)




Done? Good.  Now check that list and see if and where “honesty” lands on your list.  If it doesn’t make an appearance anywhere on your list, you need to think seriously about how satisfying your current relationships are. 

Every self-help book you read or psychotherapist you see will tell you the same thing: healthy relationships are based on trust.  When trust is violated, the relationship is in trouble.  When the breach in trust is severe enough, spouses divorce, friends become enemies, and employees are fired. 

If you’re finding it difficult to wrap your mind around what personal integrity is and how important it is to you, I don’t blame you.  Integrity isn’t as overtly emphasized in this day and age as it was decades ago.  For example, the phrase “a man of his word” sounds antiquated today.  But just because a person’s character isn’t explicitly spoken about in everyday conversation doesn’t mean that it is less important today.  A good way to gauge just how important it is to you is to imagine how you would feel if someone called you a liar. 

Don’t imagine how you would react.  Behavior isn’t always a good indication of feelings.  For example, if someone I didn’t know very well accused me of lying, I could see myself shrugging and saying “I’m sorry you feel that way.”  You can bet your <insert something witty> that it would bother me, though.

I really, really hope it would bother you too.

To tie this discussion back to plagiarism, every time write your name on and turn in a report that isn’t your own, you’re letting anyone who finds out about it know that you are a liar.  It’s easy to see how getting caught by your boss or professor affects you, but most people forget about the effect their plagiarism has on others who aren’t in a position of authority over them.  Friends and colleagues will respect you less; I’ve had enough conversations with others about this topic to know that this is true.  Sure, peers can’t touch your paycheck, but what they can “touch” is just as important.  How long will your self-esteem survive a work environment where everyone looks at you askance? You can move, of course, and get a fresh start (assuming your reputation doesn’t follow you to your new place of employment)…but how many times can you afford to “start fresh”?

For those of you who are still in school, the stakes for plagiarism are still just as high.  Students who are caught plagiarizing multiple times get a note placed on their permanent records, which means you CANNOT “start fresh”; every professor will view you with suspicion the moment s/he sees your transcript.  You’re not off the hook, either, if you plagiarize but don’t have it noted on your permanent record.  Professors talk to each other and word WILL get around, especially if you’re applying for an exclusive program and the program director needs to speak with your previous instructors to see if you’d make a good fit.  Even if you manage to avoid the spotlight, you will probably need letters of recommendation if you plan on pursuing a graduate degree or applying to an exclusive program (E.g., nursing school) or for a scholarship.  If you plagiarized and were caught, don’t even think about asking the professor who caught you for a letter of recommendation.  You’ll get a letter, all right, but it won’t be one that recommends you.

See the detrimental effects plagiarism can have on your personal life?  If that’s not enough to make you think twice about plagiarizing, the next blog post will be about the professional repercussions plagiarism has.  And let me tell you, they’re not pretty.



Photo credit: Binder of DOOM! by Hello Lovely

The photo for today’s post is a reference to the CHE Forum’s Big Black Binders of Doom!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Plagiarism: Online Resources

When you’re unsure about what something is, looking at examples is a good way to dispel any confusion.  Examples are so successful at making complex things clear that it is now standard to see examples in instruction manuals detailing exactly how to complete each step of whatever process is being explained.  Why should learning about plagiarism be any different?

The internet is teeming with examples of a great many things (e.g., how to eat a lobster, how to draw manga/anime, how to write and speak Klingon) and plagiarism is no exception.  The following links are to videos and documents online that define plagiarism, why it should be avoided, and how to avoid it. 


Avoiding Plagiarism in Paraphrasing This video shows you step by step how to paraphrase the correct way. Remember, paraphrasing too closely to the original source still counts as plagiarism.
Information Literacy: Plagiarism and Citation Styles Dr. Baker lectures on what exactly plagiarism is and how best to avoid it.  The video ends with a brief overview of citation styles.
A Quick Guide to Plagiarism SEA DEVIL TV gives students a quick run-down of the various types of plagiarism. Even if you're well versed in the ins and outs of plagiarism, watch this video just for its entertainment factor.
Plagiarism: Pernicious Plague or Preventable Pest? This video lets you in on why instructors do what they do (hint: it prevents plagiarism!)
A Student's Guide to Recognizing and Avoiding Plagiarism An informative guide (complete with examples) about each type of plagiarism. Work your way through each type and make sure you understand how and why each example constitutes plagiarism.


These links are by no means the only resources online about plagiarism.  These are just the examples that I’ve found (through trial-and-error) work best for illustrating the topic in detail without putting everyone to sleep. 

Until I get around to writing the most comprehensive, captivating guide on plagiarism, use my list of links as a starting point for your own online research about plagiarism.

Photo credit: Daidaros

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Many, many apologies for taking a “break” from blogging.  I had research papers to grade, final exam essays to grade, and grades to calculate and post.  Thankfully, this semester has finally come to an end so I now have more time to devote to blogging.  (I know – I’m a dork.)

While I get to work on the next installment of my “How NOT to Plagiarize” postings, enjoy this absolutely adorable picture of Malachi by Robert Francis I found on Flickr.  (Malachi looks JUST like one of my own doggies!)