Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Shameful Scribe Scandals Of The 00s

When our teachers told us not to plagiarize or fabricate our papers, they meant that shit! But there’s always a few idiots in every class who don’t listen, or who don’t think the rules apply to themselves.

Among these idiots are James Frey, author of one of Oprah’s former favorite books, and 19-year-old college student Kaavya Viswanathan.

Frey made up his autobiography. That’s called fiction, Jimmy Boy.

Sure, I could write a book detailing my myriad sexual exploits to rival Wilt Chamberlain’s, but it’d be bullshit. (It’d be really cool, though!)

Miss Viswanathan copied some of her work from others.

These people learned overnight what teachers didn’t even realize they were telling us for years: Dishonesty will damage your credibility as an author and make you
persona non grata in the publishing world.

Oh yeah, then there are those multi-book, multimillion dollar deals you will lose.

Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, was recently cleared of plagiarism in a British court. The truth is, the authorship of every hit book, song or movie is contested by someone.

Dan, you can rest easy for now. You other folks need go to the back of the classroom, sit facing the wall and think about what you’ve done.

NOTE: Portions of this post were lifted wholesale from other sources.


Bird said...

now - here's a topic that chaps my hide. jut had a conversation about this very thing last night.

there are different kinds of plagiarism. some are, of course, more egregious than others. some students plagiarize in an attempt to paraphrase - because they don't paraphrase well, or they are not sure how to provide the in-text citation (they provide something - but it's pretty bungled). i treat this as a knowledge error - they don't know how to paraphrase and cite correctly - they are learning and need practice. i provide addtional instruction and i cut them a bit of slack - but not much.

others purposely work bits and pieces of someone else's work into their own. they know what they're doing is wrong, but they are too lazy to work through the paraphrasing process or the cumbersome process of in-text citation. they get verbal knuckle-wraps at the first offense and no credit on the essay for any offense after that - and of course, referrals to the dean.

and there is accidental plagiarism:

when i was working on my thesis, i noticed, as i was rereading a section, a line about social-constructivism that seemed odd to me."Are those my words?" I puzzled. Those don't seem quite like mine. I reread them again. "My god!" I exclaimed. "Those aren't my words - those are Rorty's, as cited in Bruffee." I quickly plowed through articles, found the one in question, flipped through it and found - yes - almost the exact words that appeared in my thesis. My goodness - how on earth did Bruffee copy my words - words which weren't even written at the time he wrote his article? Amazing! Grumbling about Bruffee's faux paus (sp?), i changed my text - doing a proper paraphrase and including in-text citation. I was mortified, but grateful i'd caught the slip before anyone else read that section.

Point being- sometimes we do indeed plagiarize by accident - I had so internalized this particular concept and the phrasing - it seemed as my own when i originally wrote that passage. though a credible, astute reader will catch most of that stuff. and it only occurs occassionally (sp? on all those dang o-words - yessiree bob, i kaint spell, but i kin teech writing real good). (sp? on plagiarize too - what an annoying word to spell!)

but purposeful plagiarism - calulated, intended wholesale stealing of someone else's work (paragraphs or entire essays) - that's another story.

students that purposefully plagiarize in that fashion in my course receive a no credit on the offending essay, conference with me (we discuss the motivation/reason behind the plagiarism - sometimes students panic when they realize thy've had two weeks to write an essay and it's now the night before - and discuss how to prevent getting to the place at which one is tempted to plagiarize), and are reported to the dean. more than one case of plagiarism nets the student a NC in the course, another report to the dean AND a referral to the discipline board of the univeristy.

i had several cases of egregious plagiarism last semester. students lifting entire essays from the Internet (some of them from blogs) and presenting them as their own original work. they seemed to think i was some sort of idiot that 1) couldn't tell the difference between their style, syntax, and vocabulary and another's and 2) was incapable of entering key words or phrases into google to find the very same sources they found online.

Viswanathan (a Harvard student, no less) who ripped-off TWO novels to write her own, should be shot. not so much for the plagiarism - but for her lame excuses afterward.

and this from someone who doesn't believe in capital punishment.

oh, i could go on and on.

but if i do, i'll do so back at my roost.

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Pete Bogs said...

bird - you started to channel Aunt B there somewhere in the middle...

there's plagiarism, then there's paraphrase, then there's homage (what are the legal/ethical guidelines there?) and even parody... there's different kind of ripping off, with different intentions... you do the right thing of course by dealing directly with the offender...

as for unintentional plagiarism, I've found myself doing that on occasion - sometimes years after exposure to the original work... I'm not sure how to verify or filter my own work for this...

K9 said...

/bark bark bark

plagiarism isnt what it used to be! it is too easy now to search paragraphs and phrases and link them up. alex haley plagiarized "roots", MLK bits and pieces in his speeches. 'course you dont hear much about the roots thing cause haley's publisher settled outta court. I remember molly ivins getting burned for it by cribbing and not attributing something to another writer....countless examples.

what's happened is fame and money compels some people to go for it in whatever way they can and integrity becomes a concern pushed far to the back of the mind.

Pete Bogs said...

lenny - fuck off, spam boy...

Bird said...

oh dear - i was channeling ab? she and i have been getting into it quite bit of late. was i channeling or plagiarizing? hahaha

my apologies for the previous long comment - i think i'll have to write my own post (sans the wandering and mispellings).


Pete Bogs said...

bird - no worries... your comments always add a lot to the discussions... thanks!

ardlair said...

hey bogs

one of the institutions that i have an association with uses sophisticated anti-plagiarism software ( developed in the usa) to monitor cheating in written knowledge based assessments.

Essentially the programme picks up exceptionally high degrees of concordance between all individuals sitting a given multiple choice assessment on any given day. The analysis is run without the programme having any information about the candidates.

Every time it is run the programme highlights several pairs of individuals who have such extraordinary levels of agreement in their (multiple true false or best of five) answers that the most plausible explanation is plagiarism.

When you then check back, you always find the pairs identified were at adjacent desks.

Problem is..............which one of the two was copying from the other?

Good business for lawyers, if and when institutions point fingers at individual students.

Ultimately, only computer based testing - for this kind of assesment - will sort it out.

Pete Bogs said...

ardlair - that's a tad Big Brother, if I do say so...

Jack K. said...

Bird, I was reminded of a situation where a young woman turned in a course paper and I had no idea what she was saying. It was so unlike her manner of speech that I had to counsel her. I admitted a degree of ignorance, but that it didn't seem to be something she would write. I gave her a choice, take an F on the paper or rewrite the paper with the possibility of getting a B. She rewrote the paper.

bogs, thanks for bringing this issue to your blog. It is something we do need to be aware of. I also appreciate your admonitions to us all. No place for spam folks here.

ardlair said...

yeah it may be............most interesting thing is, that both here and in the usa, when you advertise to the students/candidates that the institution is using plagiarism detection software, then the rates of plagiarism go down.

Dramatically down.

and in what i do........well, it is a matter of public interest that those who pass exams are demonstrably not only academically able to do so, but have the integrity not to have cheated to do so.

so...... maybe big brother is ok???

Hellpig said...


Pete Bogs said...

ardlair - preventive Big Brother? hmm...

Aunty Belle said...

Bawgs? What'cha mean , Bird is channeling her ole Aunty Belle? I can spell faux pas, sugar, (Cain't always type it ..or much else)

(Bird, youse always lovely to me , no matter ifin we have been "getting into it" )

Doan forgit Dors Kearns Goodwin--what a louse, but she did git her new book deals---

Aunty Belle said...

Bawgs, what Ardlair is sayin' is preventive big brother is OK, but don't confuse it wif' preemptive strikes, of course.

Pete Bogs said...

Aunt B - bird reminded me of you when she wrote "occassionally (sp? on all those dang o-words - yessiree bob, i kaint spell, but i kin teech writing real good)"

there's no confusion over preemptive strikes here...

fatty ~ said...

i go to school - here endless rants about plagarism.... i come here - even more =P

hehe - these days with practically every major work undergone in school, a prgress diary or logbook of various sorts needs to be kept to show development of ideas and designs as well as the finished products and detailed bibliography.

Pete Bogs said...

fatty - just goes to show you how important a topic it is! ;-)