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Dr. Mark Jordan ~ ENGL 1302: Composition & Literature


Plagiarism is defined as submitting work which is not yours.  Simply put, plagiarism is cheating.  It is intellectual theft, the theft of someone else's ideas and/or words. 

Some students may be tempted to submit plagiarized work in this course, particularly in regards to the two major essays.  Don't.  Aside from the obvious fact that all such a student learns is how to morally debase himself or herself, that student also runs the very real risk of failing the entire course, the penalty set forth in my syllabus for intentional plagiarism. 

There are various technological means for catching plagiarized work, all of which I am familiar with, and the student should realize that there are also usually certain telltale signs that this is occurring, .  Finally, anyone tempted by this "quick fix" should also know that as a last resort, if I suspect a paper is not a student's own work, I may insist on a personal conference with that student, during which the student is questioned closely about the suspect work.  It is generally not a pleasant meeting.  I have not used this means often in my 22 years as an instructor, but I have used it on occasion, and probably will have cause to do so again.  So please, do not give way to any temptation to cut corners and submit something that is not your own work.

Obviously, the above paragraphs refer to intentional efforts to cheat.  However, there is also such a thing as inadvertent plagiarism, which occurs out of extreme ignorance.  Please read the material below, so that you do not fall victim to unintended plagiarism.

"Reading Up" on a Topic and Using What You Find:

Some students are under the impression that they can use ideas they find on the Internet or in some other source, and so long as they express the ideas in their own words, that is not plagiarism.  This is wrong.  The idea is still not yours.  It is someone else's, and you must give credit to that source.  This can be done both informally and formally, and you will learn these methods of citing sources in this course. 

Copying and Pasting:

Some students also seem to think it is okay to find a website that pertains to the topic, copy that sentence or paragraph or section from the website, and paste it into his or her essay.  It does take an extremely advanced level of ignorance to think this is okay, but I'm pretty sure I have seen it.  It is not okay.  Such a student is stealing not only the author's ideas, but his very words.  If you use another writer's exact words, not only must you tell the source, but you must also place those words in double quotation marks front and rear, to signify that they are not your words.

Collaboration versus Plagiarism:

I strongly encourage student collaboration, but you must understand the difference between that and plagiarism.  Put simply, collaboration involves working with others, while plagiarism means that someone else is doing your work for you, either knowingly or unknowingly. Generally, the difference is easy to see, but sometimes the boundary is hazy. A good rule of thumb is that even if you are working with someone with the best of intentions, make sure that in the end, you understand and can explain your work entirely by yourself.   Otherwise, you may be guilty of plagiarism, even if that was not your intention. And even more obviously, even if you work closely with a classmate or someone else, you cannot submit anything which is essentially worded just like someone else's work.  This will be a risk not only on the major essays, but on the numerous minor exercises as well.  So your work must not be identical, or nearly so, to anyone else's, and even if you collaborate or get tutoring assistance, you must have a complete understanding of what you submit. Both these standards must be satisfied to call a document your own work.

Do research only as instructed:

In the first place, you don't have any reason to do research until it comes time to begin the research paper.  For all assignments prior to that, including the first major essay, use your textbook, use me as a resource, and use the good mind you already possess.  When the time comes for the research paper, I will teach you all you need to know about doing research and citing it properly.

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