Posted by Ellen Bremen on Sep 17, 2012 in Communicating with Professors, General, General College Success/Responses to Other College Entities | 10 comments
(I’m back already! I guess I was more on the ball than I thought. Don’t you love it when that happens? Ready to talk about the subject all faculty looooove? Flo-Rida, of course! Let’s do it…)
My fabulous readers, I can’t wait to see students again, but there is one part of my job that feels a little daunting when I think about coming back to it (And, no, it isn’t the fact that my building only has one single toilet for a whole bunch of women, though that does get a little dicey sometimes):
Speech outlines will come in for grading.
One or two, maybe three, will sound just a little too good. The body won’t match the introduction in tone. The cadence will be too textbook-y or too dissertation-ish. Something will just seem off.
I will go to the Internet and punch in a few suspect sentences. My search will usually not fail me.
I will print out the offending real source and attach it to the student’s outline.
I will contact the student and request an in-person meeting in my office.
I will begin the meeting by saying, “This is never an easy discussion to have. I reviewed your outline and this is what I discovered…”
Then, I will slide the paperwork across my desk, letting both documents speak for themselves. I will remain silent.
If the student has that remorseful, “Oh, crap… I can’t believe it. Now what?” look (think Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Season 1, not Season 5), then we discuss consequences, which are all over the map.
If the student looks quizzical, as in, “What, copying is wrong?”, then I obviously have a way bigger problem.
If the student is downright belligerent, which also happens, then I have a huge problem.
Let me make an abrupt topic shift, but stay with me on the road back to plagiarism: My title mentioned Flo-Rida. Where does he come into the picture?
This summer, I read reviews of Flo’s latest CD in my People and Entertainment Weekly.
Are you surprised that he’s been critically panned for basically ripping off others’ music and rapping over it? Now don’t get me wrong… I’m not ripping on Flo-Rida because I totally enjoy his music.
When I read that Good Feeling was a cover of Etta James, I thought, “Wow, very cool… Etta James was revived for a new audience… namely me.”
I already knew You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) by Dead or Alive because it was part of my teen-age-hood, so when Flo-Rida recorded Right Round, I basically just relived leggings and an off-the-shoulder sweatshirt (“She’s a maniac, maniac…” Sorry, I digress. Flo hasn’t touched that one… yet.). But the music was brought to a new audience, younger than myself. Awesome!
Come to I Cry, which was only just released as Cry by the Bingo Players in 2011, and I thought to myself, “Really? A year later? Why remake that?”
But let’s get back to the topic: rip-off or not, I take heart that hopefully Flo-Rida and his lawyers are obtaining proper permissions for the music he borrows, 26 songs that I counted (Keep in mind that some artists have gotten in trouble for not getting proper permissions). I do worry that increased “lifting” of music by Flo-Rida and other artists muddies the water for students who misunderstand “lifting” of other people’s work on the Internet.
If it’s okay for musicians to “retool” and “borrow” other artists’ work, isn’t it okay to do the same with other writers’ work?
I used to face just one or two infractions of plagiarism a year. Now I face three to five per term. Sometimes more. I know my colleagues who collect papers often complain of same.
There are students who tell me that they literally do not understand where the lines are drawn because everything on the Internet seems free, so why can’t they use it? Many students also believe they will never get caught.
I’ve had international students tell me that it is disrespectful in their culture to assert their own opinions, and taking material from others with higher credibility is the honorable thing to do.
But the sad truth is that in college, not writing your own from-your-brain fresh material, whether that material is A-quality or D-quality, can get you a failing grade, on probation, or even kicked out of school.
And, bottom line, whether or not your work requires sources, anything use for a paper that was not written by your own brain must be properly cited.
So what’s the communication lesson here?
It’s time to learn definitively what plagiarism means if you don’t know. How do you find out? As a start, I’ll link a little tutorial here from my college library that can help. I bet your college library has one, too, so why not ask? Five minutes to 10 minutes on a tutorial is quicker than cleaning up hours of a plagiarism mess in your prof’s or Dean’s office.
Any professor can tell you about plagiarism, and believe me, they’ll be thrilled to have you say, “I am a little unclear about how to cite sources” or “I want to make sure I’m not plagiarizing. Can you explain it to me?”, rather than have to call you into their office for an offense.
A librarian, of course, is the perfect person to ask these same questions, if you’d prefer not to go directly to your professor.
Here are a few other quick tips:
-If you are stuck for an idea of what to write about, do not do a search for other papers on the same topic. The temptation may be too great to copy, even if that is not your intention.
-If you search for articles on your topic because you need supporting material and you think you could accidentally borrow too much (hey, it happens!), keep them hidden while you do your preliminary writing. I’m dead serious! Scratch out your first draft of your paper; leave blank spots and include that content later when the first pass is done.
-Once you’ve included your supporting material/references, ask your professor/librarian/tutoring or writing center to give your paper a comparison check. Tell them specifically, “I’m trying to avoid plagiarism.” Everyone will respect this!
Warning: Many students think they can change an existing article or paper just enough to make it their own. Believe me, this is so not worth it. First, your prof can probably find out. Second, in the time it took to do that rewrite, you could have crafted something that was brand new … and probably better.
So leave the covers and samples to the musicians. In college, take pride in your own creations.
Of course, there is no reason that you can’t listen to a little Flo while you do!