A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

So, Just What Is Plagiarism?

In light of the current brouhaha over whether or not potential first lady, Melania Trump plagiarized portions of her speech last night from current first lady, Michelle Obama's DNC speech eight years ago, I thought it might be helpful to ask the question, "Just what is plagiarism anyway?" I have no intention of offering my thoughts on whether or not Melania lifted portions of Michelle's previous speech. First, I did not watch it last night. I have not watched either the RNC or the DNC in years. I have better things to do with my time. And as we shall see below, while some forms of plagiarism can be obvious, others are not so clear, although both are serious and can lead to failure of a class and suspension from an academic institution. Below I am going to list both the indicators of plagiarism as posted by Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio (I am an adjunct professor at the seminary) and then I will post the portions of both speeches in question. I will not be posting the entire article from the University Writing Center. I have linked to it here. I encourage you to read the whole post. I think number six below is probably the issue in question here.

To use a somewhat modified quote from a cable news outlet I don't watch, "I report, you decide."
Indicators of Plagiarism
By Susan Guiher-Huff, Ashland University Writing Center Director 

Ways to plagiarize

1. Internet papers
Along with evaluating syntax and diction, look for relevant and thoughtful integration of
resources and course knowledge. If the paper lacks this kind of integration and is mostly recycled
information or is not properly cited, you should do an Internet search. Use Google and search for
specific phrases or phrases without citations or page numbers.

2. Ghostwriter
Again, look for syntax and match caliber. If you suspect that the student is not the true author of
the written material, you don't have to accept it. It is difficult to prove someone else has written
it, but it is up to the student to prove that he or she did write it.

3. Paper writing services
Some students who don't take writing assignments seriously or who put off working on an
assignment may find it easier to download a paper, or even pay for one, from a "paper mill."

4. Fabricating
Check references. Content should match references. Sometimes a student will simply copy or
paraphrase from one or two major sources, but cite several sources and list them on the works
cited page so it appears as though significant research was done.

5. Paper sharing
Look for similarities in classmates' papers. Some students "help each other" by sharing
sources, answers, and even entire papers.

6. Loose paraphrasing
Look for inadequately cited content, or lack of citations. Challenge the writer to discuss and
support the ideas expressed in the paper that appear to be his or her own. Ask for documentation
and research notes. Provide examples of papers from your discipline that show students how to
engage cited information in academic and creative ways.

And here are the two passages in question as posted by USA Today:

First, Michelle Obama's speech in 2008:
And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.
And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and to pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children-- and all children in this nation-- to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
And now, Melania Trump's speech at the RNC:
From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect.
They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son. And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
One final thought. Politicians and their minions from both sides of the political aisle have been caught plagiarizing over the years. That does not make it right, but the expediency of politics often works against taking time to give thoughtful expression to important matters. It becomes easier just to lift someone else's thoughts.

That means unfortunately that more than a few political speeches would receive a red "F" if submitted for a class assignment.

1 comment:

George C. Hartwell said...

Great specifics laying the ground for one to see this whole issues in perspective and that is helpful.