Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Plagiarism Letter

To whom it may concern,
One of my close friends from high school was not allowed to graduate on stage with our class because he was punished for plagiarizing. My friend forgot to cite a couple sources and he also did some patchwriting, which is taking a piece of text and making it your own by deleting words and changing the grammatical structure of it. His English teacher was very strict on plagiarism and was outraged to discover all of his so called cheating. She didn’t explain well enough for her students to understand plagiarism. He didn’t know that what he did was considered cheating, but he was given an F in her class, wasn’t allowed to graduate, and he had to go to summer school anyways. Punishment for plagiarism is sometimes very unfair because the student is uneducated about this issue. I do not want other people to experience what my friend went through. The problem of plagiarism could be prevented if students are given proper knowledge on the subject instead of just punishing them. San Francisco State University could do a couple things to decrease plagiarism in their University.

Plagiarism is a huge issue in college. Plagiarism comes in many different forms, varying from improper ways to cite a source, using the same essay for a different class, patchwriting, and buying an essay online. According the Sarah Blum, more than 75 percent of college students admit to having cheated; 68 percent admit to cutting and pasting material from the Internet without citation (Blum). This means that more than half of students in a class are likely to plagiarize. This is a big problem because a lot of people are not doing their own work. It is immoral to cheat and the student learns nothing if they plagiarize. It is especially immoral to plagiarize because not only is it cheating, but it is also stealing someone else’s work and claiming it to be your own. Students still plagiarize mostly because of pressure and stress they have to deal with and other activities that take away time from their academics. (Stus, Eschavez, Acalla, Guillen, Zuniga, Sedlak, 7). Students will most likely use plagiarism as a shortcut to finish their assignments because sometimes they are too busy with their schedules and do not have enough time to come up with their own work.

In my English 114 class, we did a research project on what factors influence a student to plagiarize. We found some very interesting information that matched Sarah Blum’s research. On a survey of 46 students attending San Francisco State University, about half of them admitted to some form of plagiarism (class survey). The most common form of plagiarism was failure to cite sources properly and re-using the same essay for a different class. I can understand how most students wouldn’t consider re-using a text for a different class because it is your own work. Improper citations are most likely caused by lack of knowledge on how to cite sources properly. According to Group 1’s research project, “improper citations are mostly errors on the writer’s part and not an act of trying to get away with copying and claiming other people’s work (Gibb, Morazon, Liberal, Peralta, Siksamat, Lin, 6). This means most plagiarism is caused by lack of knowledge on how to avoid plagiarism, because most of the cases of plagiarism are mistakes on the writer.

I suggest creating a mandatory 1 or 2 weeks mini-course on plagiarism for all entering freshman and transfer students. According to Sarah Blum, it is easy for a school teacher to simply tell their students to give credit or cite their sources, but they “struggle to educate their students about what citation means and how to avoid plagiarism” (Blum, 165). This mini-course will define plagiarism and give the students an overview on how to prevent themselves from plagiarizing. This mini-course would be held in a large auditorium to be cheaper and, there will be a short and easy test at the end to show that the students paid attention. Students will have to retake this course if they fail the test. The plagiarism topic is very broad, but a quick course should be sufficient to explain plagiarism thoroughly. If students are taught about all the different types of plagiarism and how important it is to cite sources, they will be less likely to plagiarize.

Punishment for plagiarism in college is very severe. Most professors tell their students that any form of plagiarism or cheating will result in failure in the course and a referral to the dean. I think that some forms of plagiarism are more severe than the other and students should be punished differently depending exactly what they did. If a student were to buy a term paper from a “paper mill”, then they should be punished severely because that student knows for sure that is cheating and they did it anyways. Also, they put absolutely no effort into the assignment. Students that do this should get an F in the course and a referral to the dean. If a student were to plagiarize by re-using their own work for another class, if they had improper citations or, if they patchwrote, then the punishment should be less harsh. These students should be punished by a warning. If they do this multiple times then the students should take some sort of plagiarism classes just how drug offenders are required to take drug counseling classes. This kind of punishment will be effective because students will learn from their mistakes.

Professors should also give their definition of plagiarism in their syllabi and explain it thoroughly. Most professors just write plagiarism is not accepted, but many different majors have different definitions of plagiarism. If the professor tells their students exactly what they don’t want in their work than plagiarism should be less likely to occur.

I hope you consider these suggestions to solve the problem of plagiarizing in San Francisco State University. Most students are not aware that they are plagiarizing and they should not be severely punished just because of lack of education. With proper knowledge, there should be a big decrease in plagiarism at San Francisco State University.

Thank You,
Arsen Stus

Works cited

Blum, S. (2009), My Word!. Cornell University Press, pgs. 165

Gibb, Morazon, Liberal, Peralta, Siksamat, Lin. 2010, Group 1 Research Report. English 114.04, Spring 2010, San Francisco State University

Stus, Eschavez, Acalla, Guillen, Zuniga, Sedlak, 2010, Plagiarism: SFSU vs. Notre Dame. English 114.04, Spring 2010, San Francisco State University

English 114.04 class (2010), Class Research Survey, English 114.04, Spring 2010, San Francisco State University

Friday, May 7, 2010

Research Findings

There wasn't really much interesting things that I found from the surveys and interviews. It was pretty much as I expected. The only thing that surprised me was that race really had nothing to do with plagiarism. Different races act differently just because of their culture. There are paradigms that show that a specific race will be more likely to do better in school or do better in work. From our surveys and interviews we could not prove this.