Friday, August 6, 2010

Plagiarsim Conundrum--A Newspaper Item Hits Home

I read a fascinating article in the New York Times the other day titled, Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age.

It brought back memories of college and writing long involved 20-30 page double-spaced and typed (yes typed) papers after poring over texts in the library. How I wish that I had had a computer in my dorm room back then to help me do the research in the comfort and clutter of my room.

Or so I thought, until I realized how the blurring of lines between original thought and creating collages of thoughts has affected today's computer-literate generation.

I strive to ensure that when I use items from other's works, I document them with hyper-links back to the original--not because I worry about plagiarism, but more so that the reader can read the entire piece and determine for themselves if I have used the extract in a consistent manner that is contextually consistent.

But as I read the article I referenced here, I realized that despite the best efforts of all of us, the boundary between common knowledge and unique theme-specific knowledge has become blurred. I often ask myself--how do I know that? Was that my idea? Or did I read it somewhere?

The information age is truly a complex one.

The tendrils of thought have become confused.

And then--the article I referenced earlier ends with the following paragraphs:

Many times, said Donald J. Dudley, who oversees the discipline office on the campus of 32,000[UC Davis], it was students who intentionally copied — knowing it was wrong — who were “unwilling to engage the writing process.”

“Writing is difficult, and doing it well takes time and practice,” he said.

And then there was a case that had nothing to do with a younger generation’s evolving view of authorship. A student accused of plagiarism came to Mr. Dudley’s office with her parents, and the father admitted that he was the one responsible for the plagiarism. The wife assured Mr. Dudley that it would not happen again.

It is easy to justify what you are doing in your mind--right up until someone asks about it.

Writing like any skill, must be learned and practiced.

But we live in an instant society--where we can have and we long for anything we can get, instantly!

Hence--writing is reduced to copying someone else's thoughts.

We all need to strive for originality and creativity--but when someone else says it just the way we would have said it--at least give them credit.

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