Troubling News: Digital Age Plagiarism

Plagiarism is nothing new, especially for this writing teacher who can spot it a mile away. The key to early detection is to have students do a lot of “in-class” writing. Then you can easily discover when they submit other hard copy assignments, why they did such a stellar job.  Turnitin.com is also another quick way to find out when the student might have copied some quotes that are not their own words.

I remember one “student” of mine in Ukraine who was a lazy, black leather jacket guy enamored by his cell phone handed in a “funny” essay.  He didn’t mean for it to be hilarious and he certainly wasn’t laughing when he got his final grade from me.  But this one paper was a piece his girlfriend had written.  This character hadn’t even bothered to change the wording of when she was a little girl, she loved to figure skate. If he had just improved the “little girl” part I still might have wondered why he would love to “figure skate.” Where I’m from in Minnesota, guys play hockey they do NOT figure skate!

I think since these students who plagiarize don’t bother to read much, they figure their writing teachers don’t read their incoming assignments either.  Therefore, I read with great interest a recent New York Times article on this very topic of the digital age and what to make of this age old problem of plagiarism.  This article titled: “Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age” written by Trip Gabriel, had some good examples given by researchers on this sticky topic.

Thankfully Susan D. Blum, an anthropologist at Notre Dame has written a book on this important topic, published by Cornell University Press titled: “My Word!: Plagiarism and College Culture.” In her ethnographic research of  234 Notre Dame undergraduates she wrote:

“Today’s students stand at the crossroads of a new way of conceiving texts and the people who create them and who quote them.” She went on… “the idea of an author whose singular effort creates an original work is rooted in Enlightenment ideas of the individual. It is buttressed by the Western concept of intellectual property rights as secured by copyright law. But both traditions are being challenged.”

“Our notion of authorship and originality was born, it flourished, and it may be waning,” Ms. Blum said.

According to Times author, Trip Gabriel, ‘Ms. Blum contends that undergraduates are less interested in cultivating a unique and authentic identity — as their 1960s counterparts were — than in trying on many different personas, which the Web enables with social networking.'”

Respondents to surveys who believe plagiarism should be considered “serious cheating” by lifting words off the web has dropped from 34 percent to 29 percent on average in the past decade, according to the New York Times article.  I have my own theory as to why this may be true that no anthropologist would dare touch.

I believe the more people who are turned off by church and using the Bible as a text to be referenced, the less you have people taking the time in giving proper attribution to where they find their sources.  In other words, days of old you had people who wrote in lofty, well thought out script, they also adhered to the Bible as being the true Word of God.  If one does not tamper with His Word, you probably won’t be messing with other people’s words either.

I’m wondering what Muslim countries do about getting their ardent students to refer back to the Koran as a way to prove a point.  Do their holy teachers instill in their young students to reference the Koran by giving proper references? [Christians always want to know the “street address” of where something was quoted from. For example, look up Jeremiah 29:11]  I doubt it, but then I’m walking into very murky territory. Again, I don’t know much about the Koran and if it is held up as holy text the same way the Bible is by true believers of Christianity. I’d have to say that the people in Kazakhstan only have a superficial knowledge of what is in the Koran.

My main point is that the western world has moved away from using the Bible as a text to adhere to or to gain instruction from.  The deconstructionism and the postmodern era has done a number on many of the words we held on to for dear life.  Why on earth would other universities from developing countries want to emulate what we have going on at our western universities if we have western professors who make a living tearing down words we held as true? Most specifically, does our new university in Astana want to follow the western traditional practices of originality or follow the path of “anything goes,” take what you can off of the 21st century Internet writings?

Troubling problems to deal with…stay tuned.

1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    KZBlog said,

    Actually the Koran was recited to Muhammed by the Angel Gabriel, so unlike the Bible which most Christians accept was written by people (and translated into different languages), the Koran in Arabic is literally the Word of God. That’s why Islamic prayers are almost universally in Arabic, taken from the original Koran, even if the person reciting it doesn’t know what he is saying.

    Hadith, the sayings of Muhammed, are also considered sacred and those are generally passed down word-for-word as well. And like Judaism, throughout the centuries Islamic scholars have written commentaries and interpretations on the Koran and Hadith, and on each other’s commentaries and interpretations. So there is a great respect for the written word and scholarly study in Islam. Whether that passes on to nomadic Kazakhstan, which was mainly converted via Sufi mystics, is another question.


Comment RSS · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: