I am a student at San Francisco State University. I and my fellow students in English 114 has done research on plagiarism. I believe that plagiarism is a problem at our school for several reasons. For one, students do not have a clear understanding of what classifies as plagiarism. It will be difficult to enforce the policy on plagiarism without giving a clear and precise meaning of the word. Then Teachers need to clarify what constitutes as common knowledge for their classes, and that the rules on plagiarism should be the same for every class. Some classes allow using old papers while others do not, it needs to be uniform so students will be able to hold more accountable when accused of plagiarism. Plagiarism has many forms, and there should be different levels of punishment for each type. For example, the punishment for having someone write the paper should be more severe then copying a couple of sentences. Also, I think that to solve the issue of plagiarism, we need to consider the reasons why students plagiarize in the first place.
My class has done a survey to gather data on plagiarism and read a variety of articles concerning plagiarism. The data suggest that the most common type of plagiarism is reusing old papers for assignments. In Susan D. Blum's book of “my Word”, she discusses a form of plagiarism known as patch writing, which is the process of copying a sentence and trying to change the words. The students recycle their assignments so they would have enough time for homework and activities, or try to copy the text from another person. . Students are more likely to plagiarize when they are short on time for their homework. I believe that there should be a workshop that will teach students on how to manage their time and maybe instruct them on how to use a planner. From the article “the Term Paper Artist” by Nick Mamatas, he explains that students know that it is cheaper to buy a paper from a paper mill then repeating the course again next year. For freshmen, they are not use to the work load, so I would suggest that the School suggest classes that would be easier for them to adjust to the pace of a college student.
There are many forms of plagiarism and students are unclear on which are covered by the rules of San Francisco State. The types of Plagiarism are: buying from a paper mill, patchwriting (changing a few words from a copied sentence), writing papers for others, allowing others to write for them, failing to cite sources and etc. It isn't surprising when students plagiarize by accident due to plagiarism being a vague concept. From our data, the most common type pf plagiarism is reusing old papers. Ten out of forty four students have answered on our survey that they had reused old papers. The students do not see it as plagiarism because the author is themselves, so I believe the school should make it alright to use old papers for their assignments or explain to them why using old papers are considered plagiarism. The school needs to also make clear that students who let others copy off of them is as guilty of plagiarism of those who copied off of them. Then after we define what plagiarism is, we need to decide the punishment for students caught doing plagiarism.
Since, plagiarism is not a crime in federal law, we need to clearly define plagiarism then decide according on how to administer punishment. The punishment for students caught plagiarizing should be base on the type. The penalty of being expelled is too severe a punishment for most circumstances. I think that students should be expelled for copying or buying an entire paper, while students who plagiarize by accident or by a couple of sentences should receive a lighter punishment. The university should instead punish students caught plagiarizing by requiring to make them take a course regarding plagiarism similar to how drivers have to go to school for getting a ticket. Another solution is to hold a trial for those accuse of plagiarism and let the student defend himself to see if he has any reasons for plagiarizing. This will give the student a fair chance to bring up any misunderstandings and to make sure that there is evidence to accuse him of plagiarism.
The data of our class survey has suggested that students are unaware of the school's policy when they plagiarize. I also think that by clarifying what plagiarism is that we can decrease the number of students who plagiarize. Due to the many types of plagiarism, I think that we have to decide on which ones should be addressed by the guidelines. The punishment should be determined by the type of plagiarism committed d by the student. By doing this, students are treated fairly while understanding the misdeed they committed.
Susan D. Blum, 2009 “My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture.”
Corbell University Press.
Nick Mamatas. The Term Paper Artist. 2008.