Lessons in Plagiarism

How to not ruin your life.

What I Learned About Being a Copy-Cat: A True Story By Andrew Kerr

Part One: In Which the Author Attempts to Steal a Cat, Is Caught, and Learns a Valuable Lesson.

I really liked my friend's cat, "Gumdrop," so one day while I was visiting I decided I'd just take her. I picked the cat up, tucked her under my arm, said "Bye!" in a tiny voice, and walked quickly out the door.

"Stop!" my friend Scott said. "What's that under your arm?"

"It's your cat," I explained.

"What are you doing with my cat?" Scott asked, angrily.

"Taking it," I replied.

"You can't just take my cat! You need to ask permission, first!"

I couldn't believe it."But your cat likes me more than she likes you!" I said.

"That doesn't matter. She's my cat. You need to get permission from me before you can take her."

I realized that I wasn't going to be able to keep the cat. So I put Gumdrop back down on the floor.

"Andrew," Scott said to me, "if you ask for permission to borrow my cat, I might let you keep her for a few days."

"O.K. May I borrow your cat for a few days?"

"Yes."So I picked up Gumdrop and tucked her back under my arm.I learned an important lesson. You can't just take somebody's cat without asking for permission, first.

Part Two: In Which the Author Lies About the True Ownership of the Cat in Question.

But what about other people's words? What about other people's pictures? What about ideas? These things aren't like cats. Words don't get stuck in trees. Pictures don't use litter boxes. Dogs certainly don't chase ideas around.The strange thing is, even though you can't pick up an idea, put it under your arm, and march out the front door of your friend's house with it, an idea is still a thing. Ideas are important to people because they help us to change the world.

Sometimes, people who come up with ideas help us find better ways to do things. Sometimes they help make the world a more beautiful place. In any case, ideas are important, even if they don't purr and lick your nose.

After I got home with Gumdrop, a number of friends stopped by to see me. "What a nice cat!" they exclaimed.

"Yes," I replied. "It's my cat."

"I didn't know you had a cat!"

"Well, I do. See?"

And I picked Gumdrop up and pushed her right into my friends' faces so they could see.

"It looks like Scott's cat."

"It's not Scott's cat," I said, angrily. "It's my cat!"

My friends stopped dropping by.A couple days later Scott called me up."Andrew, you can't tell people that Gumdrop is your cat. She's my cat!"

"But you don't have her now! I have Gumdrop, so Gumdrop is mine!"

"Just because you're taking care of Gumdrop and showing Gumdrop to other people doesn't mean that Gumdrop is yours. Remember, you borrowed Gumdrop from me!"

"Oh," I said, remembering that I had. "I'll bring Gumdrop back right now."

"No. You don't have to return Gumdrop. Just tell people the truth when they come by. Tell them that Gumdrop is my cat and you're just borrowing her for a few days."

Scott was obviously very proud to own Gumdrop, so I guess it upset him when I told other people that Gumdrop was mine.

Part Three: In Which the Author Reflects On What He Has Learned and Shares This With the World.

Just like with Gumdrop, it's O.K. to borrow other people's words, pictures, or stories--as long as you A) ask first and get permission, and B) give credit to the person from whom you're borrowing. If it's not your stuff, you shouldn't tell people that it is.Taking other people's ideas or artwork and claiming that you created those things yourself is called "plagiarism." It's like stealing, then lying about afterward. It's like taking another person's cat and saying it's yours.

The Internet is a very exciting world. It's filled with pictures and information. It's very easy to copy web information. This is both good and bad. It's good because it means we can easily share information with one another. It's bad because people can steal other people's words, artwork, and ideas very easily.If you're going to copy pictures or text, you need to give credit. If you didn't create it, it's not yours. Taking something without giving credit is considered stealing. It's very serious. You could go to jail and pay fines for taking things without giving credit.

There is a way to be fair. If you're a student writing a report or a paper and that report or paper is going to be published on the Internet, then state clearly that you are a student, say where you are from, and date the paper.Giving credit is easy. When you borrow words, pictures, or ideas, be sure to say where they came from. You can do that with footnotes, endnotes, or a bibliography. If you're using another person's words you must put quotes around those words and tell people from where the quote came.

Scott just called. He wants me to return Gumdrop. He let me keep her for three whole days. I'm going to miss her. Now if I can just get her to come down from that tree...

© 1998 by Andrew Kerr

Note: Georgia Public Broadcasting is not responsible for the content of Related Web Sites.

(Source: http://www.gpb.org/georgiastories/studyguide/plagiarism)

Consequences of Plagiarism

The consequences of plagiarism can be personal, professional, ethical, and legal. With plagiarism detection software so readily available and in use, plagiarists are being caught at an alarming rate. Once accused of plagiarism, a person will most likely always be regarded with suspicion. Ignorance is not an excuse. Plagiarists include academics, professionals, students, journalists, authors, and others.

(Source for this and following information: http://www.ithenticate.com/resources/6-consequences-of-plagiarism)

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A Note from Mrs. Glover

As I sat down this weekend to grade your Lord of the Flies essays, I was absolutely delighted to see how far you have come in your writing. I started out this year to prove a point. That if I gave you guys enough support and time, you would reach any goal I set for you and that you set for yourself. Much of this year (unknown to you), you have proved yourself capable of completing most of the exact same things as the English II PreAP classes. You have needed some adjustments to the reading goals, some help with online sources to help you understand the text, that is true,--but most of you had exceeded all of my hopes for you as "On-Level English Learners". You are capable of so much more than you may have been asked of in the past, and I know we were making progressive steps toward proving that. Proving everyone wrong--that "On-Level English Learners" are smart and capable of performing well, along-side their PreAP peers. Being in On-Level classes should no longer be something you are ashamed of or be a reason to feel inferior to ANYONE! You have strengths in areas other than English, maybe. And maybe you know that PreAP classes have to read really fast, and you like to take your time. And that's OK. We are all unique and you showing that you know yourself well enough to know where you need to be in order to succeed, speaks more volumes to me than someone who doesn't know when to step back and prioritize their life. You signing up for English II versus English II PreAP makes no difference to me, as long as you are growing and doing your very best!

Last night, these feelings of pride and joy were soon abruptly replaced with disappointment, anger and doubt when I realized that not just one, but several of your essays were not even based on your own thoughts and ideas!

At least 3 of you outright CHEATED me as well as YOURSELF AND YOUR CLASSMATES.

Let me explain.

When you CHEAT you steal your opportunity to grow authentically and purposefully. Receiving feedback on your writing and your ideas is the only way you are going to grow as a student and become successful. When I give you extra time to complete assignments, it is because I want you to do your very best, even if that means it takes you longer to do so. The goal isn't to submit work on time for me, it's that you accomplish and learn what it is like to be a successful learner!

When you CHEAT you make me feel like I have not done my job as your teacher. You make me doubt everything I thought we had built together, including our relationship. What was based on a mutual respect and desire to succeed, is now tainted with distrust. I will never be able to read your thoughts and ideas and automatically feel that sense of pride that comes with knowing for sure that these ideas are your own and not the property of someone else. Trust is easily lost and not easily gained back. We only have until June for you to reestablish yourself as not only an honest person, but someone I am proud to call my student. You are a reflection of me. What you do, it is implied that I taught you, and I did not teach you this.

You have either 1) been cheated by your peers or 2) you cheated your peers. You fall into one of these two categories, depending on whether you cheated. I couldn't even bare to finish grading the rest of the papers, because I was grading with doubt that any one of you were capable of doing well on this paper, based on the poor choices of at least 3 of you. It isn't fair to those who worked honestly and honorably, that their teacher now has to read their paper with doubt of their abilities. I am unable to focus on making productive and meaningful suggestions to them, because I am so negatively affected by those who lied to me by plagiarizing their paper.

I refuse to finish grading these papers, until I know that the papers I am spending hours grading and coming up with ways to help you be successful are authentic and the work of my students and not some copy and pasted ideas of an online source.

It is a complete waste of my time to help you when you refuse to be honest with me!

I encourage you to spend some time this evening thinking about your essay and the choices you have made. If you feel there is a need for you to come see me so that we can discuss what needs to be done, please fill out the Google Form below prior to 8 AM tomorrow morning. I will not involve your parents, the APs or anyone else, as long as you can have a genuine conversation with me about your choices and how we are going to move forward from here. I do not wish to discuss this with anyone today in class...if I receive a Google Form from you, I will email you and we can set up a time to meet before or after school some day this week.

I will assume that any essays I do not receive a Google Form on are authentic and written solely by you and no one else. I will then start over--grading each of those essays. Once I grade these papers, you will receive your essays back and we can begin productively discussing your writing goals for next semester. If you plagiarized and you do not come clean by 8 AM tomorrow, I will not only email your parents, but your AP and you will receive an irreplaceable zero on this essay.

I will always and forever want the very best for you. For many of you it appears you have failed to have those same hopes for yourself. Let's make better choices.


Mrs. Glover

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