Link to What's New Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism in Essay Answers

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Avoiding Plagiarism

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Understanding Plagiarism in Essay Answers

Essay by Jeanne Curran, Susan R. Takata, and Patricia Acone
Part of Teaching Series
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata, June 2000. "Fair Use" encouraged.

One of the difficulties of dealing with the school's idea of plagiarism is the student's conception of what it means to say something in your own words. If you read a paragraph that I have written, and then try immediately to tell someone what I said, you are very likely to use some of the same words, because they are right there in your mind. You just read them. But even more than that, you are likely to structure your argument the same way I did. That's really sticking pretty close to my ideas, almost like walking in my shadow.

A Take-Home Essay Sample

Let's consider the following example. Suppose that you were asked to describe in essay form one of the major issues in social theory today. Suppose that our school stresses collaborative work, so that you have been given permission to work together, but you must each write your own short essay. Suppose that your group met today, and that Patricia Acone had comleted her essay, and shared it with the group.

The Question

Describe in essay form one of the major issues in social theory today.

Pat's Essay

"One of the major contentions between modernist and postmodernist theory today is that of the subject/object. Who is studying whom? What role does dominance play, if any? And what then is objectivity? Jacques Lacan suggests that the very identity, which we see as coming from within, ultimately the subject, could, in fact, be the object, for the identity we settle on is actually the one reflected to us by the world around us. (Elliott, ed. Contemporary Social Theory, p.6). Donna Haraway speaks of the "conquering gaze from nowhere," meaning the gaze of "Man and White." Haraway calls this privileged gaze situated knowledge, knowledge which takes a perspective that women and non-whites are presumed to take as their own situated knowledge. (Ibid, pp.290-291)."

The Study Group's Discussion of Pat's Essay

What jeanne Needs to Remember

Analysis of Pat's and Jeanne's Themes by

To test's analysis I submitted each of our essays exactly as they appear in this file. As you can see, they were about the length of the comments we ask you to submit. Above you see the chart that came back in response to both.

Despite their similarities, there was no detection of any problems with copying. And we were careful to acknowledge each other's contributions. This shows that it is possible to work together, to share ideas, and still write your own interpretation of that work. And it shows that our use of will not mistake that kind of work for plagiarism.

We were very pleased to find this. We are particularly pleased that recognizes student confusion in this new electronic age and does not presume an adversarial position. It is important to establish communication between student and teacher so that questions can be asked and answered, assurances given. We all have much to learn as the Web grows. And we are pleased that the Web seems to offer us help in teaching critical thinking and writing.