Friday, April 15, 2005


Brains for sale: Hugh Levinson exposes the world of academic plagarism. BBC Radio 4 , Friday 15 April 2005.

Student plagiarism made me think the website was the perfect place for passing others' ideas off as your own - for example, a weblog might not contain your own ideas at all. In the main, because linking is available, citation is done quite assiduously: non - professional thinkers adopt the protocols of the academic paper, in this sense. The weblog, being hypertextual, is geared up to citation - if you link to it you've cited it! The original source may be more than one link away.

Levinson discusses a technique used by modern students called patch writing. This is writing an essay or doing course-work by:

1. cutting and pasting a series of paragraphs from a variety of sources
2. linking the paragraphs using your own words: as few as possible presumably.

It is said to be common: understandable now most essays are written on computer, and there is greater access to source material via the internet. But surely it happened in the days of manual transcription, too? I can remember, in extremis, copying out chunks from reference books or research papers, later to be reprimanded for my efforts being 'too dependent on source material'! You eventually grasp how to grasp the essentials and express your understanding concisely.

I used these to get up to speed on the latest definitions and ideas:

Avoiding plagiarism from Virtual Writing Center

Guidance on the avoidance of plagiarism Keele University
Designed for the undergraduate, this would also be usful for the A level (high school) student. it gives a concrete example which is fool proof.

Plagiarism is not cheating The Joint Information Systems Committee

Why we shouldn't concentrate on cheating software to fight plagiarism forum on academic paper databases

The great tradition of the precise, one of the vital educational and life skills, has resulted in the general insistence in writing everything 'in your own words'. And we all do so because the core tasks in becoming educated are marshalling, concision and clarity. Attribution accepted, there must be an argument for freely using other people's words in bulk if you think what is being said is being said as well as can be.


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