Saturday, March 22, 2008

Plagiarism and authority

Thursday, I had an interesting conversation with a couple of my classmates in my Classics of Literature II class. The question of whether or not we had to do a bibliography for the paper that we were doing arose (probably not considering that we were all using the same prose translation of (the) Iliad by W. H. D. Rouse). But as always this brought up the whole issue of plagiarism which is a serious issue in today's college environment.

In passing, I mentioned that last semester, I ended up having to cite myself--an entry in this very blog, in fact. R. F., one of my fellow students, thought that it was unnecessary for me to do so; it is not like I was actually published, she said (I beg to differ; I have had stuff published both in the print and internet markets). Futhermore, it is not like I am actually an expert.

Ouch. I feel a small case of wounded ego coming on.

And the fact that it was a blog, no one would ever consider checking.

Now, the conversation got cut short by the professor walking in--probably a good thing considering that I can be a little bull-headed at times. And it would have been like talking to a brick wall; R. F. will someday prove to be a good writer. She is also stubborn, an excellent trait if you have to cope with rejection slips; but it makes one's opinions and worldview pretty limiting.

First off, in the world of academia (and publishing depending on the style), if it has been published, whether it is in print or internet, you cite. Professors have computer programs that can scan the internet for your source of plunder. And with many books being previewed on the internet, even parts of the print world is accessible to these programs. If you can find it though Google (or another search engine), they can find it also.

As for citing myself, I was just following the example of several of the experts that I have read. If a Ph. D. cites their own work, including work done before they became a Ph. D., I presume the custom is to cite it if it is in print--period--even if it is your own work.

Now taking out my wounded ego, oh how it hurts; you may not think that a college student can be an expert, but it can happen. In two term papers last semester, I ended being an expert and primary source.

In political science, while talking about the politics and organizational structure of the esoteric Orders, I was considered by the professor to be reliable source. Outside of college, this has also occurred. For some reason, writing a Golden Dawn blog, doing articles about Golden Dawn, and being a Temple Chief makes one an expert in the eyes of some people.

In microeconomics, the class that I wrote the term paper that I cited myself in, for some reason, Marty Sabo considered that having ten years of management experience and currently working as a freelance writer made me an expert on my own business. Gee, what type of sense does that make? It is my own business (sure, it is a struggling business, nevertheless...), and I would be an expert at what going on in it. It made sense to him, and who am I to argue with the man who controlled my grade.

But this whole conversation with R. F. made me realize the attitude that is making plagiarism such a major problem in colleges and in the internet markets. Basically, the attitude says that if few people know the person and they don't have a Ph. D., and their work is found on a blog or other tiny corner of the internet, that is ok to copy their thoughts and words and use it for your own. Now, R. F. will never do this; she has pride in her own work and the same professor in ENG 122 (research paper how-to class) that I had (which is where the emphasis that I am not an expert comes from). But someone with less talent and pride will have no problem with plundering the internet for ideas and sometimes outright exact words. It is a scary thought.

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