Preventing Plagiarism

As the editor of a literary journal in college, I know the importance of checking for plagiarism, in both my work and that of others. You might use a plagiarism checker because you don’t want to accidentally rip off William Blake.

You might ask how you could possibly “accidentally” plagiarize someone else’s work. Well while reviewing submissions for the aforementioned journal, we came across a poem that was formatted a little strangely. It had surprisingly flowy language compared to our usual submissions, and the last two lines were in quotes. I looked up the quoted lines and found out they were from a Van Morrison song. ok, that’s cool. But two other lines were indented, so we looked those up to. I found those in a William Blake poem, called “The Price of Experience.” Naturally, I started to read that poem, and found that the submission was actually the entire William Blake poem!

We sent a letter to the author (whose identity was anonymous, as were all our submissions), and they wrote an apology, saying they had copied the poem into a notebook, found it at a later date, and thought they had written it. Whether or not that was true, I was very glad I’d done some digging, and after that made it a point to always run our submissions through plagiarism checkers.

What’s great about a lot of these programs is that they also help catch incorrect citations, so that even if you are making sure to give attribution, you do it correctly. I was on an academic board once where a student was appealing the claim that his paper was plagiarized. He claimed that there was no ill-intent and that he didn’t want the mark on his record. He had attempted to cite his sources, but did not do so completely, or correctly where it was attempted. I never knew the student’s identity, but the board debated for hours whether or not the mark would stay against him. He had the opportunity to re-write the paper, and the plagiarism would only be on his record in a way that it would only show up to current faculty looking to see if it was a pattern. It would only be on his permanent public records if it was combined with another infraction. I was only on the intermediary board, so I never found out if the record was cleared, but it showed me the importance of educating about proper citations and giving people the resources to prevent unintentional plagiarism.


Posted on February 9, 2014, in Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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