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reproductive rights, and global health crises, I am

eager to see how students use digital storytelling


to promote social change.
There is one more significant benefit of using
digital storytelling in the classroom. In the last
edition of Write to Learn, Learn to Write, Danah
Hashem described the importance of 21st century
literacies, which focus on engagement with new
and ever-changing technologies to enhance
students communication skills. Digital storytelling
promotes 21st century literacies by encouraging
students digital, global, technology, visual, and
information literacy. It allows students to explore
and express stories through images, music, and
spoken word, and to examine the significance of
socio-historical context in listening to stories of
the self. Finally, digital storytelling encourages
students to think about and participate in
multimodal communication while working toward
understanding, compassion and social justice, a
hallmark of a liberal arts education.

Lets Teach, Not Police: Expanding our Understanding


of Plagiarism in Efforts to Combat It
By Danah Hashem, MA/MAT in English, WIC Graduate Assistant
For several decades, the topic of
rampant student plagiarism has
been extensively discussed in
scholarship and in public venues
such as newspapers and lectures.
Educators and the media have
likened student plagiarism to an
epidemic, with publications like
The New York Times1 and The Chronicle of Higher
Education2 have been referring to the issue as The
Plague of Plagiarism. While the identification of an
educational issue is important, the sensationalistic
characterization of student plagiarism is not helpful
for educators or students. Rather than engage with
plagiarism as an epidemic, I advocate we engage

with plagiarism for what it isa complex concept


and act with a complicated history. In this article, I
argue educators who have a strong understanding
of the complexities of plagiarism and employ
pedagogical practices that help students work
effectively with sources will have more success in
combatting plagiarism in the classroom.
The problem of plagiarism begins and arguably
ends with attempts to nail down a definition.
Merriam-Websters dictionary defines it as the act
of using another persons words or ideas without
giving credit to that person.3 This short, simplistic
definition fundamentally frames plagiarism in
continued on page 6

Christopher F. Schuetze, Germanys Plague of Plagiarism, New York Times, March 12, 2013,
www.rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com//2013/03/12/germanys-plague-of-plagiarism.
2
Allan Metcalf, A Plague of Plagiarism, The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 16, 2016,
www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/02/16/the-plague-of-plagiarism.
3
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, plagiarism, Merriam-Webster English Dictionary, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plagiarism.
1

Spring 2016 | WIC Program Newsletter | 5

terms of morality. The understanding of plagiarism


as borrowing or stealing peoples work has
given way to troubling identity markers that
position students as cheaters or thieves and
teachers as justice-promoting police or plagiarism
busters.4 Rebecca Moore Howard, a writing
studies professor at Syracuse University, argues,
by thinking of plagiarism as a unitary act we
risk categorizing all of our students as criminals.5
Identifying students as criminals is not only
demoralizing and harmful, it is also inaccurate. In
The Elements of Teaching Writing, Keith Hjortshoj
and Katherine Gottshalk, both retired professors
from Cornell University, claim plagiarism does
not always correspond with integrity among
the students from their teaching experiences,
they recount many instances in which ethical and
motivated students plagiarize in their writing.6
Their experiences suggest shortcomings in
framing inaccurate source use as an issue centered
solely around ethics.

Its not that simple! Courtesy of Creative Commons


In efforts to provide a more complex
understanding of plagiarism, Howard, in
Plagiarisms, Authorship, and the Academic Death
Penalty, points us back to notions of authorship
that existed prior to the modern era, during which
the concept of an individual creator of original
work did not exist.7 According to dominant
beliefs prior to the modern era, knowledge is
accumulated and writing is collaborative; ideageneration, invention and writing are all informed
by and build on the work of others. Over time,
this understanding of authorship shifted and
changed in various contexts. In the 18th century,
the invention of the printing press established
writing as a profession and financially motivated

endeavor. With that, copyright laws were birthed


and using others work without attribution was
considered plagiarisma criminal act. The
academy has historically embraced this notion
of source use, attribution, and plagiarism amidst
divergent conceptualizations of plagiarism in other
cultures and countries, and on the Internet (which
has drastically disrupted traditional notions of the
individual author).
Taking into account the complexity of plagiarism
and its history, researchers, educators, and
organizations have taken on the task of developing
a more nuanced and flexible definition of
plagiarism for the academy. Plagiarism can be
understood more meaningfully as a diverse array
of types of source misuse, varying with regard to a
students intent, comprehension abilities, citation
knowledge, and ethical choices. Hjortshoj and
Gottschalk reflect on the varieties of plagiarism
observed in their own teaching experiences stating,
the offenses most colleges include in the loose
category of plagiarism vary from deliberate theft
and fraud to minor cases of close paraphrase and
faulty reference.8 By considering various reasons
as to why students plagiarize, plagiarism can be
constructed as a more complex and multifaceted
obstacle to education than it has been in the past.
In embracing a more nuanced understanding of
plagiarism, it is important to consider the various
factors that may prompt students to plagiarize.
Below I have identified several reasons, although I
acknowledge that this list is not comprehensive:

Gillian Silverman, Its a Bird, Its a Plane, Its Plagiarism Buster! Newsweek 140, no. 3 (2002): 12.
Rebecca Moore Howard, Forget About Policing Plagiarism. Just Teach, The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 16, 2001,
www.chronicle.com/article/Forget-About-Policing/2792.
6
Keith Hjortshoj and Katherine Gottshalk, The Elements of Teaching Writing (MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2004), 118.
7
Rebecca Moore Howard, Plagiarisms, Authorship, and the Academic Death Penalty, College English 57, no. 7 (1995): 789-90.
8
Hjortshoj and Gottshalk, 118.
4
5

6 | WIC Program Newsletter | Spring 2016

A General Lack of Ability: For a motivated


student who wants to succeed in an
assignment, but who does not have the skills
to do so, it may be easy to either intentionally
or unintentionally rely too heavily or incorrectly
on outside sources. Underdeveloped, or
developing, skills in reading, summarizing,
establishing voice, and understanding
citation practices can all contribute to student
plagiarism.9

Facilitating a writing process that occurs over


time. Instructors can incorporate pre-writing
activities, multiple drafts, and opportunities
for feedback and revision into an assignment.
Such scaffolding prevents students from
writing papers at the last minute. It also
provides student with an opportunity to work
more closely and for a longer period of time
with sources and their source-based writing,
minimizing the possibility of plagiarism.12

Cultural or Language Difference: American


school systems and U.S. academics have a very
specific understanding of what is appropriate
and necessary for source attribution. This
understanding is not objective and is not shared
around the globe.10

Teaching critical reading and writing practices.


Paraphrase and summary activities can help
students more meaningfully interact with texts.
Students who have strong comprehension
abilities are less likely to work with sources on
the sentence level, which has been strongly
linked to plagiarism.13

Time Constraints: In the competitive and hectic


atmosphere in which the modern student
operates, the Council of Writing Program
Administrators points out that students may
make time-management or planning errors and
believe they have no choice but to plagiarize
in order to meet important deadlines.11

Designing unique, non-generic assignments.


Assignments that are commonly used or
formulaic may invite stock or plagiarized
responses.14

Teaching appropriate source use. Activities


that ask students to identify different kinds of
plagiarism is helpful to equip them with an
understanding of what plagiarism is and looks
like.

While I acknowledge that blatant, intentional


plagiarism does indeed occur and demands
response, I believe it is important to acknowledge
student writers whom authentically struggle with
the ethics and complexities of citing sources in a
digital, globalized world.
In addition to thinking about the possible reasons
why students plagiarize, educators need to
consider how their pedagogy can proactively
combat plagiarism. The following is a list of some
ideas and strategies educators can use to prevent
student plagiarism.

These strategies are intended to help educators


teach rather than police. However, in order
for these ideas to be effective, they have to
be implemented within a disciplinary context.
Different disciplines have their own expectations
for source use and understandings of paraphrase,
quotations, summary, and citations. It is up
to educators to instruct their students on the
complexities of source use within their disciplines;
continued on page 8

WPA, Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices, The Council of Writing Program Administrators, January 2003,
http://wpacouncil.org/positions/WPAplagiarism.pdf.
10
Hjortshoj and Gottshalk, 119.
11
WPA.
12
Ibid.
13
Rebecca Moore Howard, Tanya K. Rodrigue, and Tricia C. Serviss, Writing from Sources, Writing from Sentences, Writing and Pedagogy 2, no.
2 (2010): 177-192.
14
WPA
9

Spring 2016 | WIC Program Newsletter | 7

as well as remain sensitive to the variety of reasons


why students plagiarize. By tackling the problem
of plagiarism directly, but with respect and openmindedness, we can begin to address one of the
major struggles in the teaching and learning of
writing.
Bibliography
Hjortshoj, Keith and Katherine Gottshalk. The
Elements of Teaching Writing. MA: Bedford/St.
Martins, 2004.
Howard, Rebecca Moore. Forget About Policing
Plagiarism. Just Teach. The Chronicle of Higher
Education. November 16, 2001. www.chronicle.
com/article/Forget-About-Policing/2792.
Howard, Rebecca Moore. Plagiarisms, Authorship,
and the Academic Death Penalty. College English
57, no. 7 (1995): 788-806.
Howard, Rebecca Moore, Tanya K. Rodrigue, and
Tricia C. Serviss. Writing from Sources, Writing
from Sentences. Writing and Pedagogy 2, no. 2
(2010): 177-192.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. plagiarism.


Merriam-Webster English Dictionary. www.
merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plagiarism.
Metcalf, Allan. A Plague of Plagiarism. The
Chronicle of Higher Education. February 16, 2016.
www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/02/16/
the-plague-of-plagiarism.
Schuetze, Christopher F. Germanys Plague of
Plagiarism. New York Times. March 12, 2013.
www.rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com//2013/03/12/
germanys-plague-of-plagiarism.
Silverman, Gillian. Its a Bird, Its a Plane, Its
Plagiarism Buster! Newsweek 140, no. 3 (2002):
12.
WPA. Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The
WPA Statement on Best Practices. The Council
of Writing Program Administrators. January 2003.
http://wpacouncil.org/positions/WPAplagiarism.
pdf.

Twelve Faculty Complete the WIC Seminar


Program and Participate in Salem States Third
Annual Writing Pedagogy Conference, Writing
Vertically
The third cohort completed the WIC Seminar program this year. The program is designed to support
instructors teaching the W-II and W-III courses in the new general education curriculum. All WIC
participants participated in seven seminars on writing-related topics and presented at the third
annual writing pedagogy conference, Writing Vertically, in April. Participants include: Cami Condie
(childhood ed and care department), Peg Dillon(communications), Hannah Fraley (nursing), Jason
Gillis (SMS), Mohammad Jahanbakht (business), Anne Noonan (psychology), Kristin Pangallo
(chemistry and physics), Forrest Rodgers (criminal justice), Dennis Rosemartin (education), Amy
Smith (theatre and speech communication), Jane Theriault (psychology), and Keja Valens (English).
Congratulations!

8 | WIC Program Newsletter | Spring 2016