Plagiarism and college culture

Blog for Eng 114. Spring 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010


Dear San Francisco State Administration,

I am a freshman at San Francisco State University, where I am taking an English 114 class that required me to read Susan D. Blum’s My Word, an anthropological study on how college culture affects plagiarism. Following in Blum’s footsteps, students in my English class conducted a research to see how academic culture, extracurricular culture, demographics/identity, and student motivations play a role in plagiarism at SFSU. Plagiarism, which can be defined as copying someone’s text or ideas without reference, is an issue because it takes away from the goal of a college education. It is a goal built on academic integrity, which is “a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility” (Blum, 2009, p.177). By plagiarizing students are not only attempting to achieve a grade dishonestly, but they are cheating themselves out of a quality education. I recommend that the university deal with cases of plagiarism in appropriate forms of punishment but more importantly address the source of the problem through education.

In order to efficiently tackle the plagiarism problem here at State, there should be school wide consistency in the enforcement of the plagiarism policy as well as in its prevention. Consistency can help reinforce lessons on plagiarism and also deter it. I commend the University on its efforts to detect plagiarism through the use of TurnItIn, a web based plagiarism detector, however not all professors require their students to submit essays through TurnItIn. The lack of possible detection and consequences makes plagiarizing harder to resist and repeat offenders continue to plagiarize until they are motivated to stop (Abdon, A. 2010). Some students who plagiarize may fly under the radar, but students that are caught often face harsh consequences. One punishment does not fit all, so different forms of plagiarism should be dealt with differently and should be appropriate to the “crime.” As a student I feel that incorrectly citing a source does not warrant the same punishment as buying a paper from a paper mill. For example a student who has plagiarized by not citing sources should be given a chance to fix his/her mistake or receive a lower grade on the assignment.

Prevention through education starts in the classroom. SFSU should deal with plagiarism by requiring that professors discuss and educate their students on what exactly is plagiarism and how to avoid it. By discussing plagiarism in the classroom, perhaps students will be discouraged from plagiarizing. From my personal experience, I can say that when professors discuss plagiarism they tend to remind their students of just how much trouble we would be in if we are “found out” because they “will find out.” Discussing plagiarism in terms of consequences may deter students from committing the deed through apparent intimidation, but coercing students into complying by that reason alone is insufficient. In lower division English classes, professors should educate students on plagiarism as well as equipping students with the tools of proper citation. By teaching students how and what to cite, students can avoid unintentionally plagiarizing through an error in citation. Another suggestion would be adding a “What is Plagiarism and How to Avoid it” section to OASIS, the library tutorial provided by SFSU. Plagiarism can be a problem when writing research papers, so an added tutorial can be beneficial. Currently, OASIS is only a series of quizzes that tests a student’s knowledge of what they recently read in the tutorial, but it should be made into an available resource that is accessible even after a student completes the required quizzes. If students have easy access to a simple yet informational site that shows key facts on plagiarism, then they will be more likely to prevent plagiarism on their own.

With 40% of the 44 students working approximately 20 hours a week and 60% participating in a form of an organized student activity, it’s easy to say that students at SFSU have busy schedules. The survey revealed that work, extracurricular activities, and going out have negatively impacted schoolwork (Abdon, A. 2010). A combination of procrastination on top of school, work, extracurricular activities make plagiarism all the more likely for students. Our research showed that students have a problem with time management. Students do not budget their time wisely and instead spend more time on other activities that do not involve finishing their assignments. While I understand that many students participate in extracurricular activities or/and must work to offset some of the expenses incurred while attending university, finding a balance between school, work, and activities is important. The survey we conducted also showed us that many students find a way to organize their hectic lifestyles by prioritizing and making to do list (Gibb, E. 2010). One of our interviewees, “Person K” proves that it is possible to juggle school and extracurricular activities. Person K “found a way to balance school, classes, work and theatre without feeling too overwhelmed and still has the ability to complete her assignments” (Gibb, E. 2010). However, not many students are like “K” and those students, would benefit from a time management workshop. An actual workshop that can be taken as a class at State may not be high priority when it comes to the CSU budget crunch, but I recommend that State add a time management “tips” section to the online academic resource program.

Over 70% of the 44 students we interviewed claim an understanding of the University’s policy against plagiarism, yet many of those students have plagiarized in one form or another (Gibb, E. 2010) and of the 44, 33% disapprove of plagiarism (Abdon, A. 2010). Despite knowing the University policy, students continue to plagiarize out of laziness, not knowing what constitutes plagiarism, and simply not having “enough” time. Students, who are tired from a day of activities or work, tend do homework as fast as they can. “Everything kind of builds up and eventually you find yourself running out of time so to save myself some stress, I copy and paste or in some cases just ask someone for a favor or pay for a written paper,” claimed one interviewee (Abdon, A. 2010). Another interviewee said he would copy homework from a friend or “patchwrite” by taking information on the internet and changing it to make it his own. Rebecca Moore Howard, who is a professor of writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University, coined the term patchwriting, meaning “copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one synonym for another” (Blum, 2009, p. 26). By conducting student surveys and interviews, it can be derived that students are often unaware of what forms of plagiarism there are and often plagiarize unintentionally by failing to cite sources. 40 percent of the students we surveyed claimed that they never plagiarized while those who did plagiarize specified reusing old papers, writing/editing papers for someone else or vice versa, or failing to properly cite sources (Gibb, E. 2010). The University should, “put these issues out in public; spell them out so everyone knows what we are talking about” (Blum, 2009, p. 77). A plagiarism resource is available for teachers on the SFSU College of Humanities website, which lists key types of plagiarism, such as buying a paper from a paper mill, incorrect citation, and borrowing from a text without citing. I think it is great that there is access to a resource such as that; however, it would be even better if a similar resource was made for students. I feel that if students knew what constitutes plagiarism they would be more likely to avoid it.

Students should be taught the value of academic integrity, how plagiarism destroys that integrity, what plagiarism is (including all its forms), and the causes of plagiarism. I believe that a better understanding of plagiarism as a whole, including why it is wrong and what causes it, is an effective way to combat it. By addressing the causes of plagiarism, perhaps the likelihood of students plagiarizing at SF State may decrease.Thank you for reading and I really hope that you consider my suggestions.


L. Peralta


Gibb, E., Liberal, S., Peralta, L., Siksamat, K., Morazan, F., Lin, J. (2010) Academic Culture. English 114.04, Spring 2010, San Francisco State University

Acala, K., Guillen, C., Zuniga, V., Stus, A., Sedlak, G., Eschavez, F. (2010) Plagiarism: SFSU vs. Notre Dame. English 114.04, Spring 2010, San Francisco State University

Abdon, A., Miraflor, C., Del Valle Nieva, A., Erfe, R., Yuen, V., Rodriguez, A. (2010) Extracurricular Culture. English 114.04, Spring 2010, San Francisco State University

Chang, S., Keil, T., Maldonado, R., Truong, N., Wilson, T. (2010). To Plagiarize or not to plagiarize, That is the Motivation. English 114.04, Spring 2010, San Francisco State University

Blum, S.D. (2009) My Word: Plagiarism and College Culture. New York: Cornell University Press

Sunday, May 2, 2010

research project findings...

Working with my group has been fun and doing the actual research has been even better. My group's interviewees have all given common responses to our interview questions. It seems that most of our interviewees struggled with balancing school, work, and extracurricular activities. With so many obligations, our interviewees would find ways to manage their time. It wasn't surprising to see that my interviewee and Suzette's interviewee would make a to do list. However, my roommate, who I intervieweed, took to do list to different level. She would not only make a list, but she would create a time schedule as well. For example by 3pm she "should" have finished Bio hw before doing hw for ethnic studies from 4-5. My roommate may not have a job or any other obligations outside of school, but she still found a lot of things that would keep her from doing homework. She listed facebook, online TV, and the internet in general as distractions. Despite the balancing act between school, play, and other activities, most of our interviewees generally thought plagiarism was wrong and were often unaware that what they did was considered plagiarism. One of our interviewees did admit to letting an older sibling write 1.5 pages [out of a 10 pg. paper] for her. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. The interviewee said she didn't feel guilty at all because she valued finishing the paper+getting a good grade enough to ask for "help." Another interesting finding were the reasons students gave for missing classes, which were "sick" and ironically... staying up late to do work for another class. The common things we found in our findings didn't surprise me as much as the reasons people would give. The interviewee who plagiarized basically told me that the class was ok, but she she didn't really care enough about it to put some effort into writing her 10 page paper. It's interesting to see how academic culture[from missing class to using professor ratings to pick a class] can influence someone's reasons for plagiarizing.

Anyhow I can't wait to see what the other groups have found out and how their research topics factor into plagiarism at SFSU.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

experience at SFSU vs. Notre Dame college culture

For some reason I had originally thought that My Word would be a bit hard to read, but it has been interesting and easy to read compared to some of the articles we've had to read for class. The last chapter was amusing and it was fun to learn that the college culture of Notre Dame kids are a little similar to SFSU's college culture. It seems that whether you go to private school or public school, Thursdays are the start of the weekend for most students and that the majority of students choose classes based on how probable it is to pass the class.

However, it seems that those are the only similarities between students who go to Notre Dame and SFSU.

My experience here at State has so far been good. I opted out of campus housing and instead chose a cheaper alternative by living with 3 other girls off campus. Roommates are fun I admit, but the roommate situation can be a little distracting and inconvenient at times. Like any other "adult" living on their own, I have to manage my time and my money. I pay rent, I pay my portion of the household bills, I do laundry, go grocery shopping and what not. Last semester I used to work during the school week then I'd commute back to San Jose in order to work weekends. Work and school can be a bit of a hassle, but I feel guilty asking my parents for money when they preferred I go to San Jose State. I admit that it feels good earning money, but its a tad sad when you're putting in more money towards books+rent+living expenses than you're actually earning. With 17 units, I'm no longer working...well, paid that is...haha. anyway I volunteer Mon-Thurs at an elementary school,it's fun but tiring in addition to school. I can honestly say I'm never on campus much! I'm usually off campus by the time my last class ends, but when my laptop died I made it a mission to find computer/internet access on campus. As for my class schedule..I choose my classes based on time[the earlier I get to school and get out of school the better!] which leaves room for a job and volunteering.

Since I'm not on campus much I don't feel as though there really is much of a college community. Perhaps it's more of a community to those that dorm, but SFSU is a commuter school and no one really hangs around unless they still have class. I know we have clubs, sororities and sports teams but unlike Notre Dame, those things have not really added to the community feel of going to school here. The lack of frat and sorority houses is one thing...sports? it's like we don't even have teams! I don't even have a clue about any home games....clubs? you mean those tables set out near Cesar Chavez that people ignore?

Unlike SFSU, Notre Dame has a football team which brings a lot of people together. Notre Dame students party hard for football and most likely have situations in which friends ask, "hey are you going to the game tonight?" Now I know that SFSU kids party too, but it's most likely not for a winning football team. Football unites Notre Dame students. At State, students are brought together by protesting budget cuts and protesting for more funding for public education.

In comparison I also feel that since a majority of the students at Notre Dame are from well privileged families, the students don't necessarily have to work to pay their way through school. Books, tuition, and living expenses are more expensive at a private university like Notre Dame, but I think that the students there are not so worried about money compared to the students that go to State. So perhaps they don't stress about needing a job and getting rent paid, but I'm sure they have the same academic stress to deal with. I mean it's a lot harder getting into Notre Dame than State, so I'm assuming that the pressure to succeed is "normal" and that expectations for better grades are higher. Due to differences in college culture, students at Notre Dame and at SFSU both have different reasons for plagiarizing. At Notre Dame...perhaps the students feel the need to live up to the expectations that come with going to an established private school[the pressure is probably constant, but after partying I bet its greater]...and at State, perhaps students are caught up in the hustle and bustle of city life, extracurricular activities, jobs, and even at times parties.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Books Books Books

I'm reading a lot of books, but at the same time I haven't been reading! Ok that sounds confusing so to explain...I currently am not reading anything else besides school related articles/books. None the less I still like to think that since I am in the midst of a couple books...I am reading? :] As for couple? Yeah! I have a habit of starting one book, putting it down and starting another, and switching between books when one gets boring.

I'm in the midst of This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, and Of Human Bondage. The first two books are both by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I loved The Great Gastby in high school, so I thought I'd check out some of Fitzgerald's other work.

This Side of Paradise: It's all about finding meaning, finding yourself, and finding where you fit in. It's a really slow book since there's not really much of a's the main character's (Amory) journey to self-realization and meaning.

The Beautiful and Damned: Love, Marriage, Riches, Alcoholism, and Decadence during the jazz age. The story is based on the relationship between Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda.

Of Human Bondage(by W. Somerset Maugham): One word: Drama! Soap Opera! haha. This is the most interesting of the books I've started. :] Oh, for one thing it's not what you think. Human Bondage actually means Emotional Bondage. Philip is emotionally attached to Mildred and is blinded by his emotional chains that he disregards how often she has hurt him.

Recommendations+Books I've read/want to read:

Gladwell-Outliers:I was talking to my friend about how much I liked the Gladwell article we read for class...and well, she likes Gladwell just as much as I do! I haven't started Outliers yet, but my friend has the book so I'll get my hands on it soon enough. :]

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: Two very good authors who are great at blending science/psychology, crime, mystery, and suspense. My chemistry teacher in high school granted extra credit for book reports we'd do on any of Preston & Child's books. Still Life with crows was my first book from the two authors. Yes there's science in this book, but it's hardly noticeable! Has anyone heard of the term feral child or Genie?

"A feral child is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has no (or little) experience of human care, loving or social behavior, and, crucially, of human language. .." (Google, which i just noticed got this definition from Wikipedia)

Still Life with Crows takes the concept of the feral child to a whole new innocently murderous extent.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Blog Response to "Inventing the University"

Years of schooling has taught me that good writing didn't have grammatical or sentence structure errors and although a paper might not have any such errors it wasn't always the "best" essay, but it was a "good enough to get a decent grade" essay. "Good enough" as in basic, this is what I learned, I answered the darn prompt, didn't explore or express any new ideas..."Good Enough."

In "Inventing the University," Bartholomae redefined what it really means to be a basic writer. According to him, grammatical errors, syntactical errors, and not having the proper/appropriate academic "voice" are just some of the things that make a basic writer. In comparison a good writer is able to speak in a variety of voices depending on the given topic and audience.

I'm sure most people have heard that you learn from your mistakes, in my case...I'm learning from other's mistakes. Throughout his article Bartholomae used different examples of student writing to make his point. When the "Clay Model" and "White Shoes model" were compared I learned that while an error free essay is important, addressing your audience correctly and atleast attempting to speak the language of the academic community is better than staying safe within your comfort zone.

It's amusing that at the end of his article he encouraged students to take the risk and write sentences that we "might not so easily control." When it comes to getting the grade...some of the people I've talked to about essays(even myself at times) would rather stay comfortable than branch out. The same goes for spanish class...I can recall my friend saying, "why write hella hard sentences that you don't know the words to and can't put together?"

Anyhow, some of my teachers before have taught me that using "I" in an essay isn't so great. Bartholomae acknowledged the weak form of "I" as the narrator telling a story and that "I" can be used if done properly. A good example he gave was the "Composing Songs" paper. In that paper the writer established her authority by "placing herself both within and against a discourse, or within and against competing discourses, and working self consciously to claim an interpretive project" of her own.

I realized that another example of this is Gladwell's article "Something Borrowed," in which he challenged(elaborated/gave conclusion to) his first reaction to Lavery's plagiarism. He recognized other cases of plagiarism and general notions on it then challenged and learned from the things he mentioned. His voice/person was ever present in his article without having to use I....I...I...

Bartholomae placed so much importance on "audience awareness" that I just now noticed that some of the "tips" he gave are all about tailoring "a writer's ideas or his the needs and expectations of his audience."

Some of these so called tips are:
Consistency: This was a problem in the "Clay Model" which he called breaking the spell of fiction when the writer suddenly addressed his reader differently(talking down to the reader).

Building Bridges: connect/relate personal viewpoint and reader's viewpoint

and use "common points of departure" before introducing new/controversial ideas

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blog Roll

I hate how blogspot doesnt have categories for you to search other blogs to read, that "next blog" button didn't really help me so I looked through some blogs I have on my favorites. It's sorta sad that most of the blogs I read/used to read don't update regularly or hardly at all, so here are a few that are current to somewhat current:

1) Broke Ass Stuart's Goddamn Website: "You are young broke and beautiful." Tell me you haven't heard of him. :] Check out his San Francisco section and you'll be sure to find cheap/affordable thrills and eats throughout the city as well as anything else interesting that has to do with SF.

2) The Daily Nugget: Fun, somewhat factual, somewhat newsworthy "news" that happens in san francisco. you'd be surprised to know that there was a dead body found in Golden Gate Park and this guy even has a map for it!

3)Street Fancy: A fashion blog with photos of different street fashions in places like San Francisco and New York. I don't consider myself a fashionable person, but I do appreciate looking at people's "in" styles and outrageous outfits.

4) Read my mind: I love her music choice. This is more of a personal blog of someone I don't really know at all, but her blogs are interesting. What first attracted me to her site was her blog on asian plastic surgery. Scary. yes. I didn't think double eyelid surgery was so damn popular in some asian countries and it's damn sad that they find western beauty more appealing.

5) Postsecret!: it was on blogspot so i figured it was a blog. who hasn't heard of it? :] I look forward to every Sunday just so I can read new secrets. It's comforting and amazing when you find a secret that you can relate to and that there's someone out there who feels exactly like you.

Blog #4:My Word Chapter 3: I'm not Performing, I'm Adapting

Like most of the chapters I've read so far, Chapter 3 is another one of those readings that opened up my mind.[hah, you never stop learning right?]

The authentic self and performance self are black and white ideals, but like Blum, I also see that it doesn't apply to everyone and that those two types "may alternate within the same individual."

The performance self "say what is expected, whatever suits the occasion" and is described as goal oriented and to them"all that matters is the effect of their actions." In comparison, the authentic self is quite the opposite and values authorship, uniqueness, and authenticity. As Blum continued to differentiate between the two in the course of the chapter, I started asking, "which one am I?"

Am I having an identity crisis? I've never felt more lost, but I guess I'm just in the gray area, straddling the fence between this or that. At first I thought I was more of the authentic self, I'd never plagiarize intentionally, I stay true to myself as much as possible and I value my words as well as the words of others. However, I would have to say that I am goal oriented and I do enjoy the collaboration of ideas.

My favorite part of the chapter were the interviews on keeping up with appearances and how "performing" affects integrity. It's amusing how I can relate to most of what the students said! So am I afterall just a version of the performance self? Just like the students I do act differently around different people based on the comfort level, but does that mean I'm not being true to myself?

Favorite quote that describes performance selves: "values lie in changing and sharing. integrity may be important, but it is the integrity that is gained from the respect of others in society rather than from a sense of wholeness."

I've never realized how our integrity is constantly challenged, especially around our peers and even in school. One student was interviewed on whether she would write about something she didn't believe in if it meant the difference between passing or failing. The authentic self "would" rather write what they felt despite the consequences and at times students would feel strongly enough to rebuke a professor's opinion, but it's all about the stakes. If it was between an A or a B, sure why not, but an A or an F? The performance self kicks in and adapts.

Hah. I guess that's what the performance self truly's not fake, it's a survivalist, it adapts to an environment/situation in order to achieve the desired outcome. No one can be blamed for that right? So when it comes back to the question of whether people aren't being true to themselves when they act's not so true at all! I know there are some exceptions, but I believe that most of the time people are truly being themselves, but subdue their personalities based on the people they are surrounded with. I don't really think people are being fake when they only choose to reveal or hide a part of themselves to certain people. they're not losing their integrity...they're just choosing to show what they deem appropriate based on the circumstances. As for facebook, myspace, aim, encourages the performance way of keeping up appearances and meeting the expectations of those we associate with.

As for the quote:
"The performance self is more prone to cheat and plagiarize than the authentic self...For a performance self, intellectual property is a quaint yet meaningless notion."

I do agree with Blum's statement. If performance selves only care about that good grade, what would stop them from plagiarizing? Ok, so if a performance self plagiarizes I still think they'd feel guilty about it, somewhat, but then again if intellectual property doesn't mean anything to them...then perhaps thats the cure for any guilt. The performance self wouldn't see plagiarizing as losing integrity because according to them...ideas are not something to be owned, but something to be shared. I think though that if you do borrow ideas/quotes, you might as well "plagiarize" properly with citation.