Monday, May 7, 2012

Oh, No You Di'nt! Plagiarize, That Is

Dear Eve,

My professor says I plagiarized a paper I turned in for a college class. He has results from an online service that checks for plagiarism that says my paper is 90% copied from online sources. I know I went to the web for some inspiration and help, but I can't have plagiarized from it. He told us at the beginning of the semester that he would fail us for the entire semester's class if we plagiarize for his class, but I think it's totally unfair that I'm being failed for the class for this one paper. I worked for hours really hard on this paper.

Dear Woefully, Wrongfully, Pitifully Accused & Accursed,

You fucked up.



Your professor, unless he has serious issues (which is a distinct possibility in academia), is not looking for ways to fail his students.  The usage of plagiarizing detecting software is a necessity in higher education, but you know that already!  Sometimes it's just too tempting to pass up perfectly turned phrases, which by chance (serendipity?) also magically echo your own sentiments so succinctly it's impossible to change them!  At least that's easy to think when you're reeling in Paperland, you've not quite got an opinion on anything yet because you're reading a lot of material (please, bob, let this be the case) and still trying to figure out where the hell to begin. Making a quilt of other peoples work is an easy trap to fall in, but one that can be easily avoided when you give yourself the gift of actually caring about your work.  If you did, then you would understand that no matter how cleverly you reword other people's work, it's still not yours.  Plagiarizing is more than just extracting sentences word for word; re-arranging words, phrases, paragraphs all count.  And more importantly, you can plagiarize an opinion; an idea.  Original thought is kinda the whole point of the paper to begin with, yes?

Of course you worked really hard and didn't do anything maliciously (You're a great student!), but that doesn't matter: consequences are consequences.  I can run over a guy that saunters into the middle of the street in front of my dope ride, who's just daring someone to hit him, then kill the swaggering bastard and get sent to jail for involuntary manslaughter.  It wasn't like I was gunning for him, but he's dead just the same.  You killed your paper and it doesn't matter if you did it involuntarily or not: the bitch is dead.

The important thing now is to not let this happen again.  If you have the balls and/or inclination to get more information on where you went wrong, you should.  I know very few profs who would turn a student away who seriously wanted to improve in any area related to their class.  It will help you not repeat the same mistake and it will let them know that you're not just another self-entitled, asshole kid with a helicopter mom and a credit card; that you, my darling, are a serious student. It's never a bad thing, either, to make friends in high(ish) places.  If the guy is a real toe-stubber and doesn't want to work with you, go to the student writing center, give 'em what you got and find out where you went wrong and learn how to write a paper.  You'll be amazed at how much you can improve in a few sessions.  And remember: Failing is totally okay.  It can be a blow financially for many reasons, but one class shouldn't be devastating.  If it is, you will still recover.  This is an expensive wake-up call to take your education more seriously.

On a side note, if I did involuntarily kill someone, don't worry! I wouldn't really go to jail because I'm white, female and foxy.  You wouldn't believe the things I can get away with!  I can only assume that, sadly, you didn't have the "it" that would make your professor overlook your ineptitude because then, you know, you could've totally gotten away with it.  Bad breaks, kid.  Bad breaks.

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