For most college students, the year is over or shortly to be over. K-12 students might have a little longer. That being said, I’m surprised views of my site have yet to plummet, and have in fact risen.
I would venture a guess that many students have been assigned last-minute papers on The Great Gatsby, Hamlet, or A Christmas Carol. How do I know? Word Press tells me what search terms have been used to find this site. Many are surprisingly similar; clusters are very specific, and even identical.
I’ve been there too, trying to write a paper when I didn’t fully understand the intent of the assignment or the work on which it was based. (For me, the killers were Derrida and postmodern literature).
However frustrated you may be, however desperate, however eager just to turn something in — think very hard before you take the easy route and copy an article from Wikipedia, buy an essay online, or use my blog as a starting point for your thesis. (The last would be doubly unwise, because I don’t even have an advanced degree in the field.)
Plagiarism is “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work” (Random House, 2009).
It’s not just copy-and-paste; it’s taking someone’s idea and calling it your own. It’s paraphrasing without giving credit. It’s claiming something that is not your own work. It’s cheating.
I’m not your teacher, your parent, or your guidance counselor. But as a fellow writer and student, I urge you to think about a few things before you click “paste.”
1. The chances that you will get caught are very good. It’s not an insult to your intellect to say teachers can tell a difference between your writing style and the essay you’ve copied from the Internet. If you can find it, so can they.
2. If you don’t get caught now, you may later. What then? As a former member of the student-based judiciary at my college, I can tell you that you would fail the assignment. You would probably fail the class, meaning you would have to retake it or keep an ‘F’ on your transcript. You could face mandatory tutoring sessions or punative writing assignments. And you thought you were too busy to write the first paper!
3. If you put enough effort into disguising your cheating, you’ve probably expended more effort than you would have used in writing the paper yourself. Is it really worth it?
4. Even if you never pick up a work of literature again, you will have to use critical thinking to analyze a decision, a project, a report, or a budget. You will have to write clear, concise reports, e-mails, or cover letters. The life skills you’re developing do have value.
5. To me, what is most important is that by doing your own work, you are developing an ethic of diligence and honesty. You’re learning to ask for help if you don’t understand an assignment or are afraid you can’t complete it in time. You’re learning to work hard and manage your time, even if failure is the most effective way to learn.
At a job, down the road, you may have a heavy workload that seems impossible. Will you borrow someone else’s work and call it your own? Will you take shortcuts that may cost the company or your co-workers later? Will you take the easy way out? Or will you do your best, seek help when you can, and create a result of which you can be proud?
I hope, even if it means my blog will get fewer hits a day, that you will choose the latter not only then, but now.