Is it really plagiarism?
One of my daughter’s friends came to me the other day with a problem. The 4000 word essay she had written was found to be 12% plagiarized. Her first reaction was that it must be the literary quotes she used, but the teacher told her that Turnitin.com found that she had plagiarized another student’s work. The other student turned out to be her.
So how can it be plagiarism when you are using a paper you have previously written? I did a little internet searching to understand the problem better. It seems that much of the concern in centered on academic articles and journal publications. The understanding when reading these articles is that what is being published is new information and some people feel it is fraud to use your previously published work and present it as new.
Another concern is that of college professors, who object to a student using a paper previously written for another class for a paper they have assigned. Part of me agrees with this and understands the rationale but part of me feels like if a student has done the research and already written a paper that answers the question assigned, why not use it again?
My daughter’s friend’s situation was somewhere in between these two possibilities. She had used parts of a paper she had written two years earlier to answer a bigger, different question. The research was very relevant to her topic and she thought it made sense not to recreate the wheel. And when she told me about it as she was writing, I thought it was very logical—why not use the research she had already done?
Her advisors told her she needed to change the words enough so that they would not appear to be plagiarized. She could not use parts of her original paper, even if she credited it to herself. With a little creativity, she was able to do this.
I still don’t think this is plagiarism. Shouldn’t we have the right to use our thoughts and ideas again?
What do you think?
Writing prompt: Take the 1st few paragraphs of a fairy tale or other familiar story and try to tell the same tale, using entirely different words. Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday, February 15th (my birthday!) and we will publish the best ones on Friday, February 17th.