Friday, May 21, 2010

letter to college

To Whom It May Concern:

After a research project on the effects of plagiarism as well as academic culture at San Francisco State University that my English 114 class did, I have found out some interesting information regarding plagiarism and the policies set currently at this school. As a class we came up with a survey that asked questions regarding plagiarism and if they have ever plagiarized. Many SFSU students admitted to plagiarizing for a class either by reusing a paper or copying sections from online or from a friends paper. Personally for me I was unaware of the university’s policy for plagiarism, so as a concerned student I think it is important that the school should find a way to let students know what is and isn’t acceptable to do and make it clear for each department because I know that each department may have a different policy.

In my class’s research project we compared why students may plagiarize at San Francisco State University with the study that Susan Blum did at Notre Dame which was recorded in her book My Word. In her book she included her own research of college culture and distractions students face that take away from time to do schoolwork and can cause students to want to plagiarize. We compared these two schools because there are many differences between the students and the activities available to students, like extracurricular activities, sporting events, school events as well as classes and study or homework habits. Even though there are many differences between Notre Dame and San Francisco State University, there were some similarities why some students may plagiarize, even if the reason for plagiarizing may have been different. I’m sure everyone has many fun stories from college where they had unforgettable times at a party that may have taken place of doing work for classes. For Notre Dame many students felt pressured to go to sporting events and the after parties instead of doing homework. Students at San Francisco State it seem to feel a different pressure. Sure there are times when students feel pressured to go to a party but from my own experience I wasn’t bashed by my friends for not going to a party and studying instead. Yes, there are many factors that play into effect for why a student didn’t complete their homework which could cause them to plagiarize, but many students at this school have activities and jobs outside of school. Other activities lessen the time needed to work on projects or homework which causes more stress for the student and this could cause them to lean towards plagiarizing to get the assignment done on time. I suggest that the workloads for classes should be lessened to an amount that is a doable work that won’t stress a student out too much. This in turn will lessen the amount of classes that students will have to drop or fail because they couldn’t handle the work load and there will be less stress overall.

Its seems that one of the main reasons students will plagiarize is because they don’t understand what is considered to be plagiarism. A way to fix this would be to have each teacher tell their classes what they consider to be plagiarism because some teachers may be okay with students reusing papers or research. There will be less confusion to what each teacher is expecting from students. For some classes it seems difficult to know what a teacher may expect from students, which then may cause them to try to cheat their way through a paper to write what the teacher wants to hear. Instead of making writing assignments that are difficult for a student to want to write, what if the assignments were written in a way for the student to connect to the paper so they will want to write the paper? When I was in high school one of my English teachers had us choose from three different prompts that are about the same topic but focused on three different aspects. We had to write a paper on the book Catcher in the Rye and the class had to choose from three different prompts and write an essay. This gave us more freedom as students to focus on one point of the book we really enjoyed and feel more at ease to finish the paper on time and feel confident that we would receive a good grade. This is just one way to try make students feel less of a need to plagiarize.

Another thing that could be done to either stop or lessen the use of plagiarism is to start a punishment system that has maybe multiple forms of punishment. It doesn’t make sense to kick a student out of school because they forgot to cite one source. If a student does something on accident then maybe there should be a teacher meeting or the teacher has a lesson in class on how to cite a source correctly and what to do to avoid small mistakes. But if the entire paper is just copied from the internet then maybe there should be a meeting with the dean of the college as well as the teacher to find some way to punish them and get an understanding as to why they plagiarized. This way the student will know the risk they are taking and know the punishment they could receive for doing what they did. Even if the teacher doesn’t define what plagiarism is in their lectures then maybe there could be some kind of plagiarism workshop that students could attend a few times a week so they know what not to do and how to correctly cite things in their writing. All of these are beneficial to the learning process of the student, and isn’t that why we, as students, come to college for?

College is supposed to be a learning experience right? So doesn’t it make sense to teach students what they shouldn’t do in their writing that could get them in serious trouble. Its better to make those mistakes in school where you can be taught how to not do them again and not get looked down upon because you didn’t understand all the things that are considered to be plagiarism. I believe that the suggestions that I have given you are some examples of steps towards the right direction in helping students to better understand what plagiarism is. Thank you for your time to read my thoughts and suggestions.

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