Articles for Discussing Plagiarism in Class

Plagiarism as a Subject for Class Discussion

An explicit discussion of plagiarism at GW–how and why it happens, what kind of scholarship it enables and prevents–can be a fruitful opportunity to raise with students more proactive questions concerning academic values, scholarly contributions, the writing process, intellectual development, working with sources, and the role of technology in the production of knowledge.  Here is a list of articles that are useful in discussing the many sides and dimensions of plagiarism. Each article looks at this complex concept from a different angle.

Focus on Borrowing as Inherent to Creation

From the perspective of a writer who found himself plagiarized, and learned to love it, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point explores basic questions of derivative vs. transformative borrowing in drama, music, and scholarship.

Focus on Accidental Plagiarism

A short piece written by presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, on how she came to accidentally plagiarize and the steps she is now taking to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Focus on Honor

A short editorial questions whether plagiarism detection software, though successful in catching plagiarists, is missing the point. Boyton believes the real issue is not how to catch plagiarists, but adhering to the honor code established by institutions of higher learning.

Focus on Responsibility

This short news piece presents the case of a college student who had plagiarized on papers throughout his college career but only got caught his last year. The university decided not to grant the student a degree. The student decided to sue the university charging that it was the university’s responsibility to better educate him on plagiarism.

Focus on Culture

The author of the book Cheating Culture talks to college students about how cheating has seeped into business, sports, and academics. Callahan identifies three forces driving the prevalence of today’s proclivity for cheating: importance placed on money and winning, the national sense of fear and insecurity, and the ineffectiveness of organizations and agencies meant to stop such behavior. He concludes by stating that academic integrity is worth fighting for and challenges students to follow the words of Gandhi and “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Focus on Institutions

Concerns the scandal surrounding Harvard sophomore and literary celebrity Kaavya Viswanathan, whose first novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life (2006), relied heavily on barely rewritten patches of text taken from Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts and a number of other young-adult novels. Wilson’s piece goes beyond easy moralizing to consider a range of institutional complicity in producing the conditions for plagiarism, from IvyWise, a high-priced counseling firm that helps students package themselves for college applications, to 17th Street Productions, a book packaging firm to which publishers outsource the development (and sometimes some of the writing) of genre books like the Sweet Valley series. For other coverage of “KaavyaGate” from the Independent, see

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