Plagiarism is bad.
Do you know how many people I just plagiarized, by writing “Plagiarism is bad”?
I understand the idea behind plagiarism, and I agree that the intentional misrepresentation of the authorship of work is disreputable; however, I have to ask, in a day and age of digital communications, when has my exact thoughts not been thought of before, when have my exact words not been used?
As a poet, I think it may be easier (perhaps?) to pen a unique vision of the sublimity for any particular subject given the flourishing ability within language to use it in new and unique ways; however, when discussing in academia a common subject from a pragmatic perspective such as “breathing”, or “sailing”, or “bicycles”; it is hard to envision that after almost 6,000 years of spoken and written language, someone, somewhere hasn’t thought the same thing in the same way. So where do we stop?
In saying this, I can’t help but think that the increased use of tools such as online plagiarism scanners will cower creativity creating individuals scared to say single lines of prose without cross-referencing, annotating and indexing every single word.
Could you imagine the illegibility and annoyance of reading a paragraph such as this:
Stones are round (author, 1756). Stones can be used for shaping tools (another author, 1845). Stones can come in many different colors (third_author, 1935). Purple stones are often a type of stone called amethyst (scientist, 1878). Some stones are made up of compressed earth (again_another_author, 1967).
And yet, universities and academia have spread so much fear of reprisals around charges of plagiarism, that we, as students are almost afraid to open our mouths and speak, knowing that the very breath we expulse will exude, even unwittingly, plagiaristic tendencies.
Apart from all these concerns around the stifling of creativity and the fear of unknown and unexpected plagiarism accusations when the entirety of the world-wide-web becomes the standard in which plagiarism is judged; there is also the concern of privacy. Id Est: just what are these sites doing with my papers that I’m submitting? Are they keeping them, are they indexing them, are they annotating them, giving me credit for my combination of sentences that have never yet been seen? And if not, who is protecting my original cerebral outpouring from being plagiarized?
It was once said that “great minds assimilate” (and no, I couldn’t find any Google references to someone actually saying this, so please note, that this idea is mine now, make sure you reference me when using it in the future!). So in this future of watchers, great minds – I urge you to keep a notepad and pen handy and anytime and anywhere you hear an idea that sounds striking to you, do not hastily absorb it into your own thinking, for in fact, if at some point in the future, you find that you cannot remember where this novel idea came from in your own mind, to present it to anyone as an idea of your own will damn you to the hells of literary purgatory.
As for the idea of bettering the approach of checking all written documents against all world-wide-digital-media for any iota of a hint of possible plagiarism; my response is: “All hope abandon, ye who enter here (Alighieri, 1892).”
Alighieri, D. (1892). The Vision of Hell. London: Cassell & Company.