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CURRENTS IN TEACHING AND LEARNING

VOL. 2 NO. 2, SPRING 2010

ESSAYS

Addressing Plagiarism with Stasis Theory

Bill Bolin

Abstract There are at least two schools of thought in addressing plagiarism in academic settings. One promotes prevention, while the other promotes detection. This paper looks at stasis theory from classical rhetoric as a possible avenue to pro- mote prevention and reduce, but not eradicate, detection.

Bill Bolin is Associate Professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce, where his teaching and research areas are composition, rhetoric, and pedagogy.

Keywords plagiarism, stasis theory, detection software, writing instruction, turnitin.com

Introduction

Teachers and scholars offer a number of reasons why spending the time to catch plagiarists is the preferred method in dealing with problems of intellec- tual property, both inside and outside of academia. First, according to a num- ber of sources—as well as our own visceral reactions—plagiarism makes us feel attacked and disrespected. Richard Murphy (1990), for example, describes student plagiarism as a thin splinter at the edge of his thumb that he cannot stop rubbing. It bothers him. He also dwells upon the idea that he and his students are working together to promote their learning, so their cheating— and his reactions to it—creates a disturbing distance between them that he finds troublesome but necessary. A.E. Malloch says that we pursue plagiarists because plagiarism makes us look bad and feel bad. It is a personal affront to our professionalism (qtd. in DeVoss & Rosati, 2002). And, of course, many of us who assign research-based writing in any academic discipline can prob- ably admit that we investigate suspected plagiarism not so much to help those students grow but to remind them just whom they are dealing with. We want to treat plagiarism the same way we tend to treat cheating on exams or class- room disruptions. We want the perpetrators to feel punished. Amy Robillard (2007) theorizes these feelings of anger, clarifying the role of the reader in the interaction and arguing that the reader’s role validates the affective response. In other words, the reader’s emotions count; thus, we must acknowledge the fact that the reader is an important part of the intertextual transaction.

However, this paper will advance the other argument: that our time would be better spent and our students better served if we channeled our ener-

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Bolin – Addressing Plagiarism

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