CURRENTS IN TEACHING AND LEARNING
VOL. 2 NO. 2, SPRING 2010
gies into discouraging plagiarism in the first place, and reserving detection as a subsequent move, as needed. In the effort to reduce plagiarism in writing assignments, instructors should focus more time and effort into teaching students accepted definitions of plagiarism and how to work within the conventions of academic writing before resorting to detection when suspicious writing warrants it. Two reasons support this position.
e first reason is that detection is not always effective,
despite the time investment. e second reason is that detection might be counterproductive to our mission as educators. We can fruitfully use stasis theory, as adapted from classical rhetoric, to promote the idea of preven- tion over detection and, potentially, to reduce student plagiarism.
Current Discussion of Plagiarism
Although Nivens (2009) argues that students are aware of, and thus influenced by, high-profile cases regarding intellectual property in the entertainment industry and the political arena, this paper will focus almost exclu- sively on the concept of plagiarism in institutions of higher education without examining possible external influences, because, in many ways, higher education operates in a different sort of environment. e idea of capital gain is more intellectual than monetary, and the principals involved are, in most cases, still learning the rules rather than being experienced practitioners of academic writing.
e argument that plagiarism has increased along
with modern technology, specifically the Internet and its easily shared electronic texts, has gained prevalence (Ma, et al. 2008; Auer & Krupar 2001). However, a number of scholars are more cautious in making an easy and direct correlation between the increase in availability of technology and an increase in instances of plagiarism (e.g., Marsh 2007). Anthropologist Susan D. Blum (2009) distinguishes between what she terms the performance self and the authentic self when dis-
Bolin – Addressing Plagiarism
cussing the possibilities that the Internet and social networks in particular have made plagiarism easier or, at least, seem a more natural part of communal sharing of ideas. Blum contends that the performance self leads one to offer any expression that would fit the stated or understood circumstance without “a tight connec- tion between their words or their inner being, so they don’t sweat it if others use their words or if they use the words of others” (p. 61). So, for example, in a social net- working environment like Facebook, participants may borrow freely from outside sources and each other in constructing their online identities, sorting themselves into groups who would be familiar with certain expres- sions well known to that group even without clear attribution. us, one might easily and fairly conclude that the Internet does offer increased opportunities to plagiarize, but also increased opportunities to perform publicly with relative ease. By contrast, what Blum calls the authentic self is the identity most often expected in scholarly writing; the students are expected to form a tight bond between their thoughts and expression and to respect—through proper attribution—those bonds in the written work of others.
Classical Rhetoric and Contemporary Writing Instruction
With so much public conversation about plagiarism both inside and outside academia and the variety of situations in which an act may or may not be identified as plagiarism, stasis theory provides a means to examine and respond. ere is in contemporary education a tra- dition of using classical rhetoric for writing pedagogy, even though many of the precepts adopted from the Ancients focused on oral instruction. e following are just a few examples of the use of classical rhetoric in composition studies.
Edward P.J. Corbett, author of Classical Rhetoric