Oct. 28, 2019

Plagiarism: Advice from a Reformed Pirate

A fictional parody by our own English teacher, Kristi Dodson, about Timmy the Pirate's experience with plagiarism and how he changed his ways. He has shared advice that is proven to be helpful especially in our online classroom.

Avast ye mateys! I be yer guide today in navigating clear of the perils of piracy I’ve taken in me past. Arrrgh, being a pirate is a dangerous path. I’ve pillaged the seven seas and stolen me share of treasure, but my seas be the Internet and my bootie be the gems I find to use as me own…

Cough, cough! Phew! Talking like a pirate is tougher than it seems!

So, I am a pirate—strike that—I WAS a pirate, but not the kind that wears eye patches or sails ships and pillages villages. I was a pirate of a different kind—I stole things from websites and books and put them in to my work for school, sometimes on purpose, sometimes because I just did what I did without knowing. I know, I know-- it’s not an admirable path I’ve walked, but I’m one of the good guys now! I’m here to tell you about some of the mistakes I’ve made and how you can avoid them yourself.

Back when I started my days in piracy, I didn’t know better. I had this essay assignment and I didn’t have a lot of time to complete the essay. I’ve always been a bit of a procrastinator, and I knew I didn’t know enough about the topic or about writing the essay to do a good job in a short amount of time. I did what many of us do—I searched online for information on the topic. I started finding things that looked good—like really good! How could I say it any better than these articles did? So, I took my first step onto the pirate ship of plagiarism and I copied chunks of writing from a few of those articles and put them together as craftily as I could. Feeling like I looked like I knew what I was talking about, I submitted it to the teacher.

Admittedly, the teacher caught me. It was pretty embarrassing to have to ‘fess up and agree that I wouldn’t do it again. But, truth be told, I didn’t know how NOT to. I mean, when other articles say things so well, how can I write anything new? Could I NOT use things I found online or in books when I wrote my own essays? Oh, all the questions!! But I was too embarrassed to ask for help, so I moved onward on my own.

The next time I found information online to use, I figured my best bet was to be more sneaky. I didn’t paste exact words this time; I changed a bunch of words while trying to keep the same ideas. I didn’t dare include any inkling about where I’d gotten the information because I was worried the teacher would look it up and find me out. It was at this point I’d journeyed deeper into piracy, but I didn’t know the damage it was doing.

Needless to say, my teacher caught me again. I expected she’d be mad and throw me in Plagiarism Jail (Is that a thing??), but to my surprise, she was concerned—not angry. She wanted to help me and could see that I was navigating the seas blind and in the dark.

Eager to keep myself from walking the plank into more plagiarism perils, I decided to meet with her and to listen and learn. Here are the things she shared with me that led to my reform:

  • I could use information I found online in my writing—I just needed to cite it! She taught me the difference between paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting and how to use those in my writing.
  • I could use exact words from sources—I just needed to put them in quotes and use them sparingly.
  • I could write on the topics better than I thought I could—I just needed to brainstorm my own ideas before jumping into my writing.
  • The Gale Databases (password “calpac”) are great tools for research (Goodbye, Google!), AND the click of a button gives me the MLA formatted citation for any article I use!
  • Citing sources isn’t as hard as it seemed. She shared this page from CalPac’s Avoiding Plagiarism site with me and it changed my whole approach to essays: MLA Format.
  • It also turned out that matching in-text citations to MLA citations on my Works Cited page was kind of fun!

And so, this pirate hung up his eye patch and started using new tools to walk the path of a clear conscience!

Anyone looking to leave the ways of plagiarism piracy should really check out the site my teacher shared with me: Avoiding Plagiarism & Citing Sources. Oh, and if you want to learn more about me, Timmy the Pirate, you’ll see me in my very own video on the main page!

Happy sailing, fellow students!