Friday, May 21, 2010

Solving the Problem of Plagiarism at SFSU

To: Administration

Helen Hegermann, the 17 year old author from Berlin, had her first book in the bestseller list and became a finalist for a major book prize in 2010. A blogger noticed that some of the material in Hegermann’s novel was taken from another novel called “Strobo” which is less known and there was even one case in which an entire page was copied from the book with just a few changes made to it. Helen Hegermann did not ask the author of the book if she could use the text nor did Hegermann site her. The blogger, along with others, believes that she had plagiarized saying, “To take an entire page from an author, as Helene Hegermann admitted to doing, with only slight changes and without asking the author, I consider illegitimate”, but Hegermann defended herself by saying she “mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity.” (Kulish, 2010). This was a controversial issue regarding whether or not what Ms. Hegermann did should be considered plagiarism and what the punishment should be, if any at all. There are many other controversial issues regarding plagiarism because it’s a concept that is difficult to understand and has many gray areas therefore it is hard to come to an agreement on issues regarding it. Most students at SFSU probably know the basic definition of plagiarism which is “the act of taking credit for someone else’s work” (2006) but it is most likely, these students don’t understand the concept of plagiarism in depth which is why many may end up plagiarizing without even knowing it. The administration at SFSU should deal with plagiarism in a way that helps students and professors understand what it is and it’s policy specifically at this school. 


There are many different ways that a student can plagiarize from buying papers to failing to cite to mixing, borrowing and patch writing. Papers can be bought off the internet, or among friends meaning that the student doesn’t do their own work so it is plagiarism. Failing to cite is using someone else’s work without giving them any credit at all and mixing and borrowing is like in Ms. Hegermann’s case using someone else’s work but changing it to make it your own. Rebecca Moore Howard from My Word who has background of composition studies defines patchwriting as “copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one synonym for another”. (Blum, 2009, p.26). These are just some ways that students can plagiarize and students and administration probably knew about buying papers and failing to cite sources but were not aware of what mixing, borrowing, and patchwriting are, nonetheless that they are considered plagiarism.  

In my English 114 course we had a project in which we surveyed undergraduate SFSU students and my group in particular was to analyze the relationship between demographics and plagiarism. When we conducted the surveys, one of the questions was, “Have you ever plagiarized?, and if so check all that apply” and some of the options were buying a paper, copying from the web, copying from a person, re-using your papers, copying without citing, and having others write papers for you. Through our findings we discovered that 50% of SFSU students have plagiarized in some way and the most common way was re-using their own papers for different classes and many students were shocked in finding out it was considered plagiarism. Also, another one of the most common ways of plagiarizing was failing to cite which is a complicated branch in plagiarism because there are some things that you didn’t create yourself but you don’t have to cite because they are considered common knowledge, something that everyone already knows, and many times it just depends on who you are writing to. (Acala, K et al, 2010,  p.6). According to our findings, at SFSU half of the students are plagiarizing whether they know it or not and many of the students didn’t realize  that some of the things we listed down were considered plagiarism which shows the lack of knowledge in the aspect of plagiarism and why the plagiarism courses should be mandatory. In our groups we also interviewed a few undergraduate students and one of the questions we asked was if they had ever plagiarized and in what way. A few of our interviewees had plagiarized by having their friends write papers for them or just copying off others. Plagiarism is a problem at San Francisco State University that should be dealt with. 

The administration should require an introductory course on plagiarism to be taken when the student gets into this university and in their department when they get into their major because of the differences in common knowledge. Something that is common sense in one major, may not be common sense in another major which is why it is important for the policy to be clear to all students. The course should discuss the different ways one can plagiarize and also emphasize the importance of being consistent with the consequences and policy. For example in my english 114 class when we did our report, a couple of us agreed that there are “two types of plagiarism and each should have its own punishment: intentional and unintentional plagiarism. Someone who is knowingly plagiarizing should be punished however the student who simply doesn't know how to site his or her sources, should be educated on how to do so rather than be punished”  which makes a lot of sense.(Acala, K et al, 2010,  p.6). It doesn’t make sense to punish someone and not explain to them what they did wrong because that’s the only way they will learn how not to make the same mistake over and over again. Plagiarism is something taht is pretty common at San Francisco State University which is why there should be plagiarism courses so students and professor can be well informed and on the same page. 


Valeska Zuniga

Works Cited

Acala, K., Guillen, C., Zuniga, V., Stus, A., Sedlak, G., Eschavez, F. (2010) Plagiarism: SFSU vs. Notre Dame. English 114.04, Spring 2010, San Francisco State University

A Definition of plagiarism. (2006, December 8). Retrieved from

Blum, S.D. (2009) My Word: Plagiarism and College Culture. New York: Cornell University Press

Kulish, N. (2010, February 11). The New York Times: Author,17,Says it's 'mixing', Not Plagiarism. Retrieved from

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It was interesting to see how demographics plays a role on plagiarism. From the interviews, I noticed that stereotypes of students race can lead to them plagiarizing. Some students felt that the stereotype of their race was to be smart and they wanted to fit into that category and therefore plagiarized to get good grades and seem smart. Also, when the stereotype of the students race is that they're not very smart then they don't want to fit into that stereotype and plagiarize to prove others wrong. One student believed that demographics had nothing to do with plagiarism and that it didn't affect their views on plagiarism. Overall, it was interesting to hear about the students' views and experiences through the interviews. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My experience at SFSU

I am the first generation in my family to attend a state university. My two older siblings attended city college for a semester or two but ended up dropping out. Overall, I feel I've had a positive experience so far at San Francisco State University. 

The application process took time but it wasn't that long and I didn't have to write any essays. I felt that I had a pretty good chance of getting in because I had a good GPA but I wasn't sure, so I felt nervous and anxious to know if I had been accepted. In My Word, Blum says that the application process is very stressful for students applying to Notre Dame because there is a lot of competition and there are more requirements like having to write essays. Also having good grades isn't enough to get into a school like Notre Dame, students need to have been involved in extracurricular activities and have volunteer hours. I didn't feel stressed during the application process to SFSU. 

Now that I've had a few classes at the university I have found myself feeling stressed when I have a lot of work to do. It's hard to balance out everything I have to do and prioritize. I have classes every day on campus, I work on weekends, and babysit twice a week on weekdays. I live off campus and am not in any clubs. I don't drink or "party hard" like the student interviewed by Blum. I don't think I would be able to handle partying three times a week and have time to complete all of my homework on time and have energy for work and other responsibilities. 

I do feel pressure to do good in school because I am the first person in my family to go to a university and it costs soooooooo much money. I don't want everything I am doing and paying to go to waste. I want to graduate and have a good career so I can get a good paying job. There are some similarities between SFSU and Notre Dame, as in students feeling stress but it comes in a different way. For students at Notre Dame, stress comes from pressure to fit in and going out and "partying hard" and then not having enough time for homework and studying. For me personally the stress comes in when I'm not sure if I'll be able to take another semester at SFSU because I don't have enough money and I might not get financial aid. Also when it's time to sign up for classes, because it's getting harder to get into the classes you want and need. Last semester two of the classes I enrolled in were cancelled a few weeks before the semester started. There were almost no classes left so I took whatever I could get that met a general education requirement. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010


The assigned reading from My Word was pretty long and contained a lot of information. Many college students were interviewed for this book so when I was reading it I tried to compare myself to them. 

I think some parents may get obsessive over their children getting good grades and being in the top schools in the country so they can get into the best college and get high paying jobs. Education is very important to my parents and getting good grades did matter. When I was in middle school and high school, if we got bad grades then some privileges would be taken away like no watching t.v. or in my brothers case, no video games. I think education is very important and parents should show their children how important it is but it shouldn't be everything. Like even people who didn't go to college are well rounded people and are able to succeed. 

I don't drink but I'm pretty sure a large percentage of students at SF State do drink because I hear them talking about it in my classes. I thought it was really interesting how some schools don't have class on Fridays because Thursdays have become the new Fridays and students are out drinking. Even though some people can keep their grades up and have that binge drinking life, I don't think I would be able to. I mean it's hard enough now with school and work, I don't think I'd be able to handle that drinking life. 

Blum describes some reasons why students cheat and they are because it makes things easier, it helps students attain the grade they desire, class work is not their primary priority, they have many obligations and goals to meet, and they are surrounded by students who scorn the nerd mentality. Sometimes students feel pressured to get good grades and succeed in college by their family and friends and they have so many responsibilities that they feel the only way to do so is by cheating. 

I agree that if a student takes a class that they are interested in then they will be more engaged and actually take time to read the material and learn it. But if a student takes a class just for credit then they'll procrastinate and just memorize the material for the tests. I've experienced this myself like in high school I took a child development class and I really enjoyed it and took time to learn the material. I had fun doing the assignments and they didn't feel dreadful to me. Once I got to college, because some classes were cut from the original class schedule I had to just take whatever I could so I enrolled in a worlds religions class and it was completely different than how I had imagined it. It had a different approach to what I had expected. I felt the classes go by so slow and it was so boring to me. When it was time for the midterm it took me really long to come up with the minimum amount of pages required and I didn't feel like I learned anything or knew the material at all. Now I see that it's really important to get into classes that you know or think you'll like so it wont be a total waste of time and money. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

What are you reading???

I usually don't read books for fun, although there are books I read for school that are sometimes interesting and fun. One of the books that I read last semester for my government class was called "In the Matter of Color - Race and the American Legal Process: The Colonial Period" by A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.. This is a book that I would recommend because it's very interesting and the I got a lot out of it. The book is about slavery in the colonial period and talks about all the laws that were passed in response to what was going on at the time. Many believe that slavery wasn't that bad and some of us aren't taught the truth about slavery in our early years of education. Reading this book gave me a better understanding of what slavery was all about. It has a lot of specific details on laws in every state and even has examples and things of primary sources. 

On a daily basis I read articles on the newspaper. There's always a person standing in front of school giving out the Examiner newspaper. I usually read some of it on my way home. I would recommend people to read the newspaper just to be informed and to know what's going on around us.   

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


For the essay on Wikipedia I am taking the stance that universities should not allow students to use Wikipedia in academic writing. I have used Wikipedia in the past and just found out that a couple of years ago that anyone can edit the articles on it. After reading the article about John Seigenthaler and the incorrect information that was put up about him on Wikipedia I realized that really is not a reliable source. There are two main points that I have so far that I am thinking of writing about in my essay. The first is that college students doing academic writing should not rely on encyclopedias for their sources. The second point I will write about is how inaccurate Wikipedia is.

On one of the articles assigned to read for homework said that college students shouldn't even be looking at encyclopedias for their sources. It said something like college students should be looking at primary sources instead. So, that's what I'm going to base my first paragraph on. 

The paragraph about Wikipedia not being accurate is the one I did with the paragraph generator. This paragraph was: the university should not allow students to use Wikipedia as a source in academic writing because it is inaccurate. “I had heard for weeks from teachers, journalists, and historians about “the wonderful world of Wikipedia” where millions of people worldwide visit daily for quick reference “facts”, composed and posted by people with no special expertise or knowledge-and sometimes by people with malice.” (John Seigenthaler, 2005). Wikipedia is a site that millions of people worldwide visit and are able to add and edit anything they want from it. Any individual can edit it, they don’t necessarily need to have knowledge in that field. There are people who edit Wikipedia to add accurate information but there are also others who add incorrect information, sometimes purposely. The quote was said by John Seigenthaler, someone who experienced first hand the affect of incorrect information on Wikipedia. On Wikipedia, Seigenthaler was said to have been directly involved in Kennedy assassinations. This story was made up, it is false information. Just like this happened to John Seigenthaler, there are students that rely solely on Wikipedia on assignments they receive. They end up getting and using the wrong information and this affects their grade. In academic writing, students must use sources that are accurate. Wikipedia is an inaccurate source and inaccurate sources have negative impacts on students and their grades. 

I still have a lot of work to do but hopefully I'm on the right track. I know what my stance is and have information from the articles on iLearn to use. The paragraph generator was very helpful for me in getting started and I plan to use it for the other body paragraphs I will do.   

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I agree with Ms. Hegemann when she says that "There's no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity". Being original is really difficult. I mean there are common words that we all use when we write. There are also common expressions we sometimes use in our writing. There is a commonality from the letters to the words we use. Being completely original, in my mind is impossible. Originality and authenticity are two different things. Authenticity is something being your own. Something that a person created themselves. She isn't authentic if she's not coming up with the work herself. This writer took a whole page from another book and used it as her own without giving credit to who it belonged to. And Ms. Hegemann's excuse is that she added words to it and was mixing. By just adding a few words it goes from plagiarizing to not plagiarizing. That doesn't seem right when the majority of that page was not "mixed" and was not authentic.

Ms. Hegemann says mixing is borrowing from others and reshaping or fitting the borrowed text to create some new document. It seems to me like its plagiarism. It's not like your getting inspired from the work and create your own. When a person is borrowing they're actually using the other persons work. I think the only way borrowing would not be plagiarism is if you just use the other persons work and ideas to come up with your own work and ideas.

If a student had to write a paper and they had one whole page that was like another students paper just a few words changed, that would be considered plagiarism. There's no doubt in my mind about it because the university is very strict when it comes to plagiarism. But why has there been no action taken towards Ms. Hegemann. If the student was caught they would be expelled. What's the use of learning about plagiarism and getting in trouble for it if when we go out into the world many are doing it and not having to face any consequences.

I realize there are a lot of gray areas and plagiarism is a very difficult concept to understand but why don't the same rules about plagiarism apply everywhere. It's not consistent. I think it's not consistent because there is no true definition of what plagiarism is. Who knows if there ever will be. Now that I'm learning more about plagiarism I think I probably have plagiarized before without even knowing. I've never got in trouble for anything I've written so I never thought I had plagiarized but now with all the articles we've read in class and the class discussions I find myself doing some of the stuff that some people consider plagiarism.

In the case of Ms. Hegemann, I think it's plagiarism.