George Mason University vertical bar Valuing Written Accents: Non-Native Writers in the U.S. Academy

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Plagiarism

Almost all of our informants said they did learn to attribute ideas to the “originator,” or source in their country, but didn’t learn to formerly cite the source. If they couldn’t remember whom the idea came from, it was acceptable for them to include it without attribution because it became part of the cultural common knowledge.  American students, on the other hand, are asked to formally cite their sources while also contributing to the scholarly conversation with their own original ideas. Many of our informants did not feel comfortable interjecting themselves into the academic conversation; they were used to studying the wisdom of the scholars and eventually, through repetition, recycling it into their own knowledge base.  All were aware of the serious implications of plagiarism in the American academy, and had learned to rely on guide books or internet resources to be consistent with MLA, APA, or another standard of citation.

Sandarshi:
~I think the fact that ideas when disseminated become your ideas when you think about it, when you analyze it. I think it’s the way we’re brought up. You sit and you learn; all of the learning comes from wisdom from parents and people in the community. And when you hear it and hear it and hear it, it becomes your way of thinking too, to an extent and there’s no clear distinction between what that person said and what you thought because it becomes embedded in you in terms of processes and you’re thinking is completely molded by other things. In that aspect, I agree that there’s no formal way of saying so-and-so said it because it becomes common knowledge.

Cheryl:
~So this professor said you have to quote from all these articles; you have to. So then, with my first time I wrote it, he came back and said “no, you have to quote more from what I told you to quote.” So then I said, “how many do you want me to quote?”  So…he said “you know maybe…I don’t know how many.” And then the next time I wrote, just to tell you how confused I am, actually, I wrote a very nice paper quoting very nicely. Tons of them. And then he came back and told me, “very well written, quotes are excellently phrased, but I want to hear more from you, how you think.”

Tonka:
~Technology makes it easy to access information. There’s a lot of information out there. Including, it made it easier for plagiarism which is the bad side of it. But it also helped catch plagiarism. You can plagiarize but there’s also the plagiarism programs are evolving as well. And in fact this emphasizes the importance of technology on writing. When I went to the International Writing Association conference in Minnesota, there was a whole panel talking about plagiarism and the new software. I guess writing has to keep up with the technology. There’s always a good side and there’s always a bad side as well.

Ignacio:  
~We have to give a lot of credit to the sources we incorporate. Plagiarism: in Spain, we don’t have a specific word for it like here, but it is more expressed that one should never copy papers from other sources, and never ask someone else to write it.  But it is not as emphasized or stressed as here.  And the consequences if you plagiarize are not as harsh as here.  There you may fail the course if you plagiarize, but here you may get expelled from school and have it on your record.

~Usually people are more open about these things [copying].  They may call your attention and say “who said this?  You should have quoted this author,” When it comes to students, of course. When it comes to writers, it is different.

Ayesha:  
~We didn’t have a concept of plagiarism.  Because remember, I told you we were supposed to memorize stuff and put it down on the paper, the exam and stuff, and obviously it wasn’t our thoughts, it was someone else’s, and that’s complete plagiarism. And sometimes we used to write word for word and I remember there was a teacher and if I missed one line, she would say okay, you are missing this line.  And I was like, okay, and now I realize, they were teaching us plagiarism.

Sri:
~The final papers which you had to answer were normally from the topics in the text and so when you answered, it was mostly by memorization, you know; so if you were just reproducing the texts, it was okay.  I believe now there are a lot of systemic changes. It was not called plagiarism.  The more effectively you could produce, the better grades you got.

Haifeng: 
~Sources are not very important part for the score in the paper but you have to cite; the professor just want to know that the ideas which is not yours, you cite.

Ying:
~I remember we discussed about this question at our meeting. I reported that there is a famous Chinese saying: “All papers in the world are written by copying/plagiarizing others.” However, plagiarism is never approved by any teachers. It is an unspoken process.

~Now, I use APA style to include the sources of citations in my research papers. I have realized “plagiarism” is a big thing in academics. It is very different from what I learned in China. First of all, I was not taught how to do research or how to write research papers until the last year of college. Before that, I wrote for completing my assignments, by squeezing my head and recording whatever on my mind. Naively, it never occurred to me that I should do a review of what other people had written on the same or similar topics before writing my own. All the articles in my Chinese textbooks do not have much citation at all. We do cite other people, but only great thinkers like Confucius, or Chairman Mao, or very famous men of letters. Even today, if you open a research journal in China, most of the time, you will find a list of references at the end of a paper. But throughout the paper, you can never tell which person proposes what.

Minh:
~In Vietnam, if we take information from somewhere else, we say “as that person said,” and quote, but at the end of the assignment, we don’t do the works cited; we only have the in-text citation.

Hanyan:
~In U.S. if you quote you have to cite; we don’t have to in China.  If I admire this person, so I quote because I respect.  Sometimes some students in China copy others’ work, other students’, professors, or books, but students and professors know; it’s a norm, an “under the table” norm.

~American teachers teach to write your own, don’t copy anyone else; but Chinese teachers just want a very beautiful, good paper; they don’t encourage but don’t care if someone copies; they like beautiful words and grammar.

~Here we have to cite everything MLA or APA.  When I learned about citation, I had no idea about it; totally new, all the rules.

Monique:
~The issue of plagiarizing—I have to be careful about it. It is very different in our culture, you are more pushed and encouraged to use your own words as opposed to referring to others.

Somkuan:
~In Thailand, before we study the master degree we didn’t know about giving credit. We just, “ah, this is good,” from the book, but we didn’t give the credit. But when we study master degree, the teacher say that’s wrong. They say, this is from the book we read. And we know that from the book, the title or something, we have to give the credit to that. That is very important nowadays so we did that.

Ting:
~In China, most writing is creative writing, so you don’t need to cite.

Yoon:
~My friend and I took the same class together and we all the time study together.  The professor didn’t even tell her what she had to do; just “you have to go there, you have to talk to the dean because you are against the honor code.”  So she was surprised, and they said “did you copy any sources?” Because my friend is working at the newspaper company – he always tell me the United States is strict about the plagiarism.  So even though my writing is really bad I just wrote it down in my words.  But she said she got used to it because Korea if you cite it without citation is not that big deal because all the colleges didn’t do it.  So they don’t really care about plagiarism, they write it like their own words even though they cite from other people.  So we didn’t take it that seriously.  So she went to the honor code and the dean said this is your first time.  I think she was okay because he gives her one more chance, I think.  But she said she totally didn’t know that is big issue at United States college, but now we know.  That was really shock.  She said in Korea that is not that big deal…that I used to do that in Korea.  And the dean said in United States that is criminal, well not criminal, but a very bad thing.  In Korea, we didn’t even mention it.  In America we mention; we can see that honor code thing in the syllabus at the very beginning of the class.  In Korea they don’t even mention it on the syllabus, so that means the professor doesn’t really care.

Karimatu:
~Really, it is not like English, whereby there is less emphasis on taking somebody’s word; it is not like here. If you write a textbook and if somebody copy your paragraph you know it is not your paragraph, you can sue somebody for taking.  But back there [in Nigeria] when you say something and you move to the next word it is not a big problem.  Emphasis in citing where it comes from, it is taught, but not enforced.  You know somebody’s word is somebody’s word and you can’t use and claim as yourself.

Anna:   
~Actually what people do they usually paraphrase, and they can turn in a paper, which is paraphrased, nothing from what you want to say, and it is not counted as plagiarism.  I used to do sometimes paraphrase, and when I came here, I knew before I came that is a big deal, and I never did it.  It was a change.  Sometimes when I didn’t have time, just take something in your own words.  Everyone does it; it is very different from plagiarism.  I know people turn in completely what they found somewhere.

Diana: 
~I’m interested in copying; we didn’t learn like that in Columbia.  Here, professors give us sample papers, so you just follow the structure and what they’re supposed to look like, but not like copying word for word. I appreciate the sample papers; I think it’s a great idea to really understand what they want for the paper.