I should preface this blog with a disclaimer. As a writer, I’m not a fan of plagiarism. I don’t want other people plagiarizing my work and neither do I wish to plagiarize another author. In fact, I’m quite certain that plagiarism is ultimately more work than coming up with something new and the results are usually not favorable. There is really no art to plagiarism, except if you happen to be a cynical kid in school and not afraid to risk getting into trouble. That’s where my story comes in.
I was in the fifth grade and given a writing assignment – an open writing assignment. I could write about any subject I chose as long as it was original and at least 500 words. We’d just discussed plagiarism in class and due to my devious nature I decided to show off what I’d learned – in my own satirical way.
I began the short essay with a definition of plagiarism (that the teacher had given us) and stressed that it was never a good idea, for a variety of reasons, which I listed. These reasons had also been given to us by the teacher. Then, I moved on to citing some examples. I copied, word for word, a lengthy paragraph from the encyclopedia and commented that to use the paragraph, claiming it as my own, would be a classic case of plagiarism. Furthermore, I pointed out that even to rearrange the words and sentences and then present them in the new order (which I did) would still qualify as plagiarizing another author. In both examples I was careful to point out that I hadn’t written the material.
I then re-wrote the paragraph in my own words and stated that this would be an acceptable method of research and reporting. Ending the paper with a recap of the dangers, pitfalls, and possible consequences of plagiarism, I said such a practice was never okay and should be avoided by all writers.
Out of over 500 words, I’d written no more than a handful of my own. I turned in the paper – and much to my surprise, got an A! Either my teacher was really dense and missed the fact that I hadn’t included much original content at all, or she’d seen the irony of what I’d done. Or perhaps she was glad to see I’d been paying attention. Maybe she appreciated all the thought and hard work that I’d put in to make my point. It did take a lot of work – and time. It would have definitely been easier, and faster, to just write about something else. But, it’s hard to argue with a good grade!
Bruce A. Borders, author and songwriter, has over 500 songs and more than a dozen books. Over My Dead Body, The Journey, and Miscarriage Of Justice, his latest books, are available on Apple I-Pad®, Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble Nook® and Sony Reader®, Kobo, Diesel Books, and Smashwords. Now also available in print at many online retailers or at www.bruceabordersbooks.weebly.com.