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SGarza: PolicyAndPedagogy

In Margaret Price's article, "Beyond 'Gotcha': A Situating Plagiarism in Policy and Pedagogy," Price discusses the role of writen institutional policy in student's understanding of plagiairsm. Price thinks that one of the major problems with plagiarism is the fact that often instructors try to look at is as "something fixed and absolute" (89).

"Acknowledging that the definition of plagiarism does not persist stably across contexts will, paradoxically, help open up that safe place that we wish to offer students" (90). There are complicating factors in the meaning of plagiarism, and Price believes that these should be discussed in the classroom.

Though students are told that they do not have to cite anything that is "common knowledge" Price believes that it is imperative that students must understand that common knowledge and fact depend on their context for meaning. When creating a written policy for the classroom thinking of the context of their information, students will have to start thinking about what audience they are writing for. What is common knowledge, and what is not? "Once we acknowledge that writing takes place in a specific context, we can speak of facts and common knowledge more meaningfully" (93).

"The concept of one's 'own' work is the centerpiece of all three policies" states Price (93). However, Price questions the idea of the "author." The Romantic era ideal of an author is that the author comes up with wholly original work. However, what is text ownership? In regards to plagiarism, the repettion of the word "own" in classroom policy is important because what constitutes the author's own work? The third difficulty that arises is the meaning of "your own work" may, according to Price, shift across cultural contexts. Originality may be defiend differently by differnt people, and as Price argues, "in drafting a plagiarism policy, we must remember that is readers come from a variety of cultural contexts, across which definitions of new and original, not to mention the value placed upon newness or originality, may change" (95).

Also, the idea of collaboration also challenges the idea of the author, as students may fear they are being plagiarized by their peers. Price believes that "we can make use of the idea of "our own words"-so long as we treat this idea not as an easily defined category but as a site of discussion" (97). Perhaps, it is never the case that the writer actually composes "original" material, but the word original is also up for discussion.

Should students give credit for ideas that they may have acquired from peer review? Though some would say that this is not neccessary, others would argue that even this should be done so as to give credit where it is due. However, the fine line lies in if the information acquired from a peer review helped "substantially." Price uses the example of teachers who use each others syllabi and do not have to cite.

As for ignorance and intent-it seems that when an instructor is putting togehter a policy, they can choose to write about the possession of the document. Does the instructor see unintentional plagiarism as punishable? As students write, and perhaps engage in "patchworking" which Rebecca Howard believes is a step in the writing process, should the instructor punish the student for what may very well be unintentional plagiarism? Price believes that "learning to avoid plagiarism is a process of learning conventions and customs, not an instantatneous event" (104). As such, as students learn to participate in a discourse community it is important to create a policy that is open ended and that assures students that their questions and comments are an integral part of the classroom and context of the definitions of plagiarism.

Price recommends writing a policy that indicates that citation is "a convention, and conventions shift across time and locations" (106). She also suggests that the written policy should leave actual blank lines with prompts for students to add their ideas. This, in a sense, gives the students an active hand in their acquisition of knowledge. Perhaps the most important part of plagiarism in the classroom, Price argues, Is that "plagiarism, attribution, and authorship should be ongoing topics throughout the semester, to be revisited from many different angles" (109).

Price's overall goal is to get across to students that "(1)...the conventions governing text ownership and attribution are constructed and dynamic; and (2) that all members of an academic community, students and teachers alike, can work both within and on these conventions" (110).

  • Price, Margaret. "Beyond 'Gotcha!': Situating Plagiarism in Policy and Pedagogy." College Composition and Communication. 54:1 (2002). ERIC. 12 March 2007.
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Page last modified on July 28, 2007, at 11:19 AM CST