Wednesday, March 22, 2017
I should start with ‘Good-morning’, and probably ask how your night was.
But I woke up rather under the bed today.
My crankiness is dedicated to cyber-Plagiarists.
Let us just call a fork a fork, and not “a three pronged manual mechanism to assist in the movement of organic elements from metal, breakable, wooden platforms, through the alimentary canal, to the human intestine”.
(Phew! That was a mouthful)
Our Nigerian schools/lecturers did a bad number on the majority of us with respect to Plagiarism, and inculcating an anti-thieving intellectual culture. Sadly, it does not appear that in the decade I bade fare-well to the walls of formal undergraduate institutions, things changed much.
A large number of our students would never even learn the word “Plagiarism”... until (probably) after school. Research in its raw form is almost a code for ‘joke’. The typical thing you learn when writing your final year 'Project' is go to another school and lift someone else's work.
Retype. Reproduce. The end.
In my own case, it was not until my Graduate Studies that I understood fully the meaning and the grave implications of Plagiarism.
There was a full lecture on Plagiarism in Graduate Seminar class. The height was when I was told I could not plagiarize my own work. (Huh??) Which means if I have stated something somewhere before – propounded a certain theory earlier - I would have to cite it when stating the exact same thing in a subsequent work.
(Azin...I cannot repeat what I said before?)
Why? Because to do so without stating where the idea was originally expressed is to attempt to ‘plagiarise’ such idea, or pass it off as ‘fresh’ knowledge.
According to Wikipedia, Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation, stealing and publication” of another person’s language, thoughts, ideas or expressions and representing them as one’s original work.
In simple English: Copy-and-Paste without acknowledging the source is = Hell Fire.
(Ok… maybe I’m being a bit too dramatic)
Copy-and-Paste without acknowledging the source is = Plagiarism.
In the case of printed publication (such as books, hard-cover magazines), it is easier to nab a plagiarist, as such person must have gone the extra mile to re-type and reproduce the original work. “Mistake” could hardly be an excuse.
(You’re feeling all shades of “self-righteousness” …. saying to your awesome self how “Tufiakwa! I can never do such”. Hang on.)
In the cyber world however, with the rise of social media, blogging, and online ‘journalism’, things seem to have taken a turn for the worse. Drawing the line between ‘innocent’ proliferation of information and intended stealing for the purpose of passing off as the original author is sometimes an arduous task. It is almost difficult to differentiate 'sharing' from Plagiarism.
But NOT impossible.
You may have run into some cyber-squabble or the other where an ‘unknowing’ Plagiarist claims they got some post from nowhere and did not know it was someone else’s post, blah, blah, black, sheep…
The key rule however is: Cite it. Give credit to whom it is due.
If it is not yours originally, cite it. If you took the idea from someone, and expanded on it, cite it. If you are not sure, cite it. If you found it as a text in your phone from an unknown number, cite it as “culled from a text in my phone, from an unknown number”.
For example, there is a reason Facebook has the 'share' button. So you can easily resist yielding to the devil and his (yes, the devil is a ‘his’) temptation to not credit the source of your post.
(Zuckerberg should make heaven)
Some folks bypass this, but quote the name of the source at the bottom or beginning of the post, and tag the source. (Fair enough)
I find it annoying, the ones who copy the whole post, and place a dejected, disheveled and orphaned '#copied' at the bottom of the post.
(What in the world does that even mean?)
And then, there are the ones who lift the entire post, place it on their wall without any pretence of acknowledging the source, while responding to accolades of "Nice post!" with "Thank you. I get the inspiration from sweet grandmother”.
I have no words for these ones. (Even if they made heaven, they will stay in the ‘boys-quarters’, without air-conditioning)
Plagiarist, hold your ears. Listen: There is no excuse whatsoever for lifting whole statements by someone on Social Media in the name of "sharing", and replicating it on your online space without citing its source, thereby creating the impression it came from you.
(Still snug with self-righteousness much?)
And if you are a victim of cyber-Plagiarists, you should be bold enough to call them out. (I have had to do this in the past). You may also write a “Cease-and-Desist” letter, and subsequently report the Plagiarist to the host site to take down the offending post. Depending on the nature of the work in question - and the availability of resources - in some extreme cases, you should seek the services of Intellectual Property lawyers.
A lot of work should be done in the school systems, drumming it into the heads of students, and enforcing anti-Plagiarism policies.
How about taking ‘Project defence’ a little more seriously, with Lecturers actually grilling students on 'intelligent' submissions made. The student's response on and grasp of the subject-matter would surely indicate if the 'brain-wave' was original or ‘borrowed’.
For media 'reporters' and writers who have others under their wings, it is important to emphasise anti-Plagiarism. Make it a fundamental principle that the people who work with/for you cite the sources of the information they replicate.
This is not to say that one cannot build on an idea expressed by someone else - "Build" being the operative word.
This entails doing your own research from scratch on that idea, and creating your work. Bringing something new to the table. Adding value to the original idea. And then, giving credit to the original author, whilst showing how your work differs from or goes beyond that author’s work.
Always remember the golden rule: If it is not yours... Cite It.
(I am tired)
P.s.: Good-morning. How was your night?
Photo Credits: www.jimyaghi.com