Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I took a lot of history in college, p...

To Essay or Not
I took a lot of history in college, partly because I enjoyed it and partly because I had worked out a good system.  History courses at the time there all had a three week essay cycle - in that every three weeks you had to turn in an essay and then you would get the assignment for the next one.  (IT also meant my history major roommate who was taking three history classes had an essay due every week).  The reality was that the history courses were well designed to give you an idea what the exam would be like (unlike say, the second year psychology course where the first essays you wrote were on the exam). 
My medieval history professor actually had very good recall of the library books, such that he would look at my bibliography first and then based on that know what source information I had (which was both cool - he certainly didn't expect me to know what I hadn't read, and a little scary, he knew just what I had read).  I had a classmate who, in a different history course copied a friends' essay and turned that in.  Since this was the early nineties and not all students had computers (although we did all have access to the computer lab, which, let me tell you was often quiet and relatively empty), she actually hand copied it.  There were a number of potential issues I could see - which I did point out to her: What if the professor recognized it? If you could guarantee that the professor would not, what guarantee would you have that it would get the same grade?  Wouldn't it suck more to get a crap grade with someone else's words?  Wouldn't writing your own paper be only marginally slower and hopefully less boring than copying someone else's words?  (In the end, while I don't know what happened with that particular paper, she was a no show for our history seminar (missed all four weeks) and since the seminar had twelve people and the aforementioned meticulous professor, and she also failed to turn in the seminar assignments, she got no credit for the course as a whole.) 
So, now that one can actually cut and paste a paper, or order one online and type their name across the top, it is not terribly surprising to me that their is a rise in internet enabled plagiarism and also a rise in catching plagiarism. What I found interesting about this article was the suggestion that rather than straight essays, a multi-media package on a topic was suggested as a better way to capture.  I confess I was at one point able to diagram the Battle of Stirling Bridge (which featured an actual bride, Hollywood) so I can only imagine what I might have put together on that.  (particularly since the overlap in my history course was such that I believe I covered that battle three times.)