How Plagiarism Can Affect Your Readers

 

How Plagiarism Can Affect Your Readers

To clarify from the start, this post is not in response to any particular recent events. However, I have written in the past about how plagiarism can affect those who have been plagiarized, how it can affect our community at large, and why it shouldn’t appeal to the plagiarist.  I realized I was missing a discussion of how plagiarism can affect those who read the plagiarized content.

Plagiarism in Academia

In the real world, I occasionally teach literature and writing classes to undergrads, and I have discovered my fair share of plagiarized essays. (I try not to think about the ones I might not have caught.)  And although I realize the plagiarism is not really about me–it’s about the student cheating him or herself of a proper education, or it’s about the student cheating other students in the classroom–it often does feel very personal.

It takes me an average of 40 minutes to grade a typical essay I assign. Teaching experts talk about life/work balance and trying to spend 20 minutes maximum per essay, but anyone who has graded know that 20 minutes is often an elusive dream.  Well-written essays are often faster to grade, but ones that are a little confusing or need a few more revisions before final submission take longer.  The only way for me to cut down on grading time is to cut down on providing useful feedback–and that’s one thing I’m not willing to do.  It’s quick and easy to scribble a note that says “Page 2 is a bit confusing. You should clarify your ideas before the final draft.” It takes much longer to read and reread page 2, try to figure out where the author is trying to go, and offer concrete solutions for him or her to get there.

So when I realize I have spent 40 minutes commenting on an essay or a draft that has been plagiarized, it angers me.  I have wasted 40 minutes of my life reading an essay my student did not write, may not have even read him or herself, and will not be able to apply my feedback to.  And I will have to spend even more time documenting the plagiarism, finding the original sources so I can report it to the proper school boards, and double-checking all the student’s past submitted essays for plagiarism I may have missed.  Each of these cases takes hours.  I know the student never meant the action personally; it has nothing to do with me.  But still.  They showed the y have no respect for my class.  No respect for my time.  They lied to me, and they clearly think I’m foolish enough to fall for it.

It’s even more upsetting fielding students’ various reactions.  I hear stories of students who have been repentant, and I have a lot of respect for that. Unfortunately, this has not yet been my experience. Some students go down with the ship, declaring nothing was done wrong. Some students lash out.  Some try to carry on in the class as if nothing happened at all.  Some go to the honor board and try to convince the committee that somehow the whole thing was my fault because I never told them what plagiarism was (I always do).  None of these reactions make it any easier for me to deal with the case.

So, yes, dealing with plagiarism is a hassle. It can be emotionally draining, if the plagiarist becomes confrontational.  Yet most of all, it feels like a betrayal.  To read someone’s work in good faith, to have respect for them as a student and as a writer, to truly want to see them grow and then realize you were being given lies can be devastating.  It’s not personal, but it certainly feels as if it is.

Plagiarism in the Blogosphere

Although plagiarism in the blogosphere has some differences from plagiarism in academia, I think my story above illustrates the emotional roller coaster that a reader can experience after discovering they have been reading plagiarized work.  Even when the plagiarism has nothing to do with the reader personally–they weren’t stolen from, they weren’t asked to do anything particular with the work, etc.–discovering the plagiarism can feel like a betrayal.  I think this, perhaps even more than the lack of a sincere apology, can be what makes it difficult for bloggers who have plagiarized to rebuild their audiences.

Publishing plagiarized work is simply a waste of readers’ time.  They thought they were reading original work from Blogger A, when really they were reading Blogger B’s  work, or something that was cobbled together haphazardly from multiple sources.  But they if wanted to be reading Blogger B’s writing, they wouldn’t be reading Blogger A’s blog.  If they wanted to read excerpts from multiple blogs, they would be reading those blogs instead.  Readers are being promised one “product” and being given something else.  When they discover the plagiarism, many will be upset that Blogger A had no respect for their time.

They may also be upset that Blogger A lied to them, and believed the his or her followers were silly enough they would never notice the plagiarism.  There’s nothing worse than imagining a plagiarist sitting at home and laughing at how gullible everyone is because they believe the blogger is publishing original content. (I’m sure plagiarists don’t actually laugh about this. In fact, many of them may be seriously stressed out by the threat of discovery, but the readers don’t know this. They will assume the plagiarist was happy to lie to them.).  No one enjoys being lied to, and no one likes to think they were successfully deceived for a time.  Rebuilding an audience after treating them like fools can be difficult.

Conclusion

Presenting your readers with plagiarized work is a breach of trust.  When people are following your writing career (whether it’s academic work, professional writing, or a blog you run as a hobby), they feel an investment in you and in your writing.  Discovering that their interest and good faith was taken advantage of can be devastating for readers; it can make them feel that you have no respect for them and their time.  I know many people plagiarize out of a desire to present good work to the world, to give their readers something they think is more worthwhile or more interesting or more well-written than what they would produce on their own.  However, the truth is that readers want to read original work.  No one would be reading your writing if they weren’t interested in what you personally had to say.

Have you ever discovered you were reading plagiarized work? How did you feel?

Briana

Eight Reasons You Should Start a Book Blog This Year

Discussion Post

You’ll connect with a community of readers.

One of the best parts of book blogging is being able to connect with other readers.  Whatever types of books you like to read, you’ll find others who love the same thing and who are eager to discuss it with you.

You’ll discover new books and new trends.

Book blogging connects you with both old favorites and the latest publishing news.  You’ll hear about what upcoming books readers are most anticipating and which trends they hope to see more of.

You’ll challenge yourself to read more diversely.

Diversity is big in the book industry right now, as readers calls for more representation for more cultures, genders, religions, and other identities.  In the book blogging community, you’ll be able to find recommendations for books about any and every type of character and subject.  You may also find yourself experimenting with genres you don’t normally read.

You’ll learn more about the publishing industry.

While you may begin a book blog to share your thoughts about books with fellow readers, you may inevitably connect with authors, publishers, and aspiring industry professionals.  You’ll learn everything about the publishing process from pitching a manuscript to an agent to printing the book to marketing it to buyers.

You’ll become a better writer.

Blogging allows you to practice and improve your writing, as you must consistently come up with new content and work on expressing your thoughts.  You’ll also learn what types of posts and information work best for your readers and how to appeal to your target audience.

You’ll learn social media skills.

Book bloggers often become masters of social media, some of which they never even initially planned on joining.  The book community is particularly strong on Twitter and Instagram, but you can also find them on Pinterest, Facebook, and other sites.  You may find yourself learning everything from photography to networking to promoting and marketing once you create social media profiles for your blog.

You’ll also master time management.

The most successful bloggers tend to have consistent schedules, whether it’s posting seven times a week or one time a week.  Once you start blogging, you’ll learn to write to meet deadlines (either self-imposed or for obligations such as book tours and guest posts), while balancing the various behind the scenes tasks of running a blog.

You’ll be able to connect with publishers to get news and books early.

If you want, as a book blogger, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with publishers on social media and to form contacts to requests ARCs (advance reader copies) from publishers for review.  Getting some of the earliest looks at upcoming books and other publishing news can be extremely exciting.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and starting a book blog in 2017, check out my complete guide here.

Briana

Stop Apologizing for All the Books You Haven’t Read

Discussion Post

Introduction

In 2013, the latest year I could find publication information, Bowker reported that 304,912 books had been published in the U.S. alone (including new titles and re-editions).  It seems evident that the sheer number of books now available means that no person can keep up with the market.  Even if you only read a certain genre or are an expert in a certain field and limit yourself to new scholarship in that area, even if you only try to read the new works published in a given year, let alone all the other major works previously published, you are unlikely to be able to do so.  Still, we pressure ourselves, and others, to have read every major release, to know every new book.

It almost seems as if our attitudes towards reading have not changed with the times and we continue to imagine that it’s actually feasible for an individual to read every important book over their lifetime.  Perhaps one could in the Middle Ages when texts were scarce and the price limited them to elite individuals who had the time for study and leisure.  In today’s world, however, there are plenty of factors that mean a person will not have read all the new releases or will not be bragging about having reached 200 books on their Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Life Circumstances

Even supposing one had the inclination to want to attempt to read all the  major new releases in a year (perhaps limiting this to major YA releases or even just major YA fantasy releases), the average individual is unlikely to be able to achieve this goal for obvious reasons.  Many people hold jobs, attend university, have a family, and have various social commitments. Some people hold jobs and attend university and have a family and fulfill social commitments all at the same time.   It’s a lot easier to churn through a larger number of books when you have fewer responsibilities or feel less stressed.  Reading fewer books does not necessarily mean that you are not as good a reader as another individual–it just means you have different life circumstances.

Varying Priorities

Maybe you don’t have a job that requires more than 40 hours per week from you, you don’t have a family to care for, and you don’t have a stressful school workload at the moment.  You still may not choose to dedicate your life to reading books.  Why?  Because you enjoy other things, too!  You may like to bake, to go to concerts, to go hiking, to work on your novel, to learn a new language, to sing silly songs to your cat.  Your other interests will take away from your reading time. That’s okay.  You should feel that you are able to have other interests without being ashamed of your low Goodreads Challenge goal.

Access to Books

Some individuals don’t have the same access to books as others.  Even if you don’t buy all your books and choose to go the library (assuming you have one close by that you can get to), your library may not stock all the latest releases that you want.  You could try to get some through ILL or you may just decide to search for some lesser-known gems.  Whatever solution you try is okay.  It does not matter if you haven’t yet read that new book everyone else is talking about.

Conclusion

We still talk to each other as if it’s possible or desirable to have read all the books, but the reality is that no person has the ability to keep up anymore.  And, even if a person tried, that might mean they would have to ignore other aspects of their life such as their job, family, or hobbies.  But there’s no real need to have read every latest release.  Reading isn’t meant to be a competition or some sort of test of dedication or intellect.  Reading is meant to be enjoyable.  If you’re enjoying your reading, you have nothing to apologize for.

Krysta 64

Five Benefits to Reading Outside Your Comfort Zone

Discussion Post

Reading the books we know we love and enjoy is always a tempting prospect.  Why not cuddle up under the covers with another YA or with the latest release from our favorite author?  Anticipating the requisite happy ending or the sweet romance or the amazing world building we associate with certain books is a comfortable feeling, especially after a long day.  Still, there are plenty of benefits to trying out books we might not otherwise read.

Always Have Something to Talk About

Finding common ground to talk about in a social situation can be nerve-wracking.  The more you have read, however, the more opportunities you have to connect with someone over a shared interest,  Or you may simply have a great icebreaker in the form of some weird little-known fact.  Reading widely, and reading both fiction and nonfiction, can help you enter any conversation.

Present Yourself as Knowledgeable

The wider your reading habits, the more knowledge you have at your disposal when trying to make a point or persuade another person. You may have strong views about a subject, but unless you are familiar with the field or have some facts to back yourself up, it’s difficult to engage with another person and have them seriously consider your argument.

Find New Books to Enjoy

Limiting yourself to one genre or age range may accidentally prevent you from discovering other books you might love.  It’s great if YA fantasy is your thing.  But why not pick up a MG fantasy one day or an adult mystery?  You might be surprised at what you find.

Find New Perspectives

Contemporary YA or Toni Morrison may not be your thing.  But when you rule out a certain genre or author automatically, you rule our their perspectives.  Reading contemporary YA might introduce you to some issues that other genres are less likely to cover, such as the effects of divorce, the effects of drugs, gang violence, gender issues, etc.  Unless you deliberately go outside your comfort zone to find other perspectives, you may inadvertently finding yourself gravitating towards the books that  most closely mirror your own beliefs and experiences.

Improve Your Writing

Reading widely both introduces you to a variety of writing styles and strategies, and gives you more material to draw upon in your own work.  Reading nonfiction may be particularly useful for you if you need to support your argument with facts or situate your work in a larger context to demonstrate its importance. Reading nonfiction will also give you plenty of material to allude to, to demonstrate to your readers that you have done your research and have authority.

Krysta 64

Classic Remarks: Is Daisy Buchanan Really a “Beautiful Little Fool?”

Classic Remarks

Classic Remarks is a meme that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.   We look forward to seeing your responses!


Daisy Buchanan from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby says she wishes her daughter will be a “beautiful little fool.”  Is Daisy herself nothing but a fool or is she trapped by her society?

Great Gatsby

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never been a fan of The Great Gatsby, and part of the reason is that my initial impression of most of the characters is that they are quite frivolous, quite ridiculous–annoying rich people with, for lack of a better term, “first world problems.” Daisy Buchanan highlights this, with her obsession with material objects and making sure other people like her. However, I realize that’s somewhat of a superficial reading, and the more I reflect, the more I see Daisy as belonging to a long line of literary women playing up their “feminine wiles” because they see that as their one path to some sovereignty over their lives.

Yes, Daisy is beautiful and often foolish.  She’s said to have a charming little laugh and accused of doing silly things like talking softly so you have to lean closer to hear her.  When we first meet her, we see her through Nick’s eyes as an ethereal young creature whose laugh is contagious and who has “an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.”  She’s all frills and charming little nothings.  However, this is the scene where we also see her husband Tom be completely dismissive of her. She asks Nick to see their baby, and Tom immediately wades in and changes the subject; the conversation is to be about him and supposedly more interesting/important things (than, you know, his family).  Daisy is constantly pushed aside throughout the novel and has little recourse to do anything about it beyond trying to be so attractive and engaging and likable that perhaps people will want to be kind to her.

When Daisy says she wants her daughter to be a “beautiful little fool,” I think she says so with the recognition that, for women, beauty is often power.  Men like beautiful women.  Men do things for beautiful women. Men marry and care for beautiful women. And, well, if you’re a fool perhaps men will find that endearing and innocuous, and you’ll be silly enough to be happy with what you have.  Wanting more, having ambition or intelligence, could just make you unhappy if you have no real way to get more.  I don’t know that Daisy is entirely correct about women’s situation at the period, but her opinion is based on her personal experience, where she does feel trapped and can’t find herself a way out.

If you’ve written a post this week, please leave us your link in the comments!

Briana

Do Our Moral Standards Change When We Read?

Discussion Post

Many of us have fixed ideals that we believe in and that guide our lives.  Honesty.  Selflessness.  Fidelity to one’s significant other.  When we see these values being violated (especially when we are the ones being violated, we are the ones who have been lied to or taken advantage of or cheated on by a partner) we feel outrage or sorrow.  We immediately point to the culprit and say something like, “How awful of her to hurt my friend Ben by sleeping with another man behind his back.  He trusted her.  How will he ever trust someone again?”  And yet, when we consume media, when we read a book or watch a story, oftentimes the story suggests that we set aside these ideals in favor of new ones.  Below I consider some examples of stories and the values they seem to espouse, as well as the ways in which the stories manipulate audiences to reconsider their own values. (Spoilers for all the works listed!)

awakening-chopinThe Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899)

Summary

In this work, Edna Pontellier finds herself unhappy in her marriage and with her duties as the mother of two boys.  She begins flirting with a young man by the name of Robert Lebrun to give her life some excitement, but he fears entering a relationship with a married woman. Edna then tries to find sexual satisfaction with a third man and  begins removing herself from the responsibilities expected of a wife and mother at that time.  Eventually Robert confesses his love for Edna but refuses to be her lover since he realizes they can never make it work.  In despair, Edna drowns herself.

Response?

This story engages the sympathy of the reader for Edna because Edna clearly has difficulty communicating with her husband.  She feels misunderstood and she does not desire to fulfill the duties expected of a wife and a mother.  She wants to find herself.  It has become a classic feminist text as it portrays a woman not content with her lot in life and wanting something more.  Teach this book in a classroom and many students will embrace an interpretation calling Edna’s adultery “liberating.”  “True love” should come before a loveless marriage.

But would many of these same students react in the same way if someone they knew in real life cheated on their husband and began to neglect their children?  Is it also problematic that, in Edna’s time, this cheating could also reflect poorly on her entire family, perhaps resulting years later in men refusing to marry their daughters to the sons of an adulterous woman?  If Edna were real, if she were a friend or a neighbor or a relative, would we see her sleeping around and shout “Freedom!” or would we wonder instead why she didn’t at least try marriage counseling before she committed adultery?

And does it matter that Edna is female?  If her husband were unhappy in their marriage and found himself a mistress, would we celebrate him for putting his own emotional needs before those of his wife and family?  Would we feel sorrier for a spouse who has to deal with an unfaithful partner if the one being cheated on is a woman?

DanteThe Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (14th century)

Summary

In Canto V of the Inferno, Dante famously depicts the two lovers Paolo and Francesca being whirled about by winds as punishment for their lust. Francesca was married to Paolo’s brother, but, she explains, she and Paolo were reading the tale of Guinivere and Lancelot one day and as a result ending up sleeping together.  Dante swoons after hearing their piteous tale.

Response?

Dante depicts the sinners very sympathetically (though it’s worth noting that he’s not celebrating their lust since they’re in hell for it and that Virgil rebukes him for feeling pity for sin) so it’s easy for readers to get caught up in the romance of it all.  Francesca, we can infer, was in a loveless marriage.  So why shouldn’t she sleep with a guy she’s actually attracted to?

Well, that narrative seems all right on paper.  Everyone wants a happy ending.  But would we respond to Francesca with similar sympathy if she were real?  If a best friend were married to Francesca and he found out she was sleeping with his brother, would we say to that best friend, “Well, she wasn’t happy with you, so good for her!  True love comes before marriage vows!” or would we be sorry that their marriage was breaking apart?  Would we see her adultery as wrong?  Would we find it problematic that she swore before witnesses to be true to him till death–and then slept with his brother?

Shakespeare in LoveShakespeare in Love (1998)

Summary

This one is not a film, but it represents particularly well how so many stories get readers to sympathize with adultery.  In this story, married William Shakespeare falls in love with an engaged woman (Viola) and their steamy affair inspires him to write Romeo and Juliet.

Response?

So how do stories get audiences to cheer for unfaithful partners?  Typically, one of the partners in the original pairing has to be undesirable.  The woman nags her husband a lot, meaning that he can cheat on her with a woman who’s less critical.  The man is sexist or controlling, so the woman can cheat on him with someone who respects her.  Shakespeare in Love follows this same formula.  Viola’s betrothed is arrogant, rude, and violent, and expects Viola to behave like a proper upper-class woman.  No one wants her to be paired with him, so they root for her love affair with Shakespeare. Shakespeare meanwhile is married with kids but his wife isn’t in London, so clearly she’s a non-entity with no feelings and no one has to worry about her.

Again, let’s consider how we might respond in real life.  If a partner is absent or far away, does that give the other partner license to have an affair?  If someone isn’t perfect, if they whine a lot or they don’t appreciate the other, does that make adultery acceptable?  Or do we, in real life, expect couples to remain faithful to their partners even when separated or even when their relationship is in a rough patch?  Do we expect couples to try to solve their problems before they break their marriage vows of fidelity and begin sleeping around?

Conclusion

Stories often provide us with perspectives we may not have considered otherwise.  They can bring out the nuances and complexities of a situation.  Reading a story like Paolo and Francesca’s may make us consider why someone proves unfaithful to their spouse–maybe it wasn’t sheer spite or maliciousness, but the act of a hurt or lonely individual.  But that raises the question of whether sympathy for a person means that we should change our moral standards for them.  Why do we feel bad for characters who perform acts we would condemn if people in real life did them to us or to those we love?

Krysta 64

Reflections on Five Weeks of Bookstagram

Discussion Post

Five weeks ago, I decided to join the world of Bookstagram.  I read a few posts about how to get started and what to expect, but mostly I’ve been figured things out on my own.  Here are some of my thoughts after five weeks of activity.

I Didn’t Want a Theme–But Maybe I Have a Style

A lot of Instagram advice suggests that users stick to a theme; a theme makes your brand recognizable  and allows other uses to immediately identify your work.  The biggest bookstagrammers all seem to have themes.  However, I personally find themes limiting.  One of the things I love about photographing books is being able to create a photo inspired by an individual book. I want to design unique photos that capture a particular book’s cover colors or its themes; I don’t want to be stuck photographing every book on the same wooden floor or surrounded by the same props.  I don’t want all my photos to look the same.  However, I think all artists have a style even when they’re not consciously trying to make their art “match,” and this holds true for Instagram.   Even just five weeks in, I can often guess which of my friends have taken which photos in my feed, even when they don’t have a dedicated theme for their accounts.

shakespeare

I’m All About the Photos, Not the Captions

I go through my feed quickly, and 75% of the time I do not read the captions other users have posted with their photos.  There seem to be two general photo types on Bookstagram: photos of individual books and photos of multiple books all stacked up.  In the first case, it’s a good guess that the user either just acquired the book and has yet to read it, or they have already read it and liked it.  The captions just generally aren’t actual reviews or critiques. In the second case (photos of stacks of books), the focus of the photo is generally the appearance of the books.  They’re all pink, or they’re a rainbow, or they’re a gradient.   The photo isn’t about the content of the books, and neither is the caption, so I simply don’t read it.  I’m not sure if this is bad Instagram practice, but it makes me assume other people don’t pay much attention to captions either, and perhaps I shouldn’t be stressing too much over writing captions.

golden-son

I Don’t Know if People Are Liking Photos or Books

Since I’m still a newbie on Bookstagram, I don’t have ton of followers, and I’m probably averaging about 12 “likes” per photo.  However, the number of “likes” per photo does vary a little, and the results are often surprising to me.  Occasionally I take what I think is a really pretty photo (you know, if I do say so myself) that gets a mediocre “like” response, while a lower-quality or less creative photo of a better-known book gets a lot more “likes.”  My data on the subject is still limited, but my impression is that the reputation or popularity of the book in the photo can somewhat trump the quality of the photo itself.  (Quick, everyone, snap some pictures of Harry Potter to upload!)

lotr-bookmarks

Are you on Bookstagram? What do you think? Do you have a theme? Do you usually read the captions?