Why I Now Care More About Plagiarism

What a surprising way to welcome myself back to the online world after my self-imposed (trying to still be a good Catholic somehow) 3-day internet hiatus. As I slowly back-read tweets I began to see the a pattern of striking news from several tweeps I follow—tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan has offered to retire as ADMU’s chairman of the board of trustees after someone exposed his recent speech to the school’s graduates as having been copied from celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Conan O’Brien and J. K. Rowling. In short MVP was guilty of plagiarism. So what really is plagiarism?

Basically, plagiarism is a word commonly defined as copying someone else’s literary work and trying to pass it off as one’s own. Literary works among other things like movies, technical drawings and music become copyrighted as soon as its original author makes it; which means that the author assumes immediate ownership and thus when his writings (or any other work) are plagiarized by another person, makes the act alone technically, a form of stealing. The topic of plagiarism has been actually a topic of discussion and argument among authors and scholars for a very long time, and as a matter of fact, according to Answers.com plagiarism dates back from the 17th century. The site’s definition states that the word plagiarism has its roots from the Greek word plagion which means to ‘kidnap.’ Furthermore, Plagiarism.org has a list of things that constitutes plagiarism. Here are some of them: 

Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit.” This may occur when someone paraphrases, or reword, a thought but still ending up with almost the same as what the original document contains. This is either a product of poor reconstruction OR a purposeful intent to deceive its readers.

Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not.” This instance would normally arise if one comes to a point when he wrongly decides to get as much facts as he can in order to support an argument, an analysis or a conclusion.

Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks.” Many of today’s technology applications probably make everyone guilty of this no matter how well the intent. Case in point, one can easily find in social networking sites, such as Facebook, sharing of inspiring stories or quotes which without the mere quotation marks (and worse, the quote’s author) may make someone who is not aware of the quote think that it actually is his/her friend’s own thought. There’s also Twitter (and SMS) where limits in the allowable characters makes it easy for one to plagiarize.

So is plagiarism bad? Yes. But like any other wrongdoing, it would be ethical to listen and know why someone did it in the first place. Again, Plagiarism.org sums up two general reasons why the act.

Intentional

According to plagiarism.org, those considered to be intentional are reasons like ”everyone’s doing it”—so why can’t I? ”But there words are better”—and why the need to waste time thinking about when in fact there’s already one that has been done by one who’s an expert. And there’s of course, the need to ”make the grade” which may be arise from cramming after realizing that schedules cannot be met. 

Unintentional

There are of course who despite their best effort to avoid plagiarism still fall to the trap of making the mistake of plagiarizing someone else’s work.

And also listed on Plagiarism.org are the following reasons students plagiarize:

There is “citation confusion.” According to this site, this is perhaps the most common reason students are caught plagiarizing. The question now is, “How should one make a citation?” Wikipedia.org has the answer. It says, ”While you should try to write citations correctly, what matters is that you add your source—provide enough information to identify the source, and others will improve the formatting if needed.” This simply implies that there is really no rule on how to cite a source as long as what is written to acknowledge it is correct and updated. Such rule may prove useful if a document or presentation will be for an informal setting (or if one is just preparing a draft) or if one is citing an online source as copying exactly the URL (or link) may be enough. Of course such isn’t always the case. Wikipedia.org explains further, ”Each article should use the same citation method throughout. If an article already has citations, adopt the method in use or seek consensus before changing it.” These statements refer to formal research, like in the Academe, where appropriate formats of citation are to be observed. Examples of recognized formats are the APA style, MLA style and The Chicago Manual of Style. For students and some individuals picking the choice of which citation format should be followed is just as confusing as the research itself. But at the end of the day, what counts the most is whether he recognized and acknowledged where he got his reference and giving credit to whom credit is due is very important to avoid or repeat such mistake.

Belief that “facts shouldn’t be quoted.” The availability of the internet and the thinking that what is being presented is common knowledge is one of the reasons  many think that it is not necessary to cite what they have extracted. In order to avoid plagiarizing, the website suggests a short yet foolproof tip, ”when in doubt, cite sources.”

The existence of “cultural relativism.” It is quite noteworthy that not every culture actually recognizes the need to acknowledge literary works. It is not therefore surprising if expat students who come from different cultural backgrounds commit plagiarism as their awareness to giving credit to literary works may be different compared with the other local students.

Interestingly another site, Irving Hexham’s Homepage discusses specifically about Academic Plagiarism and defines it as ”the deliberate attempt to deceive the reader through the appropriation and representation as one’s own the work and words of others. Academic plagiarism occurs when a writer repeatedly uses more than four words from a printed source without the use of quotation marks and a precise reference to the original source in a work presented as the author’s own research and scholarship. Continuous paraphrasing without serious interaction with another person’s views, by way or argument or the addition of new material and insights is a form of plagiarism in academic work.

“Deliberate attempt.” These two words from Irving Hexham’s definition is probably the best summary on how to identify whether one is really guilty of plagiarism or not. This definition complements the “unintentional” classification of plagiarism according to plagiarism.org.

After knowing why someone might commit plagiarism despite the best of intentions, the question that lingers is: How can we avoid plagiarism?

Personally, here are my 2 cents:

  1. Follow the ”when in doubt, cite the sources” rule.
  2. Check and re-check research paper if it follows proper citation.
  3. Consult an expert or someone more knowledgeable, if needed.
  4. Be more aware about how others expect their works to be cited.
  5. If possible, as permission directly from the original owner of the material.
  6. Understand Fair Use.
  7. Make use of CC or CreativeCommons.org.

Now, after this lengthy blog, you readers might wonder why I waste precious Easter Sunday time explaining what plagiarism is all about. That’s because just months ago I was into this same embarrassing situation of being accused as plagiarizing a school paper. It was one unbelievable experience because for years after I presented my college thesis–and more especially when I started blogging–I always make sure that I never copy anyone’s work without proper citation. Unfortunately, due to technicalities of this complex subject matter, my stock knowledge of it eventually caught up on me. Since then, I learned from the hard lesson and became more sensitive of how to properly attribute back someone else’s work than before.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks (F1 Sepang about to start)

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How To Generate Ideas

I recently experienced hard times in filling my urge to write and to satisfy my blog readers and subscribers—assuming that they do exist—need to read fresh post. It has become more difficult lately as I don’t only have time to kill but it seems that from the moment I wake up, go to work and come back home, time itself appears to be staring right at me almost saying, “I’m here Cris, what’s next?”

Once again the reminder: Be careful what you wish for, came in late to be retracted. I’ve wished for blogging time, now it’s all I’ve got. The sad thing about it is that my idea bank may be now reaching saturation point. I think I’ve already reached my writing plateau.

Fortunately, the absence of work at work—the irony—had me exploit some available resources that kept me busy while still maintaining our internet usage policy (wink wink). I previously mentioned in one of my blog posts about SkillSoft Books24X7  and right now I just can’t get enough of it. SkillSoft is one of those brilliant things made available for employee skills development.

Now that I’m done with my explanation and defense, let me go on with some of the things I learned about the writing process.

What I find funny when I saw this material is how I got to it. While trying to keep myself busy one day, I typed MBA on the search field of SkillSoft. A few seconds later I was staring at several ebooks with the word MBA high- lighted. Suddenly feeling overwhelmed by the selection, I scrolled further down and it was then that I saw the most interesting thing I’ve seen so far on that lazy day—Methods of Generating Ideas. Despite wondering why this article can only be found under the MBA topic, I was all eyes on my laptop in no time.

The materials showed the following categories and its suggested methods:

Reading and writing. Obviously, reading and writing are the methods. These after all are why most of us learned about things.  This idea-generating category encourages one to take notes by free writing and making an outline of the desired topic. One tip I find very helpful is that the outline need not even be perfect at the start which I always try to do and most likely the reason why I end up with anything but perfect. The material even suggests forgetting about grammar, composition and correct flow of ideas while still of course at the drafting stage. Correction, it adds, comes during editing and proofreading which contrary to my belief are actually two different things. The former is the term applied to the first phase of refining. The latter on the other hand is applied on the final phase or the read-through.

Graphic.  Not all people work well with words.  Others prefer doodling and I was surprised when I read about it because I avoid doodling as I find it a waste of time. This category employs drawing and sketching of one’s ideas that  could be converted to text later on. I tried applying it and it works as lately my ideas don’t have an immediate word equivalent to it especially if my vocabulary lags for whatever reason.

Spoken.  Besides reading and writing, this is what usually works for me. I like talking especially to those who can converse very well and have so many perspectives of different things. It is during such discussion when my light bulb moments happen. I realize that being one of the most talkative pupil in grade school works for me. I now forgive my teachers and classmates for that frequent demeaning tick mark next to my name for talking in class.

Group. Two heads are better than one, there’s no question about it. In fact, group discussions always generate more ideas…well, especially compared to talking to your own self. It is in this context why brainstorming usually works. Such sessions make everyone feel that their presence in the meeting is important and that their ideas are needed and will be welcomed. This in effect creates a continuous flow of ideas wherein some of it may even be totally out of this world. But then again, remember the familiar phrase “Think out of the box”?

Thinking. Now this last category may sound ridiculous as obviously the writing process does need to be start with a thought – at the very least. Duh! But what made me smile was when I reached the line “think about the subject during unstructured time (such as taking a shower, standing in line and taking a walk).” It didn’t clearly encourage thinking while driving though. Nevertheless, despite being amusing to be considered as a method, I still got some tips out of it.

I now have new methods to come up with more ideas. It is therefore worth remembering and applying the other methods other than mere thinking and just taking notes out of my wild mind. I also now recognize that oftentimes the need to read (stress: read, read, read) or interact with one or more people may be what it takes to have fresh ideas whether I like it or not. At the end of the day what matters most is when all of these are consolidated, selected, refined and written in finality hoping that it will fit the main purpose why the idea was formed in the first place.

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Mood: 3/10 Honks!

Who Visits Your Blog?

“The only way to improve the quality of your life is to improve yourself. If you want to grow your organization, you must grow as a leader. If you want to have better children, you must become a better person.” – John Maxwell

In the last months of 2008 and until now my blog site’s hits picked up. The rate of visitors has increased a lot compared to early part of last year and that of course puts a smile on my face. I attributed the improvement to my recent availability and frequent online activity. I’ve visited old contacts’ blogs, became active in several networks like multiply.com and Friendster, wrote more frequently than before and my wife has been promoting it as well to her colleagues and even her manager which left me wondering if I’d be thankful or not for exposing me up to that level. Anyway, she left a comment and it was one of the most flattering comments I ever had.

That visit and comment though just didn’t add one more blog hits. From then on, I got challenged since I now know who’s been reading, who visited and what probably the expectations of my visitors and readers are. The pressure to write sensible blogs with acceptable composition started. I also began to check what my latest posts were and if I violated some of the company’s confidential policies. The good thing is I didn’t but the bad thing on the other hand is that due to the urge to write more, I seem to have written with so much wordiness yet with less appealing topics, that even I hated it. Surprisingly, the hits kept on rising.

Now I’m becoming worried than ever. I asked myself if I know who’s been coming back, why they come back, what their interests are and how they learned about my site in the first place. With that in mind and similar other observations from the blogging world lit my thinking bulb. It’s time I answer the question, “Who are your blog visitors?”

  1. Lurkers. They are often times blessings in disguise because they increase network traffic and they make up the biggest percentage of a website hits. I suspect The problem with having them though is that they don’t leave any (good or bad) comments which keeps you guessing what they are so interested about that they keep on coming back. Among these lurkers are:
  • Spammers
  • Advertisers
  • Enemies who would love to see you fail.
  • English grammar teachers who are searching for the “I-kill-me-moment” for their next day classes. “Class, please visit crisn.wordpress.com and find as much grammatical error as possible on his post…”
  • Copycats who secretly grab your ideas and plagiarize it on their own blog site (thanks at least for pingback that they get caught somehow).
  • Journalists who are desperately trying to meet the deadline and hoping that a keyword or tag from your post would light up their own light bulb.
  • Your current boss looking for violations in confidentiality.
  • Your next employer.
  • Your colleagues who wonder if you’re the same person they know especially if you’ve kept your writing skill (or the lack of it) secret.
  • Your ex-lover.
  • Bloggers you visited and commented.
  • Social engineers and Phishers.
  1. Same feathers. From the famous “birds of the same feathers flock together” cliché. These are visitors and/or readers who may be also members of the internet forum or egroup you’re currently in. More often than not they don’t necessarily mean that they love your site, your subject matter or even your writing style. More likely, they are just there hoping to exchange links and probably get some ideas in the process. So beware and don’t immediately edit that blogroll of yours unless you’re totally convinced that they deserve that sweet spot in your blog site.
  1. Niche audience. These are the people that you want in your blog They are those who have the same interest as yours and can fully relate to your blah, blah, blahs. They understand your jargons and other fancy terms. Unlike lurkers though, they usually keep in touch with you either through comments or emails. With them, the likelihood of an exchange of useful ideas is very high. These are among the people that you should maintain and have a close relationship with. Either add them to your favorites or add them to your blogroll.
  2. The 3 Fs. They are your Family, Friends and Fans all at the same time–by force or by choice. Although they aren’t as frequent as the lurkers, their visits are usually well-meaning and their praises are true. Just a warning though especially if you’re the type who can’t take criticisms. This group of people (or person) may give blunt comments that will hit you like your mother’s whipping spank–it will hurt, but whether you like it or not, it is for your own good. So appreciate and cherish their comments but listen and act accordingly to their criticisms.

As my employment time is counting down my blog hits however is going up. While laid off, blogging I guess will be my main occupation, paid or not, as I try to figure out what my next moves would be. It is just wise then to know my visitors because through it I get to feel what to improve, how to improve it and hopefully perfect it in the end – no matter when and no matter what it would take. After all, I love writing and I’d be all smiles when the day comes that I do what I really love to do.

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Mood: 3/10 Honks!

You’re a Blog Addict If…

(A tribute to the return of wp-pinoys.com)

…You have one or more blog accounts.

…Your mind is always wondering what your next blog subject will be.

…You find yourself desperately composing a post even while driving.

…You would rather keep mum during discussions not until you have blogged about the subject matter for fear that other bloggers in your group or anyone would hear about it.

…Every discussion is a good discussion.

…You’ve become masochistic by enjoying confrontations just so you can check if you can make a good blog post out of it.

…You accepted an offer for an extreme adventure not because you love it but because you want to write about it despite the possibility of nausea.

…Microsoft Word and the Internet Explorer browser have been your most utilized application over Powerpoint and Excel.

…”Is the internet connection ok?” becomes your official greeting when you reach home from work.

…Your wife worries about your health whenever you fail to post.

…Your primary concern before a vacation is if your destination offers Wi- Fi.

…You suddenly wake up in the wee hours of the morning just so you can check if what you’ve posted that night had grammatical errors in it.

…You had dreams about you and your conscience arguing about your grammar usage.

…You had nightmares about WordPress.com being wiped out.

…You also had nightmares about your blog drafts being wiped out.

…You are prone to malapropism.

…You’re having symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

You’re justifying to yourself (or wife) that an HP mini is a necessity even during this recession period.

…You’ve set your mind that your fast growing beer belly will become a good netbook platform in case you have to type while standing in a packed train.

…You have your digital camera along with you all the time ready for any “bloggable” event.

…You have considered getting a Paypal account so you can monetize your blog.

…You consider that having your own domain is a good investment.

…You wonder after the homily if the priest has a blog site.

…You’re fully aware that Technorati isn’t related to the Illuminati.

…You’ve approached your boss to let you have a blog time rather than a lunch time.

…Brushing your teeth becomes second to checking your blog hits – and that your mood is dictated by it.

…Other than the internet cafes you’ve also frequented Power Books stores and spent time taking notes of blog materials.

…You can relate very well to this blog. Happy blogging to all!

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Mood: 3/10 Honks

Tumbled Upon Tumblr

Not all simple things are created equal and tumblr.com is an example. This is a blog site I discovered several months back after reading it on a newspaper article. It’s one of those lazy Sundays when the moment I see a link, I immediately give it a shot.

At first I find it so simple that I was wondering what was going inside the mind of its developer when he made it. Maybe he’s trying to be among the dot.com millionaires like the people behind Facebook, YouTube or even the fading Friendster. Well, I don’t know if he made the mark but to be fair, I think he or she somehow made a good start. Of course, I already signed up.

Trying to experiment what this site brings got me into starting my own, everythingpetty.tumblr.com. I find tumblr’s dashboard very basic. It requires little experience from its users and one doesn’t even need to be good at writing since in here anything can be posted. Users may post photos, text, quotes, audio and links. Consider this as some sort of repository of drafts of wild ideas.

tumbler.jpg
tumblr’s dashboard

The large icons make it so highly recommended for bloggers with vision problems. Please tell your grandma about it.

Don’t get me wrong though. This site has some good following from a various talented people. From what I’ve seen, most people like to publish photos and drawings. I’ve seen one member post drawing blogs about his daily life in his cubicle and I was entertained and awed at the skillful depiction of the boxed working environment. I feel him.

The simplicity of tumblr is so enticing that anyone with lots of time to kill inside the cube would likely post something, anything, anytime, any day. Hmm, I think I’ll have to consider this one later in the day. Something to keep me busy during the whole 8-hour period. Hahahaha. Just kidding, IT admin guys.

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My bad. I actually forgot all about this tumblr account but one of my recent visitor’s comment reminded me all about it. Thanks, Mariam. I already posted a new entry. Please check it out every now and then.

Visit also Mariam’s site because so far she’s got the perfect header for a recession-related blog. And incidentally, just like me, she’s also keeping track of those posting the same tags. See it for yourself.

mariam

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Mood: 3/10 Honks!

2008: A Blog Year in Review

Two more days and 2008 will end. And couple more hours from now, I’d be functioning as a daddy and being Hobbes* again. So I’m thinking, why not grab these wee hours of the morning, while both wifey and baby are sleeping soundly, to review what has happened to this blog and the events that inspired it.

I made a run-through of the posts I did since January to date, and so far I killed time 79 times this year—79 posts overall. Like photographers, bands, singers, writers, and bloggers, each has their own favorites in their portfolio which when reviewed over and over again affirms that one has indeed performed a good job somehow. The opposite of which are those footprints that will come to haunt like a sequel to a previous nightmare.

As any other self-respecting person would do, I will list only my favorite posts for this year and here they are in order of posting date (starting from January to December).

1000 Kilometers, 1 B-Movie, 3 Coffee. I wrote this blog for the first time from our company’s (after my shift, FYI) parking lot while waiting for wifey and while trying to compose it with the draining battery of my old, yet trusty T42 IBM laptop.

2008: Year of Change?. A start of the year reflection on what has hap- pened and things that may yet to come.

We Could Steal Cars. Not well composed, but this reminds me of the time when my wife and I spent several hours lock picking our brand new Honda during a gas stop to Clark.

The Rock Star in Me. Any fictitious story coming true is worth writing. This is my first Arnel Pineda blog. And by the way, this is the most read (or clicked) – it registered 394 views to date.

Rio and Gino. Almost landed a writing job for an automotive site but unfortunately, the auto financing subject caught me unguarded—reason why I haven’t heard from the forum folks anymore.

Ship is Sinking II. Another blog sequel but which I find better than the first because the “sinking” here is more imminent.

House For Sale?  My eBay venture blog. I learned a lot from it and have sold several items thru the internet.

Something Looks Familiar. An F1 related post inspired by a familiar corporate logo which contains one of the historic events during this year’s season.

Back on 2 Wheels. One of the things I did this year to save on gas is to have a motorcycle in July. I now bring it to work every chance I can.

Heroes Wanted: Dead or Alive. The truth is, I’m one of those who has the hatred and shame of being a Filipino but is constantly thinking how I can do my own part to get out of that sentiment. So when the “I am Ninoy” movement came out, I eagerly gave it a chance to sink in.

We’re Moving Out. Despite my low emotional state, this blog is one of my wackiest compositions.

Photo Loco. Inspired after attending a basic photography class, the photo enthusiast in me kicked in. I posted several shots that got some compliments from other friends who are also into photography. A couple of related blogs followed next.

We Are Now Parents. An early Christmas gift for us. We now have a baby.

Ghost Sightings. My first post written while in wifey’s place in Batangas. This is also when I started using the “Honks!” scale in my blogs.

Changes and Transitions. This is what this year is all about.

Filipino Pride. This is one of those days when the news all over the country is that crime has ceased to exist – at least every time Manny Pacquiao is up on the ring to fight.

Next year will be another blogging year and I’m hoping that I’ll do more and better blogs. If there are things I’d like to have for me to continue doing so, these will be time, inspiration and wisdom. Oh by the way, I’d like to get paid as well. Hahaha.

*I was wondering why my wife’s been calling me Hobbes, but then I figure it’s better than hubby so let it be.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks!

 

Things (or People) To Avoid When Writing

I’m writing  an article and this is not supposed to be it. I drafted my first choice and set it aside for later retrieval and continuation as I can’t concentrate on how to properly compose it. I have made a lengthy piece but the words and phrases seem to be similar to that of a drunken line of ants. No go.

It left me no choice but to press CTRL+N–or in layman’s term, make a new post instead. As a release mechanism, what I’m doing now is share some of the distractions that need to be avoided or eliminated when writing. By the way, this is in no particular order. I repeat: In. No. Particular. Order.

  1. Clouded mind. It’s one thing I avoid when writing or even replying to emails. Blogging is like driving and a clouded thinking doesn’t give good judgment and direction. So avoid it if you can. Anger, frustrations, and depression are just some factors that will result to clouded thinking. To solve it, listen to your favorite music over the headset before and during a blog composition.
  2. TV. Boob tube. Turn it off unless your topic of choice is what you’re currently watching.
  3. Videoke. No point explaining this one. Pray for rain instead, it helps disperse your neighbor’s drunken party.
  4. Empty stomach. Write satiated if your topic is not about how it feels like to be hungry. Then lastly…
  1. The wife. Yes, that’s right. Wife. As lovely as she seems to be and might even contribute blog ideas, she on the other hand could be sneaky, unpredictable and a potent factor of ruining a good blog. If her mood isn’t right, she may even be the cause of unexplained deleted post or worse a deleted blog. To neutralize or tame this threat, I make sure that she’s fully asleep. But I still always remain cautious because a snore isn’t an indication of a deep sleep. I’m always prepared of any sudden or unsuspecting pillow movement as that may prove that she’s sneaking behind watching for that telltale sign that of a naughty blog.

Although, this isn’t the complete list, these distractions are often the reason my fingers freeze, mind stops running and usually makes me end up sleeping beside my lovely, sneaky wifey. Not bad after all. Ti abi.