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Seminar about acknowledging the work of others

Seminar about acknowledging the work of others
Today we’re going to be thinking, in particular, about the idea of ownership. And I’m going to ask you to consider different versions of ownership and what it might mean to you. OK, so, first of all, I’m going to produce a scenario and you’ve got to think about it. The idea– you’ve lent a friend of yours a piece of clothing, a piece of clothing you particularly like, and they start wearing it and get huge amounts of compliments for it, but then pass if off as their own. How would that make you feel? Maybe a little bit annoyed. But it wouldn’t really be a big deal. Why not? If they’re getting compliments for it, that’s nice for them.
Like, it doesn’t really matter. I wouldn’t really be that fussed. OK, anybody else? That’s nice, that’s a generous attitude. What does everybody else think? Well, maybe if they get compliments for your clothes, it’s kind of like you’re getting compliments. So maybe it might not be you wearing them, but you’re still thinking, yeah, I definitely have good fashion sense. Or something like that. Let’s do another example. What if, for example, you’ve written a song and a friend of yours went and sang that song at a gig. And they then said, that’s my song. How would you feel about it then? I wouldn’t be OK. That wouldn’t be OK? What about you? I’d be really annoyed.
So we’ve gone into different territory here. It’s different, I think, because buying some clothing, you just hand over money. But writing a song, you spent time, you spent effort. It’s your thoughts. If you wear clothes, regardless of who wears it, it’s not going to get you in the game. But if one person sang that song, then you can’t then go and also try and acclaim for it. Can you think of another example of a situation in which you’d get really mad if somebody passed off as their own something that was yours? Maybe like an essay. Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Why? Why would that matter to you? Because you put hard work into it.
I think it’s the same with anything. Say, if you designed the clothes, not bought the clothes, it would be the same. You’d be annoyed. Because it shows your self-worth, as well. I think, well, personally, like how I do on an essay reflects how I am as a person. So, that would then be a lot more important than just what I wore, or something like that. Yeah, It’s something much more essential to you. I’d want the people– Song or essay– Yeah, who had thought that they wrote it to know that I actually did– OK– Yeah, as well, because I don’t know. It gains me credibility. Yeah. See, language you used about value and credibility. It’s interesting the language you’re using, actually.
That it’s something that matters a great deal in that sense. That they would have to acknowledge you, is that right? Yeah, exactly. I’d want some acknowledgment for the first piece of work. And then, also, that original person who took your work, everyone would know that they took it from you. So in that sense, it might sound a bit mean, but so they should respond to the consequences of what they did so that everyone knows that they did it. If we make the move now, having thought a little bit about that kind of general idea of ownership.
And make a move into the idea of ownership specifically within an academic setting and particularly, say, a university setting, because that’s one of the things that we are very interested in exploring, what do you think you’d be spending a lot of time doing? It’s quite similar, isn’t it? You be, again, researching and developing an understanding of whatever field you’ve chosen. Absolutely. Absolutely. So, and then what would you do with that knowledge and that understanding? What would be the thing that you’d produce in order to demonstrate your own understanding? An essay, most likely, or a project, presentation. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And in that essay, that project, what you’re communicating is your own ideas.
Why do you think universities take very seriously the idea of plagiarism? It’s not reflecting the student’s own ability. Yes. And why would that matter? Well, because they’ve allowed them into the university based on their own ability. And that’s why they’ve, obviously, been allowed in, and they’re not benefiting the university or the students around them if they’re passing off other peoples’ work. Mmm. Absolutely. So, does it help themselves? No. No. And the university want them to have a degree at the end of it. Yeah. And that degree, as you say, has got to reflect their achievements, what they can do. Let’s put ourselves in the context of preparing for an essay, OK?
And at university level, in particular, actually, you have to do further research. You have to work with other peoples’ ideas, knowledge, readings. And you have to put yourself in dialogue with them. So you’re always running the risk of having been seduced by somebody else’s much cleverer idea than the one you just thought yourself, OK? You could very easily fall into that, ah, that’s such a great idea. And you’ve written it down and actually it’s not yours.
If you see something that you think is a great idea, what I would do is I would take it and then put it into my essay but bracket it or put something of who has written it. And then give my ideas of that. If there was a relevant quote or something that I thought was really great and really relevant, I’d put it in and then they give my opinion on it. So I’m still getting my opinion, but including it. I don’t think would be plagiarism. So why is that not plagiarism? Because you’ve referenced the critic or such that you’ve used. Yeah. So you’ve acknowledged them, you’ve recognised their ownership. Yeah. Yeah.
And essentially picking up on skills you use all the time, because in conversation we allow each other to have ideas and we respond to them. We don’t just steal, you know? How dare you just steal somebody else’s idea who had just spoken it. So we’re developing skills we already have. In a moral way, we think of plagiarism as being a bad thing and that a person shouldn’t do it because they’re getting something good out of it which isn’t theirs to get. You could turn it around, saying plagiarism is not a good thing because they’re not getting something good out of it. In a way that could build on the anxiety confidence thing.
Can we just have a little bit of thought? Think a little bit more about that. What are you losing if you plagiarise? Not what you’re gaining, but what are you losing if you plagiarise? The opportunity to better your skills and learn more about the subject. Yeah. Yeah. Fab– yeah. Any other ideas? Maybe just you have the opportunity to show people that you are also an interesting, intelligent individual. Because, generally, when you plagiarise, people will know if you haven’t come up with that yourself, because you won’t be able to explain it to the extent that you would if you had thought of it yourself. So, yeah, I would say that being able to show that you are an intelligent person. Hmm.
You lose the ability to, then, come up with your own ideas. Say, if you do it repeatedly, even if you don’t mean to do that, if you’re just doing it out of confidence, then each time it will lower your confidence in a way. You lose more and more– Self-esteem– Yeah, because every time, you’re taking someone else’s. It becomes very difficult to then, oh, actually, I’ll have an idea, I’ll try and develop it. So yes. I suppose each time it’s done, you lose an opportunity to develop your ability. So, yeah.
It’s very interesting where we’ve got to, because plagiarism, from your own discussions, seems to be the thing that one might see as morally, legally wrong, and the thing that we should correct. Because it’s a theft. It’s a taking of somebody else. But where you’ve also come to is the idea that it’s kind of thieving from yourself, depriving yourself of an opportunity. And it’s, to use your language, the opportunity to develop yourself to do better, to find your own voice.

Watch this video of students discussing the issue of referencing and plagiarism and consider what your responses would be to the questions the lecturer is asking. Do you agree with the students in the video?

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