Thursday, January 13, 2011

Plagiarism as Graduate Education Issue

Yesterday I served as resource person in the 11th Monthly Forum of the UPLB Environmental Science Society and the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM).  There were many in attendance, in spite of the small lecture hall of SESAM.  This indicated to me that there seem to be a lot more students at UPLB who are interested to know more about plagiarism than I thought.

The discussions tried to address three issues: why plagiarism was important to students, why  students plagiarize, and how might we be able to avoid plagiarism.

I started out by saying, “to level the playing field, I can say without batting an eye lash that we all have intentionally or unintentionally committed some form of plagiarism in the past.”  Everybody smiled, and I suppose that was a truthful statement.

From my own personal viewpoint, I equated plagiarism with leprosy.  I said, “like it or not, plagiarism is an intellectual leprosy.”  That sounded rather strong, but plagiarism is such an important issue in the academe that it must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms.  Why did I equate plagiarism with leprosy?  Well, to me, it’s a chronic intellectual disease; it’s stigmatizing; and I believe it can be cured.

I don’t believe that you become a plagiarist over night.  However, when you do it for the first time and see some benefit from it if it solves your problems of having to meet deadlines in the midst of all the work overload that you have to contend with, you tend to do it again, and again, and again.  Ultimate effect: the action becomes habitual and you become a plagiarist.  This can happen quickly, though.

Being known as a plagiarist is an intellectual stigma, which can stick with you in your entire professional life.   Once your professional life is tainted with simple accusation of having copied somebody else’s ideas and included them in your work as your own without any attribution, then you’ll find it extremely difficult to shake off that stigma of being a social and intellectual cheat.  The stigma stays with you way past the actual time the offense was committed.

Plagiarism can be avoided through proper citation.  When you borrow someone else’s idea to arrive at your own idea, you need to cite where you got the original idea. 

It is said that when you simply copy one work and pass it off as your own it’s plagiarism, but when you generate an entirely new idea based on numerous sources of information the process is called research.  That may be true, but slow down a bit on that one.  The moment you use someone else’s ideas, works, etc. to arrive at your own, which we just said is a research process, you need to cited where you got the idea.  You have to cite your sources.  That is giving credit where it is due.  If you don’t cite your sources, you’re passing those ideas off as your own and that’s plagiarism.

If any thing, the good attendance in yesterday’s Forum indicated to me that it’s not all automatic “cut-and-paste” rush with UPLB students.  This shows that they want to be able to produce work that has some level of originality and creativity, and they want to know how they could do that with some degree of confidence.  I appreciate that kind of an attitude.  But, then again, these are UP students.  Must we expect differently?


The undergraduates who were in attendance in the Forum were devcom students taking a course with Prof. Lynnette Carpio.  I was pleased to see these students in the Forum.  If there should be UPLB students who should have an excellent grasp of the plagiarism issue, it would be the devcom students.  Plagiarism is an ethical and moral offense at the intellectual level that all devcom students are expected to be completely familiar with.  They’re in the field of communication (oral and written) and plagiarism, in this field, is not taken lightly.

For all those who attended the Forum, and others who were not able to make it but are interested in the issue, I left a hard copy of my talk with Rico Ancog, President of the UPLB Environmental Science Society, at SESAM.


Yesterday, UPOU gave outgoing UP President Emer Roman a simple testimonial at the UPOU Headquarters.  I was unable to stay until lunch time since I was preparing for the Forum at SESAM, but I did show myself to President Emer and UPOU Chancellor Gigi Alfonso.  President Emer did give UPOU good support in her presidency.  When she took over as UP President, I was in the last two years of my second term as UPOU Chancellor, so I was able to work with her.  Then, of course, Chancellor Gigi took over the administration of UPOU and the partnership continued very well with Gigi.

There were all the System officials, many of them having taken on various jobs at the System level when I was no longer Chancellor of Faculty Regent.  I saw, however, those who had continued to serve UP toward the second half of Pres. Emer’s term, which shall end in February 2011.  Pres. Emer had the distinct honor of having been the first woman President of UP, the first Centennial President of UP (it will take another 100 years for another president to come around).  I think she did well as president.  Congratulations.

Those in attendance yesterday included VPAA Amy Guevarra, AVPAA Celia Adriano, VPA Samaniego, and, of course, Dr. Lou Abadingo, the indefatigable Secretary to the UP Board of Regents and the University.  Dr. Carlene Arceo, Secretary to the Presidential Advisory Council, as also present.  I had the honor of having worked with this group.  It was such a fruitful  experience.

To Pres. Emer, thank you for the very significant assistance you have provided the U.P. Open University. 


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