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Do As I Say, Not As I Do

joetags profile image JoeTags ・3 min read

As a new student to programming, I was asked to write a blog about one thing I learned in my coding bootcamp. It was tough to narrow down because I had learned so much in the last 10 weeks. So, I decided to focus on something that I was still unclear about.

What constitutes plagiarism?

I kept hearing it on the Slack channel. “Don’t be caught plagiarizing, or you will be kicked out!” “Anyone caught sharing code will be removed from the program!” That seems fair. Don’t cheat. So, I decided to look up the definition of plagiarism.

• 1.the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own:"there were accusations of plagiarism"
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• Stanford defines plagiarism as the "use, without giving reasonable and appropriate credit to or acknowledging the author or source, of another person's original work, whether such work is made up of code, formulas, ideas, language, research, strategies, writing or other form."[50]
• Yale views plagiarism as the "... use of another's work, words, or ideas without attribution," which includes "... using a source's language without quoting, using information from a source without attribution, and paraphrasing a source in a form that stays too close to the original."[51]
• Princeton describes plagiarism as the "deliberate" use of "someone else's language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledging its source."[52]
• Oxford College of Emory University characterizes plagiarism as the use of "a writer's ideas or phraseology without giving due credit."[53]
• Brown defines plagiarism as "... appropriating another person's ideas or words (spoken or written) without attributing those word or ideas to their true source."[54]
• The U.S. Naval Academy defines plagiarism as "the use of the words, information, insights, or ideas of another without crediting that person through proper citation."[55]

And then I thought to myself. Is my school committing an act of plagiarism?

“This repo was mostly written by another dude. Read on for his original notes.”
The author’s name was not there. There was no source material. It appeared that the academic exercise I was going to be working on was created by someone else and my school was not accrediting the source.

I decided to dig a little deeper. I wanted to find out who another dude really was…
So, I decided to use my new and improved coding Google skills and found out another dude is… David Liang. He is the author of Javascript Koans. He is a software developer based in Dublin, Ireland. I guess that’s what all the mushroom pizza was about.

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Then, I thought to myself, well, what if some of the other material I was learning wasn’t being properly cited. So, I began doing searches on each of the project titles and what I found was startling. Most of them come from another school in California called Hack Reactor. I thought that was strange and went back to my school’s website. I didn’t see the name anywhere. I went through all the repos and didn’t see the name cited anywhere. Again, by definition, it seemed that my school was committing an act of plagiarism.

It’s kind of like when Zack Galifinakis asks Jerry Seinfeld, “Shouldn’t it have been called Larry David?”

Now, I’m not saying that my school doesn’t have a great program and isn’t a noble organization in their quest to train the software engineers of the future.
What I am saying is that they should lead by example. That if they consider themselves an academic institution then academic standards should encompass every part of their curriculum. And if plagiarism is so pervasive in the program, that it is mentioned daily. It is likely a signal of a deeper issue.

[50] "What is Plagiarism" Archived 2012-10-26 at the Wayback Machine. Stanford University. 2012-07-27.
[51] ^ "What is Plagiarism? | Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning".
[52] ^ "Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices". Princeton University. 2012-07-27
[53] ^ "Student Honor Code". Emory: Oxford College. 2012-07-27.
[54] ^ "What is plagiarism?". Brown University Library. 2012-07-27
[55] ^ USNA Statements on Plagiarism - Avoiding Plagiarism US Naval Academy, Retrieved April 5, 2017.

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