Plagiarism, for Dummies

The following is a one-man skit I performed in chapel at Faulkner University, probably in early 2009.

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Some students just don’t want to do their homework, particularly if it involves writing. Many of these students have found what seems to them a better way to get their class assignments done: Copy and paste from Wikipedia, also known as the dubious information superhighway or the gateway to student plagiarism. However, it occurs to me that there was a time in the history of colleges, when there was no Internet, and it was a lot harder to cheat and get away with it. The year is 1985, and you are about to see a teacher in a history class, giving a writing assignment. Then, a student will respond.

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TEACHER:  O.k., so the essay on the French Revolution is due on Thursday. Now remember, this is just a short, 200-word essay about something we discussed during the past three lectures. If you were here for any of these lectures on the French Revolution, and you were awake, then this essay should be no problem. Alright? O.k., see you Thursday.

STUDENT: (Waking up as he lifts his head, which was laying in his folded arms on the desk. He wipes the drool from his chin) Wha…? Huh? What? (Looking to his classmates as they leave the room) What was the assignment? An essay? Ow! This teacher’s an executioner. Man!

(Back in his dorm room, STUDENT takes a few steps to the table where the phone is. He dials a number while reading a Sports Illustrated.)

STUDENT: (singing softly to himself while he waits for his friend to pick up the phone) “You say you want a Revolution, we-ell you know, we all want to change the…” Hey Larry, how’s it goin’? Aw, I’m alright, just not sure what I’m gonna do about this essay. Didn’t you have Old Man Wilson’s history class last semester? Good, I thought you did. I’ve gotta do this essay, and I can’t remember anything about the American Revolution…. Oh, they had a revolution too, huh? Well, I don’t know anything about that one, either. Listen, you still got your essay from last semester?…. 

STUDENT: What’d’ya mean I can’t have it? What am I supposed to turn in, a blank sheet?…. 

No, I was in class for the lectures, but you know how unclear that Wilson is…. 

(getting frustrated) Hey, Lemme stop you right there, Larry. I called you for help, not for study tips, and I’ll have you know that I don’t have time to be doing all sorts of reading (as he continues to read S.I.)….

Yes I have a date. Besides, I don’t even know anybody on campus who has a book about the French Revolution…. 

Only freaks go to libraries, Larry…. 

C’mon Larry, how much for your essay? How much?….

Fine time for you to go honest on me. I’ll change a few lines so Old Man Wilson won’t know a thing!….

Well, if you can’t do anything for me, I may just have to arrange to be sick on Thursday! How do ya like that?!

(STUDENT hangs up)

STUDENT: What am I gonna do?…Wait. I’ve got one last chance. My girlfriend. (He begins dialing again. Still reading S.I. as he waits for her to answer)

(flirtatious tone of voice at first) Hey, girl. Nothin’ much. Look, I just talked to my mom, and she says that at the county fair back home, they’re having an…uh…essay contest…. 

Yeah…yeah. And it’s a history essay contest. I’m lookin’ at the rules right here. (He ruffles the magazine he’s reading) It says the essay must between 150 and 250 words long. Oh, and this is interesting: The essay has to be a summary of the French Revolution…Must be 18 or older…no purchase necessary…blah, blah, blah…Get this! The writer of the best essay gets a year’s supply of…make-up….

Yeah! So, I thought I should tell you about it right away….

What brand?…I’m looking for that.Um…(stalling) it’s a…von. Avon. That’s it. It says right here…. 

You’ll do it? Good. Now, here’s how it’ll work. You write the essay, and give it to me tomorrow, so I can take it to Mom when I go home over the weekend….

No don’t wait till Friday!!!!…Well, what if I have some suggestions for your essay?….

No, I’m pretty sharp on the French Revolution. Do you think I sleep through class? Really….

O.k. Good luck on the essay. I can’t wait to see it. You! I can’t wait to see you! Tonight. Right. Bye, sweetheart. 

(STUDENT hangs up)

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Students formerly used the buttons on their telephones to cheat. Now, unfortunately some students use the buttons on their computer keyboards. From the computer comes this definition of plagiarism: “Plagiarism is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work. Within academia, plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty.” These are words from your friend Wikipedia. Here are words from your friend, Paul: “Provide things honest in the sight of all men.”

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