Thou Shalt Not Steal: Should Colleges Allow Self-Plagiarism?
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Plagiarism, the act of using another’s words or ideas without giving due credit, is a known cultural taboo. Yet given the ease with which it can be done in our electronic world, it is more widespread than ever. In response to the deluge of plagiarism in colleges, professors have expanded its definition and made it more restrictive. Not only do they consider using the work of another as plagiarism, many consider reusing one’s own work, or “self-plagiarism,” as severe a crime. A paper written for one course may not be used to satisfy a different course requirement, even when written by the same person. Although self-plagiarism is not an accepted practice in the writing world, it is unfair to impose this standard on college campuses. Self-plagiarism is not considered stealing and can even help students work on their writing skills.
Self-plagiarism, in moderate amounts, should be allowed in colleges for two reasons. First, there is no legal basis as to why it should be prohibited. According to Stuart Green, a professor of law at The State University of New Jersey - School of Law, plagiarism is a relatively recent concept which began sometime in the eighteenth century:
It was not, until the Romantic Era of the eighteenth century—when the notion of “authorship” and “originality” emerged as significant cultural values—that the norm of attribution and the taboo of plagiarism came to the fore. As art and literature became viewed as the expression of the unique and autonomous personality of the artist or writer, the crediting of literary sources became an increasingly important concern…it was not until words and ideas could be viewed as “property”—typically, through publication—that “originality” became a significant cultural value, and pla...
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