Posted: 23 May 2011 at 2:08pm | IP Logged
I took a political science course in American Political Thought this last semester - I absolutely hated the class because I am not at all used to making Bs on papers in any of my classes. However, being a science major, this class was very different for my taste. Our professor claimed at the beginning of the semester that an A paper would consist of an original and innovative idea - something he did not think of or read anywhere before. My immediate thought was what the hell!?! I hate it when professors say things like that - here you are with a PhD and years and years of experience and here I am- a biology major who has never before taken a political science course - forced to read Jefferson, Lincoln, Hamilton, Madison etc. and come up with some new interpretation of their writing!
I consistently made B+ on my papers throughout the semester. His comments said good but nothing that stood out as totally original. Now, to get back to the topic - there are only so many obvious ways that these men's writings can be interpreted - scholars have done it for years and years now and it's highly unlikely that someone will automatically come up with an altogether new and original interpretation. So does that mean that people should stop reading and interpreting these writings? (I wanted to shoot myself through most of this class, so my answer would definitely be a yes.) However, the more appropriate answer would be that no, people should not stop reading/interpreting these ideas. The reason is that when you read the writings then you read the interpretations that people have already made, there is always a chance that you will put 2 and 2 together to come up with something new. Should you credit these people before you since your new concept/idea was based on their writings and research? Absolutely! But by contributing this new idea, you have added to the vast pool of knowledge that exists in that discipline.
Not just political science, but even science has worked the same way. People have read other people's work and research and they have decided to either expand upon it or they have noticed a component that the original researcher failed to notice and decided to work on that. Expanding knowledge requires studying and understanding prior knowledge. If we all started from zero, what would be the point of all this research and studying? The whole point here is to utilize the work of people before us (by giving them credit of course) and then to expand upon that in order to perhaps add another ounce of knowledge to this vast pool. And that is why learning never ends - it is an ongoing process that will last a very, very long time.
For what it's worth, I did manage to make an A on my last paper on Lincoln in that class. My professor wrote on there that I had discussed two very new and original concepts in that paper that he liked very much. So I got my A! Moral of the story - I do much MUCH better when I B.S. my way through assignments. I only put in 3-4 hours of work on that paper while the others I spent days on and only managed to get B+s. Unfortunately, my average in the class was a B+, hence all the bitterness.
Editing to add: Plagiarism is BAD BAD BAD! Do not take other people's work without giving them credit for it. The only way you can pay a writer or artist, etc is by giving him credit for his work. Don't take that away from him. If you didn't come up with that idea, just cite it and provide the source. It will take a few extra minutes of your time, but it will mean a lot to the person you are giving credit. Especially students - you will get in a whole lot of trouble for plagiarizing, and it's not worth your career. And if you don't think they will catch you, I promise you they will!
Edited by *Woh Ajnabee* - 23 May 2011 at 2:12pm