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0910 Plagiarizing a Paper

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 910 – Plagiarizing a Paper.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 910. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is ESLPod.com. Go there to download a Learning Guide for this episode.

This episode is a dialogue between Paul and Samantha about someone who is cheating in school. Let’s get started.

[start of dialog]

Paul: All done.

Samantha: You’re done with your paper? How can that be? I’m just getting started.

Paul: I’m just a better student than you are.

Samantha: Let me see that. You didn’t write this.

Paul: No, I didn’t. I downloaded somebody’s paper from some website and slapped my name on it. The professor will never know. Wise up. Do you want me to find one for you?

Samantha: No way! Not only is it cheating, if you get caught, you could flunk the class or get expelled.

Paul: Don’t be such a goody two-shoes. Everybody does it. I know a guy who pays somebody in another state to write all of his papers for him and another guy who lifts his papers from old books. Don’t tell me you’ve never paraphrased ideas from a source and represented them as your own.

Samantha: Are you kidding me? Borrowing ideas from a book with proper attribution is what you’re supposed to do. You, on the other hand, are plagiarizing your way to your degree.

Paul: Damn straight! Look who’s done with his homework and who is still working on hers.

Samantha: I’d rather earn what I get and know that I didn’t shortchange myself out of an education!

[end of dialog]

Paul begins our dialog by saying, “All done,” meaning “all finished.” I'm completely finished with whatever I was doing. Samantha says, “You’re done with your paper?” “Paper” here, when we are talking about school, refers to an essay or another written document that is required as part of your homework. It could be a report on a book. It could be an analysis of some subject – any of those things would be called a “paper.”

Samantha says, “How can that be?” “How is that possible?” she means. “I'm just getting started,” meaning I'm just getting started on my paper. Paul says, “I'm just a better student then you are.” Samantha says in reply, “Let me see that. You didn't write this.” Samantha is saying that Paul didn't even write this paper that he said he completed.

Paul says, “No, I didn't. I downloaded somebody’s paper from some website and slapped my name on it.” Paul says that he bought, he purchased, or at least, he downloaded from the Internet, this paper and then “slapped” his name on it. “To slap (slap) on something” means to add something, usually something to a written document.

Let's say you're preparing a report for your boss and, you, at the very last minute, right before you need to give it to him, you remember that you didn't put a conclusion on it. You didn't summarize your findings. So, you decide to “slap on” a conclusion. It means to add something to a document very quickly, but not very carefully, often done without a lot of preparation.

It's not a good idea to slap something on a document right before you need to turn it in. That's, however, what Paul is saying about his name. He slapped his name on this document. He just changed the name and put his own name on it.

He says, “The professor” – the teacher, the instructor – “will never know. Wise up. Do you want me to find one for you?” Paul is saying that the professor will never discover that this is not his paper, and he tells Samantha to “wise up.” “To wise up” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to understand something about the real world, about the way things really work. We often use this expression when someone seems innocent or what we would describe as “naïve” (naïve). Someone who's naive is someone who doesn't have a lot of experience, who thinks things are more honest, perhaps, than they really are, or who thinks that people are more honest than they really are.

Paul is saying that Samantha should wise up, and then offers to find a paper for her. Samantha, however, says, “No way. Not only is it cheating, if you get caught, you could flunk the class or get expelled.” Samantha is not going to do what Paul did. She's not going to be dishonest. She's not going to cheat. “To cheat” (cheat) is to get something unfairly, to win a game unfairly, or to get a grade that you don't deserve because you did something that you weren't supposed to do.

Samantha says, “If you get caught,” meaning if someone finds out about this bad thing that you did, “you could flunk the class.” “To flunk” (flunk) means not to pass a class in school, to get what we would call a failing grade, or a failing mark. Usually, that means getting an “F.” That means that you failed, that you flunked, that you did not pass the class.

That happened to me a couple of times. I took German once and flunked, but I didn't really complete the course, and then I also took a class in computer programming back in the 1980’s. I believe it was “COBALT” (Cobalt). I flunked that class, too. So, even professors flunk classes.

Samantha is telling Paul that he will flunk this class if he is caught, or possibly get expelled. To be or to get “expelled” (expelled) means that you are told you must leave the school, leave the university. You can no longer be a student here. It's the worst possible punishment you can get. It means you can no longer go to school at that place.

Paul is not too worried, however. He says to Samantha, “Don't be such a goody two-shoes.” This is an old expression – a “goody (goody) two (two) [-] shoes (shoes).” When you call someone a “goody two-shoes,” it means that this is a person who always follows the rules. It's an insulting term, however. It's something that you are saying to criticize someone. Someone who’s a goody two-shoes is too good, is too honest, is too willing to follow the rules, instead of doing what everyone else does. Of course, this is a very relative description; that is, it depends on who you are and what the situation is. Usually, however, it is used as an insult, especially among children.

Paul then says that “Everybody does it,” meaning everybody cheats. “I know a guy” – I know a man – “who pays somebody in another state to write all of his papers for him and another guy” – another person – “who lifts his papers from old books.” Paul is saying he has two friends, or two people he knows: one of them pays someone else to write his papers, another one steals his papers from old books. He copies old books.

Paul says, “Don't tell me you've never paraphrased ideas from a source and represented them as your own.” “To paraphrase” (paraphrase) means to express someone else's ideas, but in your own words, using your own words to give the same idea. A “source” (source) is where you get information from. It could be a book. It could be the Internet. It could be a friend – all of those could be sources of information. “To represent something” means to present it in a certain way. Paul is saying that even Samantha has taken other people's ideas and called them her own. She's represented them as her own.

Samantha says, “Are you kidding me?” Are you joking? She says, “Borrowing ideas from a book with proper attribution is what you're supposed to do.” She’s saying that if you take an idea from another source, you need to have proper “attribution” (attribution). “Attribution” is a statement indicating where you got this idea from, or where you got this quote from. She says, “You on the other hand are plagiarizing your way to your degree.” Samantha is saying that Paul is plagiarizing his way to his degree. “To plagiarize” (plagiarize) means to take someone else's words and use them as if they were your own, to take someone else's writing and say that it was your writing. That is “to plagiarize.” And of course, that is dishonest and not allowed by any school – any good school, anyway. A “degree” (degree) is the same as a diploma. It's an official piece of paper showing that you have completed your studies at a university or college.

Paul, however, is not going to change his mind. When Samantha says that he's plagiarizing his way to his degree, he says, “Damn straight.” This is somewhat of a vulgar expression. “Damn” (damn) when you say it in anger or in excitement, is a vulgar, impolite phrase. Often, you say it when you are angry about something. Here, however, Paul is using it as a way of emphasizing. “Damn straight” means you are in complete agreement with the other person. You agree with the other person in everything they say. You're saying, “Yes, that's correct. I agree with you.” But you use it usually in cases where you are trying to emphasize to the other person how much you agree with that statement.

Again, it's a vulgar expression. You shouldn't use this at work. You shouldn't probably use it at all. You could say, instead of “Damn straight,” you could say, “Absolutely!” or “Yes, that's absolutely right.”

Paul continues by saying, “Look who’s done with his homework and who is still working on hers.” He’s saying, “I'm done with my homework. You're still working on your paper.” Samantha says, “I'd rather earn what I get and know that I didn't shortchange myself out of an education.” “To earn it” means to get it by working. “To shortchange yourself out of something” means to give someone less than what they deserve, to cheat someone out of what they should be getting. “To shortchange someone out of something” is to be dishonest with them. Samantha is saying she doesn't want to shortchange herself out of an education. She wants to get a real education by doing her own work.

Now let's listen to the dialog this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialog]

Paul: All done.

Samantha: You’re done with your paper? How can that be? I’m just getting started.

Paul: I’m just a better student than you are.

Samantha: Let me see that. You didn’t write this.

Paul: No, I didn’t. I downloaded somebody’s paper from some website and slapped my name on it. The professor will never know. Wise up. Do you want me to find one for you?

Samantha: No way! Not only is it cheating, if you get caught, you could flunk the class or get expelled.

Paul: Don’t be such a goody two-shoes. Everybody does it. I know a guy who pays somebody in another state to write all of his papers for him and another guy who lifts his papers from old books. Don’t tell me you’ve never paraphrased ideas from a source and represented them as your own.

Samantha: Are you kidding me? Borrowing ideas from a book with proper attribution is what you’re supposed to do. You, on the other hand, are plagiarizing your way to your degree.

Paul: Damn straight! Look who’s done with his homework and who is still working on hers.

Samantha: I’d rather earn what I get and know that I didn’t shortchange myself out of an education!

[end of dialog]

She never cheats or plagiarizes. She's an original scriptwriter. I speak, of course, of our wonderful, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
paper – an essay or another written document, especially when required as homework for a class

* For school next week, I have to turn in two papers and take a midterm exam.

to slap (something) on – to add something to a document very quickly and carelessly, without spending a lot of time in preparation or implementation

* The text is okay, but let’s slap a few graphics on the report before we send it out.

to wise up – to understand the unpleasant truth or reality about something; to stop being naive or too innocent in one’s thinking

* Did you really believe Gerald when he said those things to you? You’re going to have to wise up and realize that he just says whatever he thinks you want to hear.

to cheat – to achieve something or win a game by doing something that is dishonest and gives one an advantage over other people who are trying to do the same thing

* Athletes who take steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are cheating to win.

to get caught – for someone to find out about something bad one has done when one was trying to hide it

* You should have seen the look on little Mina’s face when she got caught taking cookies from the cookie jar.

to flunk – to receive a failing grade; to get an F; to not pass an exam or class

* The final exam is really difficult. If you don’t study, you’ll flunk.

to be/get expelled – to be told to leave a school or university and not come back, usually as a punishment for poor grades and/or bad behavior

* Students who use illegal drugs will be expelled.

goody two-shoes – a rude, teasing term for a person (usually a young girl) who always follows the rules, does everything right, and tries to please people in authority

* Sheila is a goody two-shoes who always does her homework and always raises her hand before speaking during class.

to lift – to take without permission; to steal

* The store’s security cameras recorded an image of someone lifting the new MP3 players when the clerk wasn’t watching.

to paraphrase – to express someone’s idea in one’s own word; to rephrase how someone else has said or written something

* Even if you paraphrase an idea, you still have to indicate where you originally found it.

source – where a statement or idea comes from, usually a book, journal, newspaper, or website

* According to our sources, sales have increased by 20% over the past six months.

to represent (something) – to present something in a certain way

* The marketing manager is representing the new strategies as if they were revolutionary, but they’re just the same things all of our competitors are doing.

attribution – a statement that indicates where an idea or statement came from; credit

* Yes, you may use our materials as long as you include the full attribution.

to plagiarize – to present another person’s words or ideas as one’s own

* Many professors use special software to determine whether their students are plagiarizing others’ work in their essays.

degree – diploma; the official piece of paper showing that one has completed a university program in a particular area

* Ahmed has a graduate degree in computer science and an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering.

damn straight – an informal phrase used to show one’s full agreement with what another person has said

* A: Are you going to report all of your income on your tax return?
B: Damn straight! I don’t want to get in trouble with the government.

to shortchange (someone) out of (something) – to give someone less than what he or she deserves; to cheat someone or treat someone unfairly

* Poor Brandon. He has no idea his mother shortchanged him out of a job offer by calling his interviewers to ask for special treatment.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does Paul tell Samantha to wise up?
a) Because he doesn’t think she has enough education.
b) Because she doesn’t understand how things really work.
c) Because she thinks too highly of the professor.

2. According to Samantha, what might happen to people who get caught cheating?
a) They might get kicked out of school.
b) They might have to pay a fine.
c) They might never get a job.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
paper

The word “paper,” in this podcast, means an essay or another written document, especially when required as homework for a class: “Please write a paper on your interpretation of the book The Scarlet Letter.” A “paper” can also be a newspaper: “Did you see the front-page story in the paper this morning?” The “funny papers” are the comics, or the colored drawings used to tell short, humorous stories in the newspaper: “Yevgeny likes to read the funny papers before he reads any other part of the newspaper in the morning.” Finally, “scratch paper” refers to inexpensive paper or a small part of a piece of paper that has already been written on, used to make unimportant notes or calculations: “Quick, give me a piece of scratch paper so I can write down your phone number.”

to lift

In this podcast, the verb “to lift” means to take without permission or to steal: “Everyone was shocked to learn that the novelist had lifted entire paragraphs from other books.” The phrase “to lift (someone’s) spirits” means to cheer someone up or to make someone feel happier: “A little bit of sunshine always lifts my spirits.” The phrase “to not lift a finger” means to not help at all: “Last time your sister visited, she didn’t lift a finger to help with anything.” Finally, the phrase “to lift off” means for an airplane or another flying machine to leave the ground and begin traveling through the air: “The crowd counted down from 10 and then watched the space shuttle lift off.”

Culture Note
Detecting Plagiarism

The “rise” (increased use and popularity) of the Internet has made it “easier than ever” (easier than ever before) for students to copy others’ work and present it as their own for “academic assignments” (homework). Many teachers and university professors are responding by using online tools to “detect” (find) plagiarism.

“Manual detection” (finding plagiarism without the use of tools) is difficult, because the individual must have read the source material and remembered exactly what it said. “Computer-assistance” (with help from a computer) detection is much easier, because a computer can compare a very large number of source materials against a piece of text that has been “excerpted” (with a small part taken out) from the student’s “submission” (what a student has presented to the teacher).

Many of the online tools can check for different levels of plagiarism. The most basic ones can “highlight” (put in another color for easy identification) sections of text that are “verbatim” (with exactly the same words) with the original sources. More advanced tools can identify instances of “word substitution” where the student has copied the same sentence structure as the original source, but has changed out some of the words with “synonyms” (words that have similar meanings) to try to avoid getting caught for plagiarism.

One of the most commonly used “plagiarism checkers” (tools that detect plagiarism) checks for plagiarism from websites. Users on the plagiarism checking website can enter the “URL” (website address starting with http://www...) of a website and it “returns” (presents) a list of websites with “identical” (the same) or similar “content” (text).

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a