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My Word!: Plagiarism and College Culture Hardcover – January 29, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (January 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801447631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801447631
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,207,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Like Margaret Mead among the Samoans, Blum views her subjects—digital natives—as an exotic species. She notes their constant use of email, text messaging and the Internet. She declares them to be 'the wordiest and most writerly generation in a long while' and anoints their conversational tendency to quote TV shows and films an admirable form of 'intertextuality.' They are 'storming the barricades' of a new digital future, she claims, using the Internet to engage in collaborative work and to expand their knowledge base. She finds the hapless faculty members charged with teaching such students 'embattled and bewildered.' In other words: Get Twittering, grandma. Blum also embraces various postmodern theories of plagiarism. Internet-savvy, intertextual ingénues don't steal words; they engage in 'patchwriting' and 'pastiche,' constructing essays the way they create eclectic music playlists for their iPods. This practice, she argues, can be viewed as a form of homage or reverence as much as theft. In fact, as Ms. Blum’s research demonstrates, students today view writing — however we might define such a thing in a 'pastiche' culture — as a purely instrumental activity: a means to an end."—Wall Street Journal



"Susan D. Blum is genuinely interested in understanding her students and brings great care and compassion to her discussion of plagiarism. She generously draws on student interview segments throughout My Word! to illuminate today's campus climate. I especially like that Blum locates acts of cheating within the wider sociocultural context rather than regarding them simply as failures of personal morality."—Cathy Small, Northern Arizona University, author of My Freshman Year



"The prevalence of plagiarism among American college students affects all members of the university community in negative ways. The very phrase 'university community' implies a set of shared values; the existence of a culture of plagiarism among undergraduates undercuts that comfortable belief. And equally bad, finding ways to prevent plagiarism unproductively consumes instructors' and administrators' time and energy. To solve these problems, it is essential to understand what student plagiarism is: why they do it, why all our remedies fail, and why we need to care about it. This is the task undertaken by Susan D. Blum in My Word! Everyone who is a member of a university community will find insights here: Students will come to better understand why faculty and administrators are asking these impossible things of them; faculty and administrators will learn why their demands—simple enough to them—don't work for many students. Engagingly and clearly written and persuasively argued, My Word! is a book that raises and answers some of the most vexing questions addressed by members of modern academic communities."—Robin Lakoff, University of California, Berkeley

From the Back Cover

"Susan D. Blum is genuinely interested in understanding her students and brings great care and compassion to her discussion of plagiarism. She generously draws on student interview segments throughout My Word! to illuminate today's campus climate. I especially like that Blum locates acts of cheating within the wider sociocultural context rather than regarding them simply as failures of personal morality."-Cathy Small, Northern Arizona University, author of My Freshman Year

"The prevalence of plagiarism among American college students affects all members of the university community in negative ways. The very phrase 'university community' implies a set of shared values; the existence of a culture of plagiarism among undergraduates undercuts that comfortable belief. And equally bad, finding ways to prevent plagiarism unproductively consumes instructors' and administrators' time and energy. To solve these problems, it is essential to understand what student plagiarism is: why they do it, why all our remedies fail, and why we need to care about it. This is the task undertaken by Susan D. Blum in My Word! Everyone who is a member of a university community will find insights here: Students will come to better understand why faculty and administrators are asking these impossible things of them; faculty and administrators will learn why their demands--simple enough to them--don't work for many students. Engagingly and clearly written and persuasively argued, My Word! is a book that raises and answers some of the most vexing questions addressed by members of modern academic communities."--Robin Lakoff, University of California, Berkeley


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Almelle on January 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In this book, anthropologist Susan Blum explores the diverse meanings of plagiarism and intellectual property, and the context within which students decide to take shortcuts on assignments.

In her first section, she overviews the history of plagiarism, the development of intellectual property rights, and the way that proper citation varies by context. Next, she quotes interviews with students about the culture of college, how they cite others in speech and online ("intertextuality"), and where they draw the ethical lines on cheating. Third, she outlines the increasing over-involvement of students in extra-curriculars for the sake of their future 'careers,' which she suggests lead many students to burn-out and short-cuts.

Blum's contextualization of plagiarism and sympathetic exploration of self-reported student culture are valuable, and I recommend TAs and professors peruse this book in order to understand the context in which students make a decision to cheat or sloppily cite.

However, as reviewer Eilonwy commented, Blum seems at points to simply legitimate cheating as a cultural form. A greater discussion of how academics and administrators can challenge and shape student ethics in this area would be valuable, as would more observation of student paper-writing in order to supplement her second-hand transcripts of student-student interviews.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Eilonwy on October 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Blum begins with a superficial overview of the history of "owning" ideas, but quickly moves to explanations of why today's college students don't see anything wrong with taking materials not their own. These ideas would be a lot more compelling if Blum weren't so one-sided in her selection of evidence. For example, although she produces lots of quotations from students who admit to falsifying college application materials in order to win a spot at the prestigious institution they feel they deserve to join, she also labels them as a generation committed to sharing, due to their prefence for "performative" selves rather than "authentic" selves. She misses the irony that these students don't feel impelled to "share" what they think they deserve--high grades, college entrance, prestigious careers, high salaries. They only feel other people should "share" with them. Blum has somehow mistaken a sense of entitlement for a sense of communalism. Extending the study beyond the walls of a single privileged university might have been useful too (though Blum is very upfront about this limitation to the study).

Later chapters explore the pressures students face as they apply to high profile colleges. The evidence this section includes is accurate but well presented elsewhere. What it has to do with plagiarism is never well explained. The likelihood, however, that readers will stick with her through all the pablum to her useful concluding pages seems slim.

The final short chapter outlines the obvious argument that convincing people to comply with a rule, also entails explaining the rule--in this case the rule against plagiarism. Blum seems to think she is saying something relevatory. She isn't.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pen mightier than sword on March 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
Like the author, I teach at a university and have encountered students who plagiarize. While she teaches anthropology, I teach a freshman English class where the topic of how to cite sources and avoid plagiarism is covered extensively. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in this topic, even though I do not agree with everything the author says.

Since most of us consider plagiarism to be a moral issue, it is a bit disconcerting to encounter the anthropologist's cultural relativism. She states on page 147, "An anthropologist's task is first to understand." Through a study that involved interviewing numerous college students, she attempts to understand the "culture" that leads to so much cheating.

On page 140, she states, "Thus we can only partly blame the individuals who cheat; they have absorbed the cultural messages about competition, success, multitasking, and the bottom line."

On page 146, she states, "College students live in a world they did not make."

I don't think that she gives the students enough credit. Even in a world they didn't make, these students can still make choices. When it comes to blatant cheating, such as buying a paper online, the students know that what they are doing is a violation of the rules. Furthermore, if we don't punish students for plagiarizing, how can we expect them to take the rules seriously?

Nevertheless, I still think this book has much to offer. Anyone who works in a college setting will be interested to hear what the students say during the interviews. Susan Blum points out that many young people now feel a college degree is required for almost any kind of professional success, even in fields that once hired high school graduates.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Kruschke on August 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What is really good about Susan Blum's book is that she goes way beyond the technicalities of plagiarism. She outlines important issues of today's students and their culture. As a result, this book is important reading for many of today's students, teachers and parents.

First, Blum outlines plagiarism along with the variations of plagiarism that range from failure to use proper footnotes to simply buying a paper to turn in as one's own. She also discusses the history and practices of various authors. For example, would one expect to see piles of footnotes on a Bobby Dylan album?

And then, Blum brings up the role and importance of "patchwork writing" where the writer creates a sort of unique essay by stringing together other writer's ideas while failing to make proper citations (not unlike this review). But the student who does this still becomes a better writer. For example, partial imitation is regularly used by children trying to become more adult like.

Blum gives many examples of how today's students are less interested in "forging a unique identity" but very interested in sharing and getting along with their peers. Group studying is more popular than ever. And the idea of turning in a fellow student for plagiarism is pretty much taboo. This cultural shift explains why students are less interested in the finer points of "originality" and plagiarism.

Blum also reveals how the current huge demand for students to engage in extra curricular activities has forced students to become expert time managers along with focusing on getting the job done, no matter what.

And then Blum outlines the high stakes for today's students; getting a job after graduation to pay off the big loans taken out to pay tuition that is higher than ever...
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