Monday, March 19, 2007

Finally, my expertise is acknowledged!

(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm the plagiarism expert!

Appearing on my Yahoo Mail site yesterday afternoon and requesting my views on student plagiarism was an email from a certain Sharon Tse, who works as a reporter for Korea University's student magazine, The Granite Tower (pop-up alert). Concerning plagiarism, she posed approximately seven questions, to which I replied in a rather telegraphic fashion, referring her rather to my blog for more details.

For those of my readers with time on their hands and an inordinate interest in the trivial details of my life, read on as I quote Ms. Tse and myself -- intersplicing her queries with my replies:

Tse: Hi! This is Sharon Tse, a reporter of Granite Tower -- the English magazine of the Korea University. We are currently working on an article about plagiarism for our next issue. Knowing that ... [you were] a professor in KU before, we would like to know about your opinion on the the issue of plagiarism in Korea. We notice that you [have] now moved to a new university, so it may be a bit hard for us to meet up for an interview. In view of this, we are sending some questions that we want to ... [have answered] in this email.

Hodges: I'll try to respond to your questions in sequence.

Tse: 1/ Are there ... standard guidelines ... on plagiarism around the world/universities in Korea?

Hodges: 1. A standard definition for plagiarism exists, but it's not rigorously applied everywhere in the world. My impression is that plagiarism hasn't been taken very seriously in Korea. Here's an online plagiarism checker that can be used to check for plagiarism anywhere in the world -- if the plagiarist has used online sources:

Plagiarism Checker

Tse: 2/ Have you ever caught any cases of plagiarism of students? If yes, can you tell us the cases in details?

Hodges: 2. Yes, I have encountered very many cases of plagiarism in Korea, and I can provide some details. Go to my blog and read these entries:

Catching Plagiarists:

Netting Plagiarists
The Cleverest Plagiarists...
Most Egregious Plagiarism Ever!

Dealing with Plagiarists:

A student claims not to have plagiarized...
Prosecuting artful writing: another clever plagiarist bites the dust...
Most foolish plagiarism ever...
Serious Interlude: Plagiarism

Tse: 2-1/ Why do you think students plagiarize? What are circumstances that make students want to do it?

Hodges: 2.1 Why Students Plagiarize: Because they aren't taught to think for themselves and probably think that everyone cheats:

Cho Se-mi on the 'Korean mindset'
How the mighty are fallen...
Problems with the Korean Education System: Education Minister Kim Byong-joon

Tse: 3/ Are there any changes in the standard on plagiarism throughout the years?

Hodges: 3. I think that Korean universities are gradually becoming more aware of the problem. Korea University has recently gotten tougher on its professors.

Tse: 4/ How do you judge whether an essay/homework has plagiarized information from internet/books? How much efforts do the academy pay to caught cases of plagiarism?

Hodges: 4. Perceiving plagiarism is very easy after a few years of experience. Ascertaining plagiarism is particularly easy in Korea, for the plagiarized passages are so much better written than the passages composed by the student. Besides, online plagiarism is so easy to trace that the proof is obvious. Plagiarism from books is also obvious but harder to prove. I simply request that the suspected plagiarist bring the books used in the research and have the plagiarist show me the passages used. Plagiarism then becomes obvious.

I don't know if the academy in Korea takes plagiarism seriously enough yet.

Tse: 5/ What is the penalty for plagiarizing in your class?

Hodges: 5. The penalty was usually an "F" on the paper. An "F" on the final essay usually resulted in an "F" for the course.

Tse: 6/ Do you think Korean students think plagiarizing is not a serious crime? If so why?

Hodges: 6. Yes, I think that Korean students generally think this way. See my response to 2.1.

Tse: 7/ Why is plagiarizing considered a crime? (Why is it bad?)

Hodges: 7. Plagiarism is stealing. It's intellectual theft. Aside from the criminal aspect, plagiarism is dishonest and thus unethical.

Tse: Thank you very much for reading through this email and I am looking forward to receiving your reply soon.

Hodges: I hope that I've been of some help. If you have questions, please contact me.

Ms. Tse later responded to my replies:
Thank you very much for your prompt and comprehensive reply! Would it be okay if we put your answers in our article? Also, we would like to quote some cases in your blog too, would that be possible? Thank you very much again.
I gave permission. Indeed, I had expected them to quote from the stories of student plagiarizing as recounted in my blog, which is so much more interesting than my email replies (as those of you who have trudged along this far will certainly affirm). However, I voiced some reservations on being quoted:
Yes, you may quote. My email response was a bit telegraphic, so it's not particularly quote-worthy. If you want me to fill in some details on a specific response to one of the '7' questions posed, then contact me.

I would add one additional point on why plagiarism is so widespread in Korea. The Confucian tradition of scholarship was a rigorous one, but it lacked the concept of footnotes -- largely because footnotes were unnecessary for the scholars, who were so well trained in the classics and the important commentaries that they knew who and what was being quoted or alluded to without the need to be explicitly told. Footnotes become necessary when one is dealing with a more complex tradition, a combination of traditions, or a large and increasing body of knowledge because readers need to know who said what.

I could say more, but I'll refrain and only write more if you have specific questions.

You'll want to be careful quoting my blog, which is at times ironic, satirical, or even a bit sarcastic. If some remark seems strange, incomprehensible, or weird, you might want to check with me to find out what I meant.

Would I be allowed to see the article before it goes into print -- just in case I've been misunderstood? Plagiarism is a very sensitive issue, especially these days, and I don't want to offend anybody.

And please be careful in quoting examples of plagiarism from my blog, for the students -- despite being unnamed in my blog -- are perhaps still attending Korea University and might be embarrassed to find their 'crime' published in the Granite Tower even though they are not named.
I'll be interested in seeing what becomes of this online interview. For those of you interested in knowing more about Sharon Tse, if you visit this Korea University site, you'll learn that she's an exchange student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) -- and you'll also see her lovely photo. Too bad my interview is only online...



At 2:17 AM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

I hope you'll post a link to the article when it is published. Or at least blog about it, if you can't link to it. Do they have "letters to the editor" in this magazine? It would be very interesting to read the reactions to your interview.

At 3:49 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I can probably post a link, for I am pretty sure that the article will appear online.

There are "Letters to the Editor," but I wonder if anyone will be interested in plagiarism. It will be interesting to find out.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny plagiarism story:

A freshman student in an English class at Yonsei actually plagiarized his own teacher by lifting passages from a story I had written for the Yonsei Annals, YU's version of the Granite Tower.

I taught at KU for one year before moving to Yonsei. In my composition classes, I spent a lot of time teaching paraphrasing skills. If Korean students are taught paraphrasing, citation, and research skills, and expectations are clear and consistent, then Korean students are capable of writing good academic papers in English.

I myself learned how to copy in my Korean language classes. At first I would try to apply the "munhyungs" (sentence patterns) in a new context, but my answers would get marked wrong, resulting in a lower score. I soon figured out that I could obtain perfect marks simply by copying sentences from the text.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sonagi, I'll try to follow your methods in teaching my Korean students how to write.

As for that plagiarizing student, did he think that you'd grade him higher for copying your words? Or was that an oversight on his part?

As for lower scores, I've been getting those my whole life ... but I never let that stop me from not getting very far.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oversight! He was shocked to find out that he had lifted words from something I had written.

As for teaching Korean students not to plagiarize, there were in my class a hardcore few who continued to do patch jobs with whole chunks of unparaphrased, uncited text. Either they didn't want to do the work or they felt they weren't doing anything wrong. I have heard some students say they feel copying is better than paraphrasing because the English is correct. I myself can't imagine doing research and publishing in a foreign language, so I was really proud of what my intermediate students were able to achieve by the end of the semester, and I let them know that.

As for learning Korean, I dropped out of formal classes and have continued to learn on my own with tapes and books. Korean as a Second Language education is abysmal. The only school that uses the communicative approach is Sogang, and you probably won't be surprised to know that its classes are comprised of a higher percentage of Western students than any other university KSL language program. Yonsei's curriculum is the most comprehensive, but its teaching method is audio-lingual.

I got bored with Korean after awhile and took beginning level classes in Chinese and Japanese at Yonsei's Foreign Language Institute. The Chinese and Japanese teachers used communicative methods, and I was very satisfied with the way classroom time was used and the expectations. I think the Korean teachers assume that we can speak Korean outside of class, so we don't need practice in class. That is true for non-whites, but not for whites who are not married to Koreans. While I was at Yonsei, I was fond of telling people, "At the FLI, they teach every language but Korean well!"

Sorry to slide off topic, but I thought you might enjoy hearing about my language learning experiences in Korea.

At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh,and one last funny KU story:

I nearly fainted in horror on the first day of the intermediate composition class, when I walked into an auditorium filled with 90 students. After class, I promptly marched into the dept. office and demanded that the class be broken up. They complied and created three sections with 30 students apiece. Can you imagine 90 students in a comp class, especially a foreign language comp class with so much more revising and editing needed?

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You seem to have succeeded in your language work ... unlike me with mine. I work hard. Indeed, I've always worked very hard to achieve less than I couldn't do. I take pride in that.

I've never had 90 students in a composition class, but I've had over 70 in a history class that had to write and then rewrite an essay -- so I had some pretty hard work with the first draft.

How long have you been in Korea?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not in Korea anymore. I was there nine years and detoured to China for four years before repatriating. I'm now busy brushing up on Spanish, so I can communicate with the parents of my Hispanic students.

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, you must be highly gifted in languages. Do you have long-term aims in this area?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 10:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spanish is first priority since I need it for my job. I do keep up with Korean, Chinese, and Japanese in my spare time. Before departing Asia, I loaded up on language learning materials and juvenile fiction to feed my addiction.

My dream job would be an Asian studies collection librarian. Those jobs, unsurprisinging, are few and far between, and the pay is even lower than what I make as a public school teacher.

When I turned 40 a couple of years ago, I began to do some serious reflection on growing old - how to stay healthy and how to afford retirement. I realized that I may not want to retire because I don't have any real hobbies, and without the structure of a daily schedule, I'd probably become less active. One of my colleagues is about 70 years old. She is thin, fit, energetic, and cheerful. She told me, "As long as I enjoy what I do, I'll keep working," and reminded me that among other benefits, she receives and more affordable better health care coverage than what teacher retirees get.

I'll probably keep working as an ESL teacher for many more years, but I might prepare myself for the possibility of an eventual career change by volunteering at the local library. Work for twenty years, get a partial pension and then work for fifteen more if my health cooperates.

I'm enjoying chatting with you but don't wish to derail your thread, so I'm passing along my email address:


Do you plan to stay in Korea indefinitely, Gypsy Scholar?

At 3:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Okay, we can switch to email since this conversation has gotten off-topic.

But to answer your question, yes, I'm here indefinitely. I seem to be able to obtain jobs teaching, I'm able to do some research, and my wife and kids are quite Korean, it seems, and therefore happy here.

So, I stay...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:43 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

P.S. I just attempted to send an email, but it bounced back to me via some mailer demon -- Maxwell's, I presume.

Is the email address correct?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. Did you take out the "no spamz" and use lowercase?

At 8:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No, that didn't even occur to me. I'm unfamiliar with this way of tricking spammers. Cute trick. Anyway, now I'm onto it and can spam you to my heart's content. Spam mail on its way...

Jeffery Hodges

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