Plagiarism: A Constant Challenge

Story by

Rajeev Verma

From

India

Major/Field

Natural Sciences

Level

Graduate

With the difference in implementation of education in Asia and USA, it takes an international student a while to realize the education system. It also involves a bigger effort that is required to bring in a change of habit to adjust to the difference in the system.

Where I pursued my undergraduate study, plagiarism was not encouraged but it was not really punished. Since the exams were conducted only once a year and the homework was not really good enough to judge if plagiarism has occurred, students used to copy down notes from peers, seniors and from solution manuals. This useful ‘trick’ was advised by seniors and similarly I also advised the same to my juniors.

When I reached the US, during my graduate school orientation I was made to take a test on plagiarism which tested me on various levels and instances where I as a graduate student and a teaching assistant can identify that plagiarism has occurred. The exam was tougher than I thought because it was hard for me to identify instances which can be considered as plagiarism. It was then I realized that rote writing or even speaking without reference and quotations was a serious offense in US academia.

Following this, I was assigned scholarship in the form of teaching assistantship (TA). My instructor for the course gave me the access to software that recognizes plagiarism if and when an undergraduate student submits an assignment online. The software then scans the content available online as well as assignments submitted in the past the software then and present. It then gives the percent of content that has been plagiarized in that particular document. Anything below 15% is considered to be safe and is usually class average for every assignment.

My university is known for diversity and has lot of transfer student from Asia. While grading for the course I realized that many transfer students had submitted assignments that showed plagiarism rising more than 25 percent which was well above the restricted number. I knew that the students were exceptional when they performed in the lab but didn’t actually realize when they plagiarized while submitting the assignment.

I understood that something as serious as this this would really create a lot of problem for them and might put their future in jeopardy. I personally met up with them during my office hours and explained them the seriousness of their mistake. I explained to them that copy and pasting from a website should be strictly avoided and told them to paraphrase the statements followed by referencing it at the bottom of the document. I was really happy that they heard me out because since that meet up they were really careful in their assignments. What made me happier is that it’s been almost a year since that incident and my students still email me about how my meet up was really helpful to them in other courses as well.

My motivation to help them out was purely due to the fact that it could have been me (if I had been transferred from to an undergraduate school) at that moment and that incident could have ruined my future.

Just Try Harder

Story by

Suah Min

From

South Korea

Major/Field

Social Sciences

Level

Undergraduate

After spending one year in Connecticut when I was 11 years old, and another year in Pennsylvania when I was 17, I thought I had a pretty good English skill. However, it was my mistake and I realized it when I came to Stony Brook University. During my first semester of freshman year, I had such a difficult time understanding what professor was saying. Not being able to understand the class material really depressed me, and I started to question myself why I was here. I did not want to go to class because I didn’t understand the material anyway no matter I go to class or not. Also, there were too much to read that I can never catch up. I was jealous of my American friends who get good grades by going to classes and reading book much faster than I did. I wish all the materials were in Korean, which is my first language. After excusing myself not getting a good grade and being an international student, my sister has given me a really big advice. She went to college and graduate school in New York, and she even got a scholarship while she was in school. She told me that I should never excuse myself from anything because this was the choice that I have made. Rather, I should try to find a way to overcome my barrier, and that will improve myself and help me move a step forward. She said that because English is not my first language, I should put more effort and take it as granted, instead of comparing myself to other people.

What I did first was to go to every single class. I heard many people saying that “Oh, you don’t have to go to this class”, “It’s an easy A class”, “Why do you go to that class? It’s a waste of time” or something like that. However, I thought that going to class was the minimum effort that I could put, and I tried to pay attention to what professor was saying. Also, going to class was one of the ways to let professor be more familiar with my face. The professor might not know my name, but I at least tried to make my face noticeable by sitting at the front row.

However, I knew that I was not going to fully understand the material by just going to the class. So, what I did was that I took notes, and recorded lectures. It’s pointless if you just record the lecture and never listen to it again. About a week before the exam, I listened to the all the recordings again and added some notes to the ones that I took before. It is a very tedious job and some might think it’s waste of time, but this method was really helpful to me. The reason I listened to the lectures again was that I thought lectures are the most important material and most of the questions on the exam are from the lectures. I tried to listen to lectures as much as possible to understand the material fully.

The last thing that I did was going to the office hour. Before, I was too afraid to go to office hour and ask questions. Because I thought that the professor might think I am too stupid or it’s just too simple question. However, I realized that I am a student and it is obvious that I don’t know the material well. Also, I see some people asking their friends or classmates if they have questions. However, I found that it is much quicker to ask professor and much accurate. Professors are people who teach the class, so it is better to ask them than your friends. I went to office hours every time I had questions, or I never hesitated to ask professors questions via email. They always answered with such a friendly manner, and they got to know my names. I think professor knowing your name is very important, especially when you want a recommendation letter from them.

After pushing myself to put more effort and trying my best, my GPA went up about 0.2 in a semester. I am still not as good as native student here, but I never think myself inferior to them. I just need to run an extra mile. I think that excusing myself is the worst thing I can do, and being an international student is something I have to bear with. So, if I can’t change the fact being an international student, why not just try harder?

English Writing Skill

Story by

Alex Lee

From

Taiwan

Major/Field

Business Studies

Level

Undergraduate

I didn’t like to learn English when I studied in my home country, Taiwan, because I never had a chance to speak English. One day I suddenly told my parents that I wanted to go to the United States to study. My parents were shock because I didn’t like English since I was little. The reason I decided to go to the United States was I realized English was very important, and I hope I can force myself to learn if I need to speak English every day. Therefore, I came to Stony Brook.

The first class I took in Stony Brook University was ESL. In the ESL class I had learned reading, listening, speaking and writing skills. After a semester, I graduated from the ESL, and I felt much more confident about my reading, listening and speaking skills. The only skill that I was worried about was writing skill. I had a hard time learning English writing skill because it is totally different than Chinese writing skill. Chinese’s writing style gives more freedom than English. Chinese essays didn’t have to be clear about thesis statements, topic sentences, and body paragraphs, etc. Moreover, the biggest difference between Chinese and English essay is Chinese essay can leave an ambiguous ending, and make the readers think what the real meaning is of the article. Nevertheless, this is not allowed in English writing. In English writing, everything has to be very detail and clear. This differences made me had a hard time when I first learning how to writing an essay.

However, my writing skill had dramatically improved after I took writing class in the winter break. In the winter break, both professor and students had more time than regular semester because we only had one class. During the winter break I went to my professor’s office hour twice a week. Office hour was very helpful because you can ask your professor any kind of question, and he will do his best to explain to you, and that really help to improve your writing skill. Not only that, I also went to writing center to ask graduate students edited my essays for grammatically problem. By editing my essay with bot my professor and graduate students, I had more clearly about the structure of English writing skill. Finally, I got an A in my writing class, and that not only gave me more confident but also made me feel the effort was worth it.