Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Dear San Francisco State Administration,

My name is Joyanna Lin and I am currently a freshman at San Francisco State
University.Recently, our English teacher, Sarah Fama required our class to
research possible reasons for plagiarism among students. We surveyed forty four students and separated our class into four categories: Academic Culture, Student Motivation, Extracurricular Activities, and Identity/Demographics. Interviews were also conducted by each group so that a deeper analysis of students’ motivation to plagiarize could be made. We found that some reasons students may plagiarize are a heavy work load, no motivation for classes, and confusion of what is plagiarism. It is important that the issue of plagiarism at San Francisco State University is fixed because it takes away from the quality of education given to students. I want to propose ideas to decrease plagiarism on campus according to research I have done during my enrollment in English 114, and hopefully the problem of plagiarism at SFSU can be solved.
Students plagiarize because of the inability to finish all the assignments given to them by their teachers in the amount of time before the work is due. In Susan Blum’s(2009) book, My Word!, Donald describes his busy week in detail, “It just doesn’t seem…like there’s enough hours in the day…Like right now I currently only have twelve credits, but I do extracurriculars (I am a Frosh-O which is freshman orientation...and I make time for my little brother on the weekends)…I’m usually drained from the events of the day. So I get back from dinner…lie down, take a nap, hop in the shower, and I finally start my homework…go to the library around 8 o’clock, and I try to work hard from there(p.132).” Like Donald, many SFSU students feel the same pressure between their academic life and their social life. Teachers should keep this in mind when giving homework. It is true that homework helps students learn the material from class, but if there is too much work, students are forced to plagiarize because it is necessary to finish the homework. Thus, the material is not learned by students and the teachers’ efforts to teach are also wasted. Teachers should be given a limit on how much work they can assign during the week. The administration should also have set days when certain departments can have tests so that students do not feel overwhelmed with studying. But most importantly, teachers need to have a strong communication with students. Students should feel welcome to voice their opinions about the workload to teachers so that the class is a constructive class for students to learn and to not cheat.
A lack of motivation to work or write is also another cause of plagiarism among students. In our English class, we were learning about types of plagiarism and our teacher, Sarah Fama, assigned us an article called “The Term Paper Artist.” Nick Mamatas(2008), the author, is an actual writer who is paid to write term papers for many clients including mothers who want their children to go to prestigious colleges and well educated professionals, who simply lack English language skills. Fama also assigned an essay that prompted the class to defend whether Wikipedia should be credited as a source for papers. She provided us with a specific article called A false Wikipedia ‘biography’ written by John Seigenthaler(2005). Seigenthaler found a falsely cited article about himself on Wikipedia and was unable to find the culprit because online corporations are protected from libel lawsuits by federal law. Both accounts of Nick Mamatas and Seigenthaler made English class much more interesting because their stories helped us understand plagiarism in well known aspects of our lives. The class knew that some students would buy term papers in order to receive a certain grade and that Wikipedia was controversial because of its unedited nature, yet we had never read any articles pertaining to these matters. Reading these articles, the class became more aware of the issue of plagiarism. Not only were these stories highly amusing, they helped make our class more excited to learn about the material and write about it. Teachers should cater to the students when it comes to course material. If students are presented with material that is useful to their everyday lives, students are more likely to learn and be more motivated to do the work required of them in class. An example is that teachers could create several prompts from which students choose what to about in their essay. This would help students become more motivated because they are encouraged to write their own opinion about a certain topic to their liking. Essays could also not be limited by words so it does not hinder the students’ expression about the topic as well. Discussions in class would also help because students can relate to their peers’ opinions about a subject and compare their own opinions. Having a class that is engaging to students, makes them want to learn, which in turn lessens them plagiarizing for a grade.
In our research project, all groups found that,

“Of the forty four, one answered that they had indeed purchased a paper for an assignment, one checked that they had copied text from the from the internet, six had copied the text of another person, ten had reused writing assignments from their past, three had copied from other texts and failed to cite them, seven students had allowed another person to write their assignment for them, six had written assignments for others, and nine had simple failed to cite their sources. Four students answered the question unsure; eighteen revealed that they had never plagiarized(Chang,2010,p.4)...”

This would mean that over half of the students surveyed, plagiarized and they know they did. However, some students did not know if they have plagiarized or not which means that plagiarism needs to be thoroughly explained to students. The definition of plagiarism is to take credit for somebody else’s work without giving them credit (Bloom,1997,p.11). But this includes reusing your own papers for new assignments which is not known to some as plagiarism. English classes or at least beginning English classes such as English 114 should have the theme of plagiarism. Students should be required to read material about plagiarism, do a research project about plagiarism about San Francisco State University, learn the University policy of plagiarism, and should also be given chances to redeem themselves if they accidentally plagiarize. If a student deliberately or accidentally plagiarizes, they should be taught how to correctly cite sources or asked to rewrite their essay correctly. They should not be immediately punished by being expelled from school. Requiring students to take an in depth class about plagiarism makes students aware of what is considered plagiarism so that they will not make a mistake later. For if students are taught early on about plagiarism, they are more likely to apply what they learned to their future classes.
I hope that the propositions I have stated are further considered to be applied at San Francisco State University. I feel that if the problems of a heavy work load, no motivation for classes and confusion of what is plagiarism among students are eliminated then plagiarism will be decreased dramatically. Plagiarism is a major issue on campus for teachers and students alike. If allowed to continue, I fear that San Francisco State’s quality of education will be affected for the worse. But if changes are made, then it would only be for the better of the campus as a whole. Thank you for your time in reading my letter.

Joyanna Lin

Works Cited Page

Works Cited Page

Bloom, H. ( 1997). The Anguish of contamination. The anxiety of influence: a theory of poetry(pp.11-47). New York, New York: Oxford University Press,Incc..

Blum, S. (2009). My Word! Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Chang, S. Keil, T. Maldonado,R. Truong,N.Wilson,T. (2010) To Plagiarize or not to Plagiarize,That is the Motivation. English 114.04,Spring 2010, San Francisco State University..

Mamatas, N. (2008, October 10). The Term paper artist. The Smart Set , Retrieved from

Seigenthaler, J. (2005, November 29). A False wikipedia 'biography'. USA TODAY, Retrieved from

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Research Project

Surprisingly, I thought this research project was a really good idea in the first place and I wish we had more time to get more information and more interviews but it was still pretty fun. I definitely like the group collaboration as well. One interesting thing our group found was that most of the people interviewed have not plagiarized. Most of the plagiarism that was committed seemed more accidental than deliberate in the surveys such as citing things incorrectly. I liked how most of the people interviewed viewed plagiarism as a stupid thing to do, they didn't go into how complicated plagiarism is such as in Blum's book. Students interviewed at Notre Dame went into detailed accounts of different levels of plagiarism whileas at SFSU students just said, " Don't plagiarize, it's stupid." Another interesting thing about SFSU is that students are very academic oriented. I like how SFSU students know that academics should be their priority and they're not taking it lightly.

Friday, April 9, 2010

SFSU experience

After reading Blum's analysis about Notre Dame, I realize that my experience at SFSU is so much different. I mean, we still have parties and what not, but I'm not a party girl. I'm not against them or anything, it's just that I'm not a fan of the alcohol. But either way, I feel that SFSU is more real life based. I know so many people that come to SFSU because it's cheaper and closer to home. But living near the city has its perks. I think that my priorities are more about studying and getting good grades ( nerd I know!) but I still also want to have fun. So, I do have times where I'm chilling with my friends but we do different things like play video games or make new recipes in the kitchen. Plus, we bond over certain TV shows so it's still really fun. I think at Notre Dame, the students have the luxury to party and not worry about their school work as much where SFSU, that's not a big option. Classes at SFSU are limited and it's a fight to get the best opportunity. Another huge thing is that we don't have Fraternity row or a football team. I think this would make a big difference because we would have a lot more school spirit, and more unity. But everyone on campus is more focused on getting their stuff done, so I think that students at SFSU are more responsible. It's like we're already in the real world...somewhat. Most of my friends have jobs and the workload can be a lot which means fun time would be limited as well. Overall, I don't mind. I like the chill atmosphere and the random exploration of the city for some good eats and good cheap places to have fun at. I guess that's the best perk about living so close to a major city.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Word! Response

Finally finished!!!! Not that I'm saying the book was a bad read. I wasn't a huge fan of the last two chapters though because I felt that Blum embellished a lot on her words and kind of went on a tangent especially in Chapter 4. But I liked that she explored the college "bubble" and the information she found about college was pretty accurate. I guess she had a chapter about the college world so that she could expand her audience. I definitely liked what she touched about how to solve the problem of plagiarism in college campuses though. I didn't expect her to be so harsh with the one girl student she had in her class but at the same time, the girl did not bother to revise her essay twice and didn't put in the effort to truly be original. It was good that she is touching on trying to bridge the gap between students and faculty. I like that Blum doesn't blame only the students and emphasizes that teachers need to do their job by comparing student quotation with citations that the student provides. It definitely makes the student feel like that they have to put more effort instead of assuming that the teacher isn't even going to spend time to read what they wrote. Blum also wants teachers to really educate students and if they make mistakes, give students a chance to redeem themselves like she did to her students. I like that approach, I think that students would eventually understand how to not make the same mistakes again.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What am I reading?

Right now, I'm not reading much except random books I find on my friends' book shelves. It definitely depends on the major of my friends though. So far, I'm reading this book called Confessions of an Economic Hit Man because my best friend is majoring in International Business.

But before foraging my friends' bookshelves I read a few books that have been turned into movies such as Angels and Demons, The Devil Wears Prada, and the Lovely Bones. I wanted to see if the movie adaptation did the book justice. I have yet to see the Lovely Bones but The Devil Wears Prada book is so much more detailed than the movie. The movie was just a nice clear version of the book, but if you love fashion, then you should read The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger; it's addicting.

I wish I could read more, but I probably will over the break because I can actually check out books from my library whereas at's a pick up system. Kind of weird..and not that great.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stance on Wikipedia

I've always been a neutral person so I think my stance for the Wikipedia Essay topic is that colleges should use Wikipedia as learning material in order for students to write better. I mean, in my experience, I've only heard my teacher say, " YOU CANNOT USE WIKIPEDIA AS A SOURCE! THAT'S BLASPHEMY!" I know that it's because Wikipedia is edited by non credible people and there are so many people that use the internet.

However, whenever I go to a Wikipedia page, I always see citations at the bottom so doesn't that mean that Wikipedia is citing its sources? It would be nice if part of the curriculum would be deciphering the Wikipedia page and seeing why it wouldn't count as a source. It would also be nice to see proof of why Wikipedia does follow the reputation of not editing it's sources. I mean, when I read the Siegenthaler article, I had no idea that Wikipedia was not even checked by the makers and that it was possible for this site to affect a person's life. I also think that if college teachers used this as a part of the English curriculum, students would actually be interested because Wikipedia is so commonly known. Teachers using academic writings to teach is not the best way to get a student's attention; it may be proof but it’s hard to understand academic writings of the bet and teachers fail to get the message across.

Researching about Wikipedia, is kind of a way to relate to our generation. We are the internet generation after all. Another reason why colleges shouldn’t cut out Wikipedia is because Wikipedia is widely used. I know that when I type a certain topic into Google for research, Wikipedia is usually the first or second link I get. Colleges should use the approach, “ If you can’t beat them, join them.” It’s like a compromise. Use Wikipedia as an advantage in making college education better. And it might not even just be Wikipedia, colleges could even help students easily recognize sites that they can’t use as sources.

I think in college, it's also really important to refresh students about the basics of writing. We all come from different schools and some schools teach better than others, so it would be nice if we were all on the same page.