English 401: First Year Writing

Overview

English 401 is designed to help students become better able to use writing for academic, professional and personal goals. The course is part of a university-wide effort, lasting all four undergraduate years, which offers multiple opportunities for students to develop their writing skills. The Undergraduate Composition Program also shares with the wider university community a commitment to developing the habits of mind that constitute critical thinking. Specifically, the program encourages students to move beyond a passive view of learning, where knowledge is simply received, to one where students assume the intellectual and ethical responsibility to construct meaning to frame interpretations, to explore multiple perspectives, to defend assertions and to relate the new to the known.

Mission Statement

English 401 engages in this task by teaching students to view writing as a process, involving a series of recurring activities: locating a topic or central idea, developing content, planning, drafting, revising, and editing for clarity and correctness. Since beginning writers often have particular difficulty with elaboration, a major focus is on the ways writing is "built": using detail, evidence, quotations, examples and reflection. Instructors also work with students to ensure that all aspects of any given written work are devoted to a central purpose. Through regular conferences with their instructor and in-class workshops with their peers, students develop the vocabulary and skills they need to evaluate and refine their own writing.

In all of their efforts, instructors work to help students learn how they might transfer the skills they acquire in English 401 to the other writing situations they will encounter in their other courses and throughout their lives so that, in writing as in active learning, students will be able to relate the new to the known.

Program-wide Policies

Academic Honesty Policy
In order to make the most out of this course, you are expected to present your own original work. Any attempt at plagiarism or misrepresentation will result in a failing grade for the project and, in some cases, for the entire course. The University of New Hampshire’s “Student Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities” defines misrepresentation and plagiarism as follows:

Plagiarism. The unattributed use of the ideas, evidence, or words of another person, or the conveying of the false impression that the arguments and writing in a paper are the student’s own. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  1. the acquisition by purchase or otherwise of a part or the whole of a piece of work which is represented as the student’s own;
  2. the representation of the ideas, data, or writing of another person as the student’s own work, even though some wording, methods of citation, or arrangement of evidence, ideas, or arguments have been altered;
  3. concealment of the true sources of information, ideas, or argument in any piece of work. (09.3)

Misrepresentation. Submitting work originally submitted for one course to satisfy the requirements of another course, without prior consent of the current instructor (it is assumed that the current instructor expects the work to be original). (09.4)

To avoid plagiarism, be sure to acknowledge the source, using the conventions of an appropriate academic documentation style (such as MLA or APA) as specified by your instructor. For more information about plagiarism and how to avoid it, see The St. Martin’s Handbook.

On Plagiarism

Borrowed from the Department of English at Pennsylvania State University
Plagiarism is the act of passing off someone else’s work as your own. Sometimes plagiarism is simple dishonesty. People who buy, borrow, or steal a paper to turn in as their own work know they are plagiarizing. Those who copy word-for-word—or who change a word here and there while copying—without enclosing the copied passage in quotation marks and identifying the author should know that they are plagiarizing.

But plagiarism can be more complicated in act and intent. Paraphrasing, which is stating someone else’s ideas, can be a useful way to support your own ideas, but it can lead to unintentional plagiarism. Jotting down notes and ideas from sources and thoughtlessly using them without proper attributions to the authors or titles of those sources may result in a paper that is only a mosaic of your words and those of others that appear, nonetheless, to be yours.

Another innocent way to plagiarize is to allow your fellow students and friends—those outside your peer-review group—to give you too much

rhetorical help or do too much editing and proofreading of your work. If you think you have received substantial help in any way from people whose names will not appear as authors of the paper, acknowledge that help in a short sentence at the end of the paper or in your list of works cited. If you are not sure how much help is too much, talk with your instructor so that together you can decide what kind of outside-of-class help (and how much) is proper, and how to give credit where credit is due.

As they are drafting their work, conscientious writers keep careful track of when they use ideas and/or words from sources. They diligently try to distinguish between their own ideas, those of others, and common knowledge. They try to identify which part of their work comes from an identifiable source and then document their use of that source in accordance with established academic or professional conventions, such as a parenthetical citation and a works cited list. If you are in doubt about what needs documenting, talk with your instructor.

When thinking about plagiarism, it is hard to avoid talking about ideas as if they were objects like tables and chairs. Of course they are not. You should not feel that you are under pressure to invent new ideas—which is probably impossible. So-called original writing consists of thinking through ideas and expressing them in your own way. The result may not be new, but if honestly done, it may well be interesting and worthwhile reading. Print or electronic sources, as well as other people, may add good ideas to your own thoughts. When they do so in identifiable and specific ways, give them the credit they deserve.

The following examples should clarify the difference between dishonest and proper uses of sources.

The Original Source
It is not generally recognized that at the same time when women are making their way into every corner of our work world, only one percent of the professional engineers in the nation are female. A generation ago this statistic would have raised no eyebrows, but today it is hard to believe. The engineering schools, reacting to social and governmental pressures, have opened wide their gates and are recruiting women with zeal. The major corporations, reacting to even more intense pressures, are offering attractive employment opportunities to practically all women engineering graduates.

From Samuel C. Florman, “Engineering and the Female Mind,” Copyright by Harper’s Magazine.

Word-for-Word Plagiarizing
In the following example, the writer revises part of the first sentence in hopes the reader won’t notice that the rest of the paragraph is simply copied from the source. The plagiarized words are italicized.

Because women seem to be taking jobs of all kinds, few people realize that only 1 percent of the professional engineers in the nation are female. A generation ago this statistic would have raised no eyebrows, but today it is hard to believe. The engineering schools, reacting to social and governmental pressures, have opened wide their gates and are recruiting women with zeal. The major corporations, reacting to even more intense pressures, are offering attractive employment opportunities to practically all women engineering graduates.

Quotation marks around all the copied text, followed by a parenthetical citation, would avoid plagiarism. But even if that were done, a reader might well wonder why so much was quoted from Florman. Beyond that, a reader will wonder why the writer chose to quote instead of paraphrase this passage, which as a whole is not very quotable. Furthermore, a paper consisting largely of quoted passages would be relatively worthless.

Plagiarizing by Paraphrasing
In this case the writer follows the progression of ideas in the source very closely—too closely—by substituting his or her own words and sentences for those of the original.

Original

It is   not generally recognized that at the same time when women are making their   way into every corner of our work-world, only one percent of the professional   engineers in the nation are female.

A   generation ago this statistic would have raised no eyebrows, but today it is   hard to believe.

The engineering schools, reacting to societal and   governmental pressures, have opened wide their gates and are recruiting women   with zeal. The major corporations, reacting to even more intense pressure,   are offering attractive employment opportunities to practically all women   engineering graduates.

Paraphrase

Few   people realize, now that women are finding jobs in all fields, that a tiny   percentage of the country’s engineers are women.

 
Years   ago this would have surprised no one but now it seems incredible.

Under   great pressure, engineering schools are searching out women, and big   companies are offering good jobs to practically all women who graduate with   engineering degrees.

The writer appears to be generating his or her own ideas. In fact, they are Florman’s ideas presented in the writer’s words without acknowledgment. The writer could avoid plagiarism here by introducing the paraphrase with an attribution to Florman and following them with a parenthetical citation. Such an introduction is underlined here:

Samuel Florman points out that few people realize… (page number).

Properly used, paraphrase is a valuable technique. You should use it to simplify or summarize so that the ideas or information, properly attributed in the introduction and documented in a parenthetical citation, may be woven into the pattern of your own ideas. You should not use paraphrase simply to avoid quotation; you should use it to express another’s ideas in your own words when those ideas are not worth quoting verbatim.

Mosaic Plagiarism
With this more sophisticated kind of plagiarism, the writer lifts phrases and terms from the source and embeds them into his or her own prose.

Words and phrases that the writer lifts verbatim or with slight changes are italicized:

The pressure is on to get more women into engineering. The engineering schools and major corporations have opened wide their gates and are recruiting women zealously. Practically all women engineering graduates can find attractive jobs. Nevertheless, at the moment, only 1 percent of the professional engineers in the country are female.

Even though mosaic plagiarism may be caused by sloppy note taking, it always looks thoroughly dishonest and will be judged as such. In the example above, just adding an introduction and a parenthetical citation will not eliminate the plagiarism since quotation marks are not used where required. But adding them would raise the question of why the writer thinks those short phrases and basic statements of fact and opinion are worth quoting. The best solution, then, is to paraphrase everything: Recast the plagiarized parts in your own words, introduce the passage properly, and add a parenthetical citation.

Summary
Using quotation marks around original wording avoids the charge of plagiarism, but when overdone, makes for a patchwork paper. When most of what you want to say comes from a source, either quote directly or paraphrase. In both cases, introduce your borrowed words or ideas by attributing them to the author and follow them with a parenthetical citation.

The secret to using sources productively is to make them work to support and amplify your ideas. If you find, as you work at paraphrasing, quoting, and citing, that you are only pasting sources together with a few of your own words and ideas—that too much of your paper comes from your sources and not enough from your own mind—then go back to the drawing board. Try redrafting the paper without looking at your sources, using your own ideas. Only after completing a draft should you add the specific words and ideas from your sources to support what you want to say. If you have any doubts, consult your instructor immediately.