Tag Archives: problem

Recognizing plagiarism

by Kristin Kayser

Plagiarism is that daunting crime that professors have been warning students of since day one. They don’t want you to accidentally fall into that trap and you don’t want to either; in fact, many teachers will help you if you have questions or if either of you suspects plagiarism in your work. So, you know what it is—taking someone else’s words or ideas and claiming them as your own—but are you sure you know how to recognize it in one of your own papers?

First, read through your paper, not to proofread but to check for consistency in your tone/voice. (You can do this silently, aloud, or even have a friend read it to you.) If you begin the paper sounding like yourself and somewhere in the middle turn into someone else, it’s a major red flag. Chances are you may have missed placing quotation marks somewhere or paraphrased too closely to the original text. When a student’s voice or tone is inconsistent, there’s a chance that there is plagiarism involved.

Another indication of plagiarism can be poor or uncited paraphrasing, as can some instances of word choice. If you wouldn’t use the word yourself but found it in a source, then you need to cite it and possibly place it in quotation marks and give context for it.

And remember: using the correct citation form and style is just as important as using quotation marks. If you have questions, check the relevant style manual (such as Chicago, MLA, APA) or check with someone who can help you find an answer.

If you ever have any questions about plagiarism or citations, you can always ask your professor or a writing tutor or set up a meeting with someone in the Center for Teaching and Learning. Accidental plagiarism is an easy fix, once you know what to look for.

Kristin Kayser is a senior majoring in educational studies and will be working at the Walt Disney Company this coming fall.

“I don’t get it”

by Shannon Naylor

“I don’t get it” is a sentence I used a lot as a student. Sometimes it was uttered in exhausted frustration after hours of striving to understand a challenging text. But more often than not, I said it reflexively when I encountered something new, and it became shorthand for “I don’t want to make an effort.” When I said “I don’t get it,” I refused to engage with the material, so I never had any hope of gaining understanding, and I risked doing poorly in those classes.

The trick I developed for getting past that roadblock-type thinking was to tack one little word to the end: “I don’t get it…yet.” Yet is a promise that there is hope, that there’s an opportunity for change. But the material wasn’t going to suddenly make sense all on its own. I had to change how I approached it.

So how do you make the change happen? Here’s one method: Ask questions.

  • When you encounter difficult material that you “don’t get,” start by writing questions.
  • Keep reading or listening to see if they get answered. If they do, jot down the answers.
  • Identify questions you can answer for yourself: words you can look up definitions or key concepts you can Google or find in an encyclopedia.
  • Find questions you can puzzle through or make a hypothesis about, based on what you do know and understand.
  • If it’s appropriate, ask a peer or your professor any questions left unanswered.

This is a simple way to engage with difficult material. You move past the generic, dismissive “I don’t get it” and start to identify the gaps in your knowledge and understanding. Once you know where the gaps are, it’s a lot easier to begin to fill them. This doesn’t mean that it the material suddenly becomes easy and you don’t have to actively work at learning it. It will probably remain a challenge, but I hope that this strategy will make the work seem less daunting.

Shannon is the CTL post-graduate intern.

Remember who’s the author!

by Heather Libbe

Every single experience we have, be it academic or otherwise, provides opportunities to learn more about the allness of God and our oneness with Mind. Remembering who is the author is the best writing “advice” I can give!

During spring quarter of my junior year at Principia College, I learned a very valuable lesson that has stuck with me ever since. I found myself very overwhelmed by a personal situation with a friend off-campus, and this caused me to quickly fall very behind in my work. I felt like I was just digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole looking at all my assignments piling up. One afternoon I couldn’t even get myself out of bed. As I was sobbing to myself and hit a point where all I could think was “I can’t do this,” I heard an angel message that I will never forget: “You know, Heather, you’re right—you can’t do this.”

I’ve found that idea to go really well with this Bible passage: “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). At the time, I was trying to do it all on my own, which, of course, seemed overwhelming. So I was very grateful to be woken up to the fact that I was not doing the doing. God was!

Needless to say, I was humbled.

Four years later, I was in a similar situation with a graduate school paper that needed to be written. I just couldn’t seem to make any progress with it. I had read the entire book that I needed to in order to complete the assignment but felt as though I didn’t even know where to begin. I was overwhelmed by the topic, length, deadline, and so on.

I explained all this to a friend who asked how things were going as we randomly ran into each other in a Boston crosswalk that afternoon. He shared an idea from Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy that I’ve held to ever since: “Mortals are egotists. They believe themselves to be independent workers, personal authors, and even privileged originators of something which Deity would not or could not create. The creations of mortal mind are material. Immortal spiritual man alone represents the truth of creation” (262). Those four statements really woke me up to rediscover that divine Mind was completing the assignment and I was just there to reflect. As I prayed with that idea and sought to be Mind’s scribe as opposed to thinking of myself as a creator, the heaviness of the assignment just lifted and I completed it with joy. I think I even got a high mark on it, too.

Now, whenever I need to write something, be it in correspondence, an article for the Christian Science periodicals, or a piece for an organization, I continuously remind myself—before, during and after—who is really the Author. As the image and likeness of Mind, I am at one with the source of all creativity and intelligence.

Moreover, how wonderful it is to know that

  • Perfect grammar reflects Principle
  • Creative new ideas reflect Mind
  • A well-thought-out format reflects Soul
  • Different punctuation marks reflect Spirit
  • Diversity of word choice reflects Life
  • Proper citing reflects Truth
  • Editing an assignment before handing it in reflects Love

Starting and ending with prayer, with some prayer in between, has helped me over the past few years complete assignments with ease. Writing has also become even more enjoyable because it is exciting to see how the final product reflects all those beautiful spiritual qualities such as order, intelligence, logic, right reasoning, knowledge, and flow.

Happy reflecting, everyone!

This guest post is from Heather K. Libbe, CS, who was a writing tutor before graduating from Principia College in 2011. She is a Christian Science practitioner who is currently in Australia.

A problem-solving approach to introductions

by Shamus Jarvis

I find it helpful to think of writing as a vehicle for problem solving. But before I can offer a solution to any given problem, I have to first gain a reader’s attention; otherwise I have no audience that can respond to the solution that I provide. The most effective way to ensure that a paper will both engage a reader—be it a fellow student or a professor—and establish the foundation for any claim or solution that a writer will defend in the body of the paper is to provide an intriguing and thought provoking introduction. The late Joseph M. Williams, in Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, insists that an introduction should include three primary components: shared context between the writer and the reader, a description of the problem, and the writer’s solution or claim.

By establishing a shared context with the reader, the writer explains why the reader is or will be affected by the problem presented within the paper. If the reader perceives that the given problem is unrelated to his or her own life, it is unlikely that that reader will be interested in reading about a solution to a problem that he or she does not perceive as a threat. The writer must convince the reader that he or she has something to gain or lose that is related to the central issue. This concept of gain and loss is related to a problem’s cost.

According to Williams, a problem is some event that is associated with a perceivable cost. If a condition, situation, or event has no cost, then no problem exists. Every problem has at least one or more consequence(s) that results in some unwanted or unintended result. Within a paper, it is important for the writer to present the consequences of an event in order to explain why that event should be recognized as a problem. As much as possible, the writer should endeavor to relate the consequences directly to the reader. Remember, if the reader believes that he or she has nothing at stake, there is no reason to continue reading. Imagine a reader asking, “So what?” after being presented with a problem. It is the writer’s job to answer the reader’s hypothetical inquiry in a way that clearly identifies the consequences of a problem and how they affect the reader.

Additionally, it is important for a writer to recognize whether he or she is attempting to solve a practical or a conceptual problem. When dealing with a practical problem, the writer will encourage the reader to execute a specific action that will either totally resolve or at least mitigate the problem. Conceptual problems often lack solutions that require specific actions. Instead, solutions are typically theoretical and require the reader to understand the larger context of the issue. Within the college environment, students are commonly asked to solve conceptual, rather than practical problems.

After the writer has presented a problem and its significant consequences or general cost to humanity, he or she should provide a solution or claim that addresses at least one of the problem’s consequences without introducing any additional ones. Obviously, the proposed solution should not magnify the intensity of the original problem. The solution or claim serves as the foundational point which the body of the paper will aim to support.

(Works Cited: Williams, Joseph M. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. 9th ed. New York: Pearson Longman,    2007. Print.)

Shamus Jarvis is a junior at Principia College studying theatre and English. Hear him sing aboard the Titanic on November 14, 15, and 16 in Cox Auditorium.