Armchair BEA 2013: Ethics

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Design credit: Sarah of Puss Reboots

Welcome once again, Armchair BEA’ers! I sure do hope that the week has been treating you as well as it has me!

I had trouble deciding whether or not I would focus on ethics or non-fiction. In the end I figured ethics would be a better route for me to take. Not necessarily because I don’t read or like non-fiction, because I do, it’s just that I haven’t read enough non-fiction lately to really feel comfortable discussing it.

So. Ethics.

Where to start? Let me start with a story.

Way back when (not that long ago, though), I was a freshman in college taking English 201. It wasn’t a hard class, but my teacher was a little on the tough side. We were assigned a research paper. I have no idea what my topic was but I remember very clearly spending a lot of time on it and being very proud of my work. I turned it in and was confident that it was an A or B caliber paper. Then I got an email from my instructor asking me to come to his office hours to discuss my paper. I was a little nervous because he didn’t give me any indication as to what was wrong, but I figured it couldn’t be too bad. Boy was I in complete and utter shock when he announced that my paper verged on total plagiarism and that he was up in the air as to whether or not he should bring it to the attention of the administration. I was horrified. All I could think of was that this man was going to completely ruin my college career in my second semester! For whatever reason, he took pity on me and let me go back and revise my paper and properly cite everything. Needless to say I over-cited everything after that day. Every single time I wrote a paper I would have footnotes that would be like three pages long! But I was definitely not wanting to have that experience ever again.

So what does that have to do with our discussion about ethics? Well, everything.

I don’t remember if it was last year or the year before, but I kept hearing a lot of buzz around some bloggers that there was a plagiarist amongst us. I never found out who the alleged culprit was, I never really cared all that much. But I know it was a she and she was bashed big time. If she still blogs I can’t imagine how she would have any readers left considering the word-of-mouth that got around.

So it’s very important that as bloggers we do not plagiarise! Most bloggers are okay with you branching off something that they’ve already done before, but you must, must, must either run it by them before you do it, or say something like “such-and-such blogger posted this here <insert the link to the original post> and it made me start to think about it and here’s my opinion”. It’s not hard to do. But it’s something that needs to be handled with care.

Here’s another example that I know of. My college had a chancellor who came in and did a lot of good things for our school. But it was also a lot of expensive changes that were met with some resistance. Everything was going good until come to find out that he had pretty much plagiarized his entire plan. The catch? He plagiarized himself! Yes, you read that right. He had implemented changes at the school he was chancellor at before our school. Then he came to our school and intended to do the same exact thing. But apparently he just took the report that he prepared at the first school and changed some names around and submitted it to our school. It was a slippery slope. It was all his original ideas, after all. But they were original ideas that he had implemented elsewhere and it just looked plain bad. I mean, could the guy not come up with something else? Or at least prepare a brand new report?

So as you can see from that example, plagiarism is not always cut and dry.

Personally I try to only glance at reviews for books that I know I am going to have to review for authors/publicists/blog tours, etc. I do this so that when I sit down to write my own review I know that there hasn’t been any outside influences. It’s all coming from my head. Sure I might still come up with some of the same praise or complaints, but it’s going to be worded in my own way.

But I think that the best advice I can give is something that I really lived by when I was in college: it’s always better to over-cite than under-cite.

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