Worried I may have plagiarized a final

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thrwy

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Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby thrwy » Sat May 04, 2019 7:36 pm

I’m worried I may have plagiarized on my recent civ pro final. A couple days before the exam (open note, 3 hr) my professor uploaded a model answer to a practice question. The rule statement in it was a very clear explanation of a rule I struggled with writing out, so I copied it verbatim into my outline. Then on our exam I copied it into my essay as my rule statement. It’s two sentences of a basic rule (along the lines of “personal jurisdiction exists when X, Y, or Z. X is fulfilled when A, B, and C”) and all of my application was of course original. However I’m worried that I copied the rule nearly verbatim onto my essay and my professors will notice and ding me with plagiarism. Is this something I should actually be worrying about or is it just post-exam nerves?

QContinuum

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby QContinuum » Sat May 04, 2019 7:40 pm

Well, copying two entire sentences verbatim from your professor's model answer into your own exam answer - without (I assume) using quotes - certainly meets the definition of plagiarism. Why did you think doing that would be a good idea? Why weren't you able to paraphrase the rule?

Probably the best thing to do at this point is sit tight and hope your professor handles this leniently. (Unless your school has an honor code or other requirement that imposes a duty on you to proactively disclose this, in which case you should comply with the duty.)

thrwy

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby thrwy » Sat May 04, 2019 8:44 pm

QContinuum wrote:Well, copying two entire sentences verbatim from your professor's model answer into your own exam answer - without (I assume) using quotes - certainly meets the definition of plagiarism. Why did you think doing that would be a good idea? Why weren't you able to paraphrase the rule?

Probably the best thing to do at this point is sit tight and hope your professor handles this leniently. (Unless your school has an honor code or other requirement that imposes a duty on you to proactively disclose this, in which case you should comply with the duty.)


If I remember correctly I did change a couple words while typing it onto my exam. Honestly I was so in the moment during my exam that it didn’t even cross my mind. These are very broad, basic rule statements that pretty much mirror the exact language my professor would use in class (in fact I believe he was the one who wrote the model answer I used to make my outline).

None of that is any excuse of course. And I feel absolutely awful about this; I still have two more exams to go but I can’t force myself to study because I feel like I’m constantly about to throw up.

Barrred

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby Barrred » Sat May 04, 2019 9:13 pm

Disagree^. OP is definitely overthinking this. Its not plagiarism to regurgitate the professor's own recitation of the rule statements on the exam, that's smart test-taking. I often copied the professor's formulations of rule statements or case descriptions verbatim from the lecture slides into my notes, which probably made their way into my outlines and exam responses. Finding a good formulation of a rule/concept and using it in your exam is a common practice, even if it might technically fall under some overly broad definition of "plagiarism." Don't worry about it, and certainly don't report yourself.

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby Bobby_Axelrod » Sat May 04, 2019 9:22 pm

Barrred wrote:Disagree^. OP is definitely overthinking this. Its not plagiarism to regurgitate the professor's own recitation of the rule statements on the exam, that's smart test-taking. I often copied the professor's formulations of rule statements or case descriptions verbatim from the lecture slides into my notes, which probably made their way into my outlines and exam responses. Finding a good formulation of a rule/concept and using it in your exam is a common practice, even if it might technically fall under some overly broad definition of "plagiarism." Don't worry about it, and certainly don't report yourself.


Agreed. See no issue with this. I did the same thing on many exams (and I'm sure others did too) and was never dinged with plagiarism.

QContinuum

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby QContinuum » Sat May 04, 2019 10:13 pm

Barrred wrote:Disagree^. OP is definitely overthinking this. Its not plagiarism to regurgitate the professor's own recitation of the rule statements on the exam, that's smart test-taking.

So in your view, it's okay - and, in fact, "smart" - to plagiarize the professor?

It's one thing to more or less "regurgitate" the professor's rule statement from lecture notes. That, of course, is commonly done, and involves a mix of paraphrasing and adaptation in view of the exam's fact pattern.

It's significantly different to copy and paste two entire sentences verbatim from a model answer into one's own exam answer without quoting. (As stated in the OP, at least; thrwy has since written in with additional info that seems to indicate they actually did a bit of paraphrasing.) That this would even be disputed is troubling. Though, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised given how many TLSers wrote in a recent thread advising a law student not to "rat" out their classmates for cheating, honor code be damned.

thrwy wrote:If I remember correctly I did change a couple words while typing it onto my exam. Honestly I was so in the moment during my exam that it didn’t even cross my mind. These are very broad, basic rule statements that pretty much mirror the exact language my professor would use in class (in fact I believe he was the one who wrote the model answer I used to make my outline).

None of that is any excuse of course. And I feel absolutely awful about this; I still have two more exams to go but I can’t force myself to study because I feel like I’m constantly about to throw up.

If you changed a few words, that should be helpful. Most likely in that case, your professor won't have an issue - it would really only be the verbatim copy-pasting of multiple complete sentences that would, in my view, likely raise a red flag.

I know it's easier said than done, but try your best to bury yourself in prepping for your other finals. Get sufficiently stressed out about exam prep and that should help push this thing out of your mind.

Best of luck on your remaining finals!

Wubbles

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby Wubbles » Sun May 05, 2019 1:55 am

Might be a school to school issue, because at my school this is 100% fine with most professors and citations within exams are not expected

nixy

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby nixy » Sun May 05, 2019 6:45 am

QContinuum wrote:
SamuelDanforth wrote:At YLS the rule is that you cannot copy and paste from your outline into your exam. But if you write it out from one to the other it is fine.

Are you serious? So it's not okay to use the copy-paste function, but it IS okay to manually copy and paste verbatim? That's the dumbest rule I've ever heard of - and how would it even be enforced anyway?

I’ve heard of this before - my understanding was that it’s because the concern isn’t about using the same language that you have in your outline, but about getting the artificial aid from cut & paste. I mean, sure, I’m not sure how it’s enforced, but there are other rules that are hard to enforce (e.g. limited universe of resources on take-home exams).

I tend to agree that this isn’t a big deal, because of the expectations for exams (commonly no citations required) and because rule statements tend to be the most generic language out there, such that it’s hard for any one person to “own” a given formulation. Pretty sure people memorize rule formulations from Barbri for the bar exam all the time, for instance.

Stifling

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby Stifling » Sun May 05, 2019 10:15 am

Agree with the majority here, OP’s definitely overthinking. I wouldn’t consider that plagiarism—also there’s only so many ways one can rephrase civpro rules without being wrong. Don’t sweat it.

Also agree with Samuel— went to one of HYS, and it was common to copy verbatim what was on your outline as long as the outline was your own creation (permissibly used) which is what the OP seems to have done.

BasilHallward

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby BasilHallward » Sun May 05, 2019 12:49 pm

OP is definitely overthinking this. This is a CIVPRO RULE. In these cases, I'd be shocked to see more than three different inflictions from a class of 60 on a rule statement like a summary judgment standard, e.g.

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LSATWiz.com

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby LSATWiz.com » Sun May 05, 2019 1:20 pm

I also think plagiarism is generally applied based on motive even if it's a strict liability offense. You get bonus points for quoting a professor - they eat that stuff up. I don't think they'd think OP plagiarized, but may question their understanding of the rule if they need to copy it verbatim to apply it.

dabigchina

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby dabigchina » Sun May 05, 2019 7:16 pm

+1 OP. Regurgitating rule statements is the name of the game. you are being tested on whether you know which rule to apply when. you are not being asked to come up with a totally novel legal framework in a 3 hour exam.

thrwy

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby thrwy » Sun May 05, 2019 7:43 pm

OP here. Thanks everyone for the responses. I’m less worried in the light of day now that the post-exam breakdown has worn off, sorry for coming off as dramatic.

A couple additional facts for those interested:

While not arranged as such, each sentence I used was also available with the exact same or very similar language on our professor’s slides posted online.

Our exam software blocks any attempt to cut and paste from outside documents, so I’m not worried about that.

I can’t remember exactly, but while I did change the language slightly, it was limited to changing three or four words to synonyms - nothing that would qualify as paraphrasing.

LSATWiz.com wrote:I don't think they'd think OP plagiarized, but may question their understanding of the rule if they need to copy it verbatim to apply it.


Can’t argue with this without coming off like an ass at this point, so I’ll just concede the point lol

Tenzen

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby Tenzen » Sun May 05, 2019 8:25 pm

Maybe law school is different now than when I graduated almost half a decade ago, but how in the world are any of you able to just copy and paste into the exam? Do you not use systems like ExamSoft that prevent you from being able to do that? Or are these open-book exams?

Absent open book, it does sound at least unethical to copy and paste answers into finals.

Although, to be clear, I recognize you may not literally mean copy and paste, if that's shorthand from copying and typing from memory or so.

QContinuum

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby QContinuum » Sun May 05, 2019 9:21 pm

nixy wrote:Yes, these are open book exams. Some schools don’t use examsoft etc to limit access to computer files and are literally open anything.
...
If this really were an issue I’d also want to see the original language. There really are only so many ways to word basic rules. For instance I’m pretty sure plenty of people have talked about a bundle of sticks on property exams without putting that in quotes and without getting in trouble. If the copying was of an argument specific to this prof that would be one thing. If it’s something like the RAP that’s another (thinking of rules that are likely to get passed along verbatim).

Agree. Context is critical. Of course no need to quote "bundle of sticks" - you just use the phrase as you will. It's kind of like trademark genericide. I'm just stunned that a lot of people seem to be arguing that any amount of copy-pasta is OK so long as you're not writing a Note. It's not a binary between "no such thing as plagiarism" and "must cite everything perfectly according to Bluebook rules".

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby IPProf » Mon May 06, 2019 6:44 pm

Wow, this got heated.

I would never dock a student for copying a rule statement from a source. Words in rule statements matter; a concise and well-written rule statement should be copied word for word.

If you steal a paragraph from Lemly on patent policy you should attribute the view to Lemly, however. It’d also probably not a great way to score points on most professors’ exams. Even if the question is literally “what would Lemly think of X” you probably want to spend time applying him rather than quoting him.

QContinuum

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Re: Worried I may have plagiarized a final

Postby QContinuum » Sun May 12, 2019 11:58 am

I've locked this thread and split off the off-topic policy arguments advocating for a narrower view of plagiarism into a separate thread in the Lounge. OP's specific question was answered long ago, with a unanimous (I think) consensus that they should be fine. No need at this point to keep bugging OP with notifications about the reasons why people think schools should modify their plagiarism policies.



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