This page summarizes the four cases grounding my project and the resulting six theories of writing I identified as circulating through the cases’ debates.
Each of my cases involves a professional, someone assumed an expert in writing. Each case included at least one public response to a plagiarism charge.
The cases of Jill Bialosky, Monica Crowley, and Neil Gorsuch gave rise to numerous articles, opinion columns, and televised debates. Clark's did not.
Circulating Theories of Writing
To develop a set of writing theories likely involved in plagiarism arguments, I turned to plagiarism studies and writing theory more generally. Building on such works as Mary Randall’s (2001) Pragmatic Plagiarism and Thomas Mallon’s (2001) Stolen Words, as well as Writing Studies scholarship on plagiarism (Howard, 2000) I created a set of possible assumptions about writing that might underpin arguments about plagiarism. I then analyzed my corpus by identifying the implied or explicit theories of writing therein contained. My working set of categories guided my reading; I then refined the categories through corpus application, eliminating theories that did not regularly appear and adding those not fully identified within the scholarly literature. I arrived at six beliefs about writing.
These beliefs illustrate a series of conflicting views, so I organized them around clashing assumptions. However, the category groupings are best understood as identifying various poles in what are actually definitional continua. For example, perhaps the most common set of clashing beliefs in plagiarism studies arises from what Randall names the “idea/expression” divide. These opposing beliefs provide two different definitions of “real writing” or the kind of writing that can be plagiarized, and I coded the two values independently.
Writing is Situated sees discourse communities as setting citation norms; insiders and plagiarizers judge best; professional standing refutes plagiarism.
Writing Requires Work assumes all writing requires intellectual labor (Roach, 2017) and so all writing deserves source-crediting; the writing process is difficult.
Writing Means Ideas takes up the solitary genius definition of writing, where novel ideas and original arguments matter and boilerplate language or facts do not.
Some of Writing is Universal argues some writing principles, e.g., giving credit, apply to all situations; college teaching and plagiarism policies serve as general benchmarks.
Writing Reflects Character views the act of writing as inherently ethical; intention matters, and writing decisions reflect one's overall character.
Writing Means Expression all work is intertextual, so the form and language used to convey ideas is what matters; reworking ideas is fair use.
Stories of Plagiarism / Theories of Writing | Alexis Teagarden