NMA Campaign Issue: Plagiarism

A Note About NMA Message Frameworks
NMA message frameworks are intended as starting points for NMA members to create their own messages. These might include (but are not limited to) letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, comments for local radio or television stations, and so on. Remember: the more locally grounded your message, the more likely it is to be included in local media. Feel free to add information based on your experience, your class, and/or your writing program.

NMA Message Framework - Plagiarism

Note: This framework is based on (and uses material from) the WPA statement on plagiarism, Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices. Media messages based on this framework should acknowledge the WPA statement as their source.

In an instructional setting, plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else"s language, ideas, or other original (not common knowledge) material without acknowledging its source.

Most current definitions of plagiarism fail to distinguish between plagiarism and misuse of sources. Plagiarism consists of submitting someone else"s text as one"s own or attempting to blur the line between one"s own ideas or words and borrowing them from another source. Misuse of sources consists of carelessly or inadequately citing ideas and words borrowed from another source.

Intentional plagiarism is dishonest and unethical; it is wrong. Students who are aware that their actions constitute plagiarism -- for example, copying published information into a paper without attributing that source for the purpose of claiming that information as their own, or turning in material written by someone else -- are guilty of academic misconduct.

Plagiarism can be deterred or avoided through attention to students and writing throughout a class. When assignments are generic and not classroom-specific, when there is no instruction on plagiarism and appropriate source attribution, and when students do not work through a process of writing and revising that is guided by feedback from instructors and classmates, teachers often find themselves in the adversarial role of "plagiarism police" instead of a coaching role as educators. Just as students must live up to their responsibility to behave ethically and honestly as learners, teachers must recognize that they can most effectively encourage and discourage plagiarism by structuring assignments and processes that help students define and gain interest in topics developed for papers and projects.

Resources for More Learning about the Perceived Threat of Plagiarism

Tips for Attracting Attention of Local Media

  • Template Statement on Plagiarism (for adapting to local contexts) in Word or PDF format.
  • Sample of how the template statement was adapted for use at Eastern Michigan University (PDF format; see below also.)
    • Act locally

    You are more likely to receive a hearing if the target for your media action is local -- campus and/or local newspapers, local public radio stations, even local television network. Local media are interested in local stories.

    Write what"s most likely to get you heard, at least initially. In newspapers, letters to the editor and/or opinion-editorial (op-ed) pieces are most likely to be published. Issues like those in the NMA frameworks are current and timely.

    Take advantage of existing stories. It"s often easier to advance a position with it"s put in the context of something already determined to be newsworthy.

    Choose a local story to tell. Media outlets like details -- about programs, students, and/or classes. Choose a story in which to ground your message and make it lively.

    • Be concise and don"t overcomplicate

    Writing and reading practices are complicated. When communicating with audiences outside of academe, make your case in the most clear and straightforward way possible. Avoid jargon and use clear, simple language. The NMA message frameworks are intended to help.

    Use the five Ws for your information (who, what, when, where, and why)

    Be honest and accurate. Understate your case. It is better to set reasonable expectations and then exceed them to promise more than you can deliver.

    If you are targeting radio and/or television reporters (or outlets), practice your responses before your interview. Choose key points to make, but be spontaneous in your discussions. Make sure you don"t sound rehearsed.

    • Know your target

    Read newspapers, watch the television programs and listen to the radio programs you are interested in having cover issues or events that you are working on. You need to be familiar with their approach(es). You also need to use the conventions that they use for your responses.

    Understand the news planning process Find out deadlines and decision makers at news media organizations. Who assigns stories? What factors impact what gets covered? When are deadlines?

    Evaluate advertising. What audience is the publication or program trying to reach? Pitch stories that target a similar audience.

    • Become a resource

    Develop relationships with reports who cover your issue(s). What are they interested in? What do they want to write about?

    Be reliable. If reporters call you, return their calls as soon as possible.

    Don"t overreach. If you don"t know the answer to a question, say "I don"t know" rather than coming up with something you aren"t sure about.

    Know your opposition. Be ready and able to help reporters with alternative perspectives or stories that may not involve you or your organization so that they"ll return to you as a regular source.

    Media tips are based on and include material from Stone's Throw Strategic Communication, Manhattan Beach, CA

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Since I tried to do my duty and talk to a reporter from Business Week about 10 days ago, and an article was published, I thought I would report here on what happened, and post the full text of what I DID say to the reporter.

Here's the link to the article in which I am quoted (a bit out of context):


The author fails to make a distinction between what I said and what the CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus says, and he makes it seems as if I authorize Turnitin, when I was giving possible strategies for using it if your school required it.

For the record, here is the actual email I sent the reporter, which the NMA is free to use or not use as it sees fit.


Michael Day

From: Michael Day [mailto:TB0MXD1@wpo.cso.niu.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2007 4:05 PM
To: MacMillan, Douglas
Subject: Re: BusinessWeek article

Hi Doug,

The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) hasn't
passed a resolution on Turnitin, to my knowledge, but many members are
concerned that Turnitin and other plagiarism detection services pose a
threat to student intellectual property rights and contribute to a
negative climate of learning. To address that concern, the CCCC
Intellectual Property Caucus has drafted the CCCC-IP Plagiarism
Statement, available at


Be sure to click on the link at the bottom of the page to read the full
statement. You may also be interested in a discussion between Turnitin
advocate Michael Bruton and members of the Kairosnews blog including
Charlie Lowe, about Turnitin last September.


Be sure, also, to look at "Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA
Statement on Best Practices," which spells out a more careful approach
to plagiarism than can be implied by uncritical uses of plagiarism
detection services.


See particularly the statement on the use of plagiarism detection

Below, my opinions only, with some reliance on the CCCC-IP statement:

What's the strongest argument for the use of Turnitin?

Used with forethought, plenty of discussion with students and
colleagues, and with student consent, as a formative teaching tool and
not a "You're busted!" gatekeeper tool, plagiarism services such as
Turnitin can help students and teachers test their writing against an
ever-growing database of existing writing, to see what has already been
said, and by whom. In short, such services may be used in the drafting
stages of academic writing assignments to help students learn quotation,
citation, and paraphrase, as well as avoid plagiarism and the
punishments almost always imposed by teachers and institutions.
Further, students and teachers can use the results of plagiarism
detection reports to critically investigate notions such as ownership,
property, originality, and copying in intellectual work. As the CCCC-IP
Plagiarism Caucus Recommendations Regarding Academic Integrity and the
Use of Plagiarism Detection Services make clear, in an age dominated by
Web and Internet writing, wikis, blogs, remixing, and patch-writing, we
owe it to our students to interrogate such notions.

What's the strongest argument against the use of Turnitin?

Though I am concerned by the way plagiarism detection services
appropriate student work and uses it for profit, I believe that the
biggest problem for teachers is that these services imply on a
summative, "gatekeeper" notion of teachers as a judges or police, whose
job it is to root out and punish wrongdoers. While I do advocate
punishment for blatant and egregious plagiarism, along with the writers
of the WPA statement I understand that inexperienced students do make
mistakes, and that, particularly in the draft stages of writing,
sometimes inadvertent copying occurs. Careful teachers will use these
occasions as "teachable moments" to better inform the students about
conventions of quotation, citation, and paraphrase, but we know how busy
some teachers are. Busy teachers might also be to rely on the
plagiarism detection service rather than devise assignments that are
tailored to the students and subject, and that are more difficult to
plagiarize. But I think that the WPA and CCCC-IP statements make the
case far better than I can.

I hope this helps; please let me know if you need further information.

Take care,


Michael J. Day
Director, First-Year Composition Program
Associate Professor
English Department
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois 60115
(815) 753-6603
Co-Chair, CCCC Committee on Computers in Composition and Communication

>>> "MacMillan, Douglas" 3/6/2007
11:18:43 AM >>>

Hi Michael,

Deborah Holdstein told me I should speak with you. I'm currently
reporting a story for BusinessWeek.com about the anti-cheating service
Turnitin.com, and I understand the CCC has addressed whether it is an
appropriate tool for schools to implement, given the controversy it
raises over intellectual property rights. Can you refer me to any
resolutions the conference passed, or fill me in on the proceedings if
they are ongoing? What is the strongest argument in favor of using
Turnitin? What is the strongest argument against it? Please feel free to
call me at 212-512-2577 at your convenience, or e-mail me back at this
address. I appreciate your help.

Doug MacMillan

1221 Avenue of the Americas
New York City, NY 10020

Thanks, Michael for posting this material. Our campus has recently adopted SafeAssign, much like Turnitin, and I'd like to issue a formal response from the writing program since we were not consulted prior to adoption. Your materials will be very, very helpful.

Amy Rupiper Taggart
Associate Professor, Director of First-year Writing
North Dakota State University
Dept 2320
PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108

Karionews is a great blog, I go there often.

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