Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A good read

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  • Bart Janssen,

    hmmm... 20 pages?

    0.4% = 2 pages

    Which is exactly 2 pages too many.

    It's weird an engineering school would simply throw someone out for this and for an engineer writing is not the whole of the craft. Quite rightly of course because it speaks to integrity and for an engineer integrity = lives.

    But for an author writing is the whole of the craft. The creative effort is the thing. There may not be lives at stake but surely for an author crediting another author's work should be paramount. It will of course be more complicated and I do get that but still...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    0.4% = 2 pages

    Oh, shit. So it does.

    Perhaps my previous comment should be squashed, if that's felt appropriate.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    It's weird an engineering school would simply throw someone out for this and for an engineer writing is not the whole of the craft. Quite rightly of course because it speaks to integrity and for an engineer integrity = lives.

    Engineers belong to a professional body which has a code of ethics; they try to impress upon them early that they need to learn to follow them. They take the "profession" bit seriously; gives them a reason to swank over science students, who just have careers.

    (I know this because I was once dragooned into helping mark first-year engineering students' essays on why engineers were professionals rather than, e.g., common tradesmen. Plagiarism would have provided some light relief. And grammar.)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Perhaps my previous comment should be squashed, if that's felt appropriate.

    No -- because, as Bart said, two pages of plagiarism is two too many.

    But here's a question that's nagging me: Does Penguin NZ, which is a division of the second largest publishing group on Earth, bother with the art of editing any more? Should we trust that Penguin NZ's non-fiction list is reliable, and has been subjected to even rudimentary fact-checking?

    Or is all it too expensive to bother with?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Geoff Walker of Penguin NZ was pretty terse when asked to explain ..
    Thank goodness for excellent reviewers like Jolisa.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 825 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    (I know this because I was once dragooned into helping mark first-year engineering students' essays on why engineers were professionals rather than, e.g., common tradesmen. Plagiarism would have provided some light relief. And grammar.)

    That bit of first year engineering is hilarious; I was reading one of my flatmate's old textbooks once (nothing else in the house to read and the library was shut) and fell over laughing at those parts. Enculturation in action!

    It really doesn't help that even the textbooks have been written by people who are clearly not too keen on the whole words thing. And often appear to be conservative American Christians with odd ideas about society.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Ruh-roh. (Sometimes, only the pidgin dog-English of Scooby-Doo can fully express my feelings.)

    Oh, I've been whimpering like Scrappy all week. Tis not a pleasant task, and I'm still feeling a bit cautious and shellshocked by it all. But it was nice, as a recovering academic, to venture into dusty corners of the library I haven't visited in a while.

    And I am more awestruck than ever by the terrifying power of the google.

    There were more examples than were mentioned in the Listener article; I stopped finding correspondences when (because?) I stopped looking.

    What got me looking further than the first example was the fact that that book (Karen Sinclair's Prophetic Histories) was not mentioned in the list of works consulted at the end of the book. The puzzling thing is, other sources are quoted appropriately throughout the novel - a character will say "As Wakefield said in his speech..." and off we go. That sort of citation and even pastiche is perfectly acceptable in a historical novel, especially one that is in part about the question of which histories are told and which aren't. Which made the unmarked borrowings stand out all the more.

    One can certainly make arguments for a degree of strategic "quotation." Mark Williams has a very interesting chapter in his book Leaving the Highway: Six Contemporary New Zealand Novelists (AUP, 1990) on similar questions about the construction of The Matriarch.

    I do wonder, like Jacqui, what the consequences would be for someone who had borrowed, accidentally or on purpose, 0.4% of their dissertation. And like Craig, I lament that an editor did not pick any of this up.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    "scrupulous and literate as well as a slashingly hot piece of arse"

    I'm shitted that's a bit long for a t-shirt.

    Think outside the box, Emma - it's perfect for a cover blurb for Vol 2 of NSFW.

    Frankly, I'd get it tattooed around your waist, starting by coiling around the navel and then tailing off where the quote ends :-)

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Your family has lost quite a man. Glad he is a presence in your blog.

    I'd like to say something I didn't end up blogging at the time.

    The Gracewood family's public send-off for Wallace was inspirational. Nearly all the family spoke, and there was a slide show, a performance by the Ukulele Orchestra, and we all stood up and sang Bonnie Taylor's 'It's A Heartache' with swaying hand movements (don't ask). More than a little wine was taken.

    I laughed and I cried, generally at the same time. What an amazing family.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22834 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Thanks, Russell. We did our best to put the fun into funeral, as instructed by the man himself. The only thing missing was him.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Aside: among the greater things I regret about Dad's passing was that we did not record his 'Fun'eral as an instructional video.

    HOWTO: Secular White Man's Funeral.

    Oh it's a shitter that we don't have the clarity of mind to think of these things at the time, Ben. But then, when anyone we love dies, we have bigger fish to fry. LIke how to get through the next few weeks, never mind the funeral, without collapsing into a puddle of sorrow.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Gracewood,

    . LIke how to get through the next few weeks, never mind the funeral, without collapsing into a puddle of sorrow.

    Nah, that bit's easy. You just have to organise the birth of a wonderful baby daughter for two days after your Dad's burial. I couldn't recommended highly enough.

    I have developed a profound understanding of the concept of "opposites" over the past few months.

    Orkland • Since Nov 2006 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Oh Ben, that is something. And Jolisa, I have my Listener here, but I will read it tomorrow morning and savour it.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    reliable sources...
    I must confess I always find it hard to believe that many of the recent books on NZ Music don't seem to reference John Dix's Stranded in Paradise a seminal work I would have thought ...
    - no accusations, just saying...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7944 posts Report Reply

  • GemmaG,

    I'd like to publicly thank David Slack for the Laphroig. And the hangover.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    Oooh and it makes me wonder,
    how much of his other works should give credit to others.

    What a witty pity to show the integrity of action and independence of thought normally attributed to politicians, truly witless.

    There must have been a bustle in his hedgerow.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report Reply

  • Lara,

    Very sorry to hear about your loss.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2009 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Craig,

    But happily for Prof I., Auckland University appears to be more relaxed about this kind of thing. (Unless Bart's depressing theory has something in it...)

    Sadly I think it's right on the money (pun fully intended).

    The inadvertent plagiarising is usually dead obvious, it's the smart ones that I'm sure get away with it more than they should. When they've put work into disguising it - like consulting a thesaurus for every second word, moving sentences around a bit, putting in their own stuff in the middle - then it's a bit harder to argue it was down to not understanding how the process works or whatever excuse they want to use.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2007 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I have my Listener here, but I will read it tomorrow morning and savour it.

    Of course, some of us don't have ready access to The Listener, so if anyone happened to be able to scan and e-mail the pages, why, that would be a very good thing.

    ('Though as it happens, my SO is making a flying trip (literally) to Auckland this coming week, so if I remind him loudly enough, he may pick up a copy for me.)

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    First time I caught one of my kids plagiarising in an essay it was so obvious - definitely not his 10 yr old english .... right in front of him I cut out a chunk, pasted it into google, and up popped the source .... right away I made the point that his teacher could do that too.

    While the net (and the move to word processing) makes it so much easier it also means the kids learn about why it's bad earlier

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Have emailed you, Deborah.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    As I read this, I'm seeing a flashing blue banner ad for Auckland's MBA program at the top of the window (mutters darkly about MBAs being the problem, not the solution).

    That institution's response is entirely predictable. Students caught plagiarizing are usually given "big red zeros" as someone put it up-thread, but I haven't heard of the more serious penalties provided for by University policy (expulsion from a course, suspension from a degree program) being applied.

    Getting a zero on a moderately-weighted piece of internal assessment does not preclude passing the course, so generally the students stay on and can gain full credit, as if nothing had happened.

    And, at least as of 12 months ago, there was no central database for recording offences, so no way to know (except via the grapevine) whether a particular student was a repeat offender. Is it too time-consuming to take plagiarism seriously?

    Students who are caught will often try the "it was inadvertent" excuse - frequently accompanied by tears of self-pity - but no one should ever accept it.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Definitely a teachable moment, eh Paul. There have been some very interesting conversations around our dinner table lately, hence my line in the review about how a primary schooler will give you an unequivocal answer on the question of how much borrowing is forgivable. A lot less than 0.4% (and that figure only applies to what was within reach of Google and my local resources in the busy days before the deadline for the article).

    I keep thinking of this line from the Auckland University plagiarism policy:

    Submitting someone else’s unattributed or less than fully attributed work or ideas is not evidence of your own grasp of the material and cannot earn you marks.

    Presumably this refers to student essays, but it applies in the literary context as well. For example, if you're telling me a story in the voice of a young Maori man who serendipitously finds himself at Waitangi in February 1840, I don't want to read what William Colenso saw as he looked upon the crowd at Waitangi, even if it is out of copyright.

    I want to know how that day might have looked to Hohepa Te Umuroa from the Whanganui. Would he have bothered to notice the striped dogskin cloaks, the colours of the woollen blankets? Maybe, but maybe not -- and if he had, mightn't he have had slightly different thoughts about them? Were striped dogskins big in the lower North Island that year, or ever? Were they a sign of wealth, of mana, or of an unseasonable chill in the air? Did Hohepa crave a particular colour of blanket to take home to his sweetheart? What about shoes and uniforms - did they catch his eye, too? What else might he have spotted that the missionary wouldn't?

    In other words, there are ethical reasons not to borrow other people's words, but also artistic ones. (I could write at length about the other examples, but might save that for a follow-up blog post.)

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Is it too time-consuming to take plagiarism seriously?

    Perhaps; also, bad for business, as noted upthread. And I think Emma's original comment points to something interesting too - there's a strange contagious shame about it.

    As my partner discovered when had explained why he'd had to rush home to wrangle the boys while I talked to the radio people, saying the P word out loud in a room full of academics is a bit like blurting out "herpes" in a singles bar. A shudder runs through the room.

    That said, it's taken extremely seriously over here.

    Students who are caught will often try the "it was inadvertent" excuse - frequently accompanied by tears of self-pity - but no one should ever accept it.

    To his credit, the one student I caught "bang to rights" was totally upfront about it. This was a seminar class in which we were due to discuss that very paper. I offered to keep things under wraps by deferring the workshop without explaining why (these things tend to be dealt with very discreetly, and are kept in a closed file unless there are subsequent offenses) but the student, to their enormous credit, fronted up and apologised to the entire class, which led to some really interesting and productive discussions.

    Definitely a teachable moment.

    Also, if I recall correctly, it wasn't much later that first-time author and Harvard student Kaavya Viswanathan was being exposed for her literary plagiarism (her book was pulped, and her reputation was not exactly unharmed), so the issue was definitely on students' minds as a serious issue with material consequences.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    yes - definitely teachable - you get to talk about when to use quote marks, how to reference things you're using, how much you can get away with quoting without pissing off the teacher because you didn't actually write something (a few lines, they have to be relevant and as a rule you have to write something about them that's longer than what you quoted)

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

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