Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Idiot's Guide to Plagiarism: How Not To Not Write A Paper, sponsored by the Committee for Moral Rectitude

1. Don't copy from an article or book your professor wrote. Of course, this means that not only shouldn't you copy from any articles or books with your professor's name on them, but you also need to find out who your professor worked for as a research assistant when he or she was a law student, and avoid copying from those sources. Obviously.

2. The secret is in the speling. Er, spelling. Some professors have begun to do a Lexis search on sections of papers they find suspect. But Lexis is very particular, and even one letter off and there won't be a match. Some people evade this process by changing around some of the words, but why work that hard? Just spell some stuff wrong, intentionally, and then you'll be home free. So what if your paper looks like it was written by a preschooler? You're not looking for an A, obviously. Just take the C and relax.

3. Choose sources unrelated to the topic area of the course. This may seem counterintuitive, but you never know what your professor has read. You need to avoid copying from anything your professor could have read. Which means you need to write your paper on an issue of law your professor has never heard of. Which means you probably, again, won't get an A, since handing in a Torts paper to your Property professor probably won't fit the assignment. But, again, you're not looking for the A.

4. In fact, you need to copy from something the professor couldn't have possibly ever seen before. Because law professors, being the smart and well-read folks they are, could have theoretically read almost anything. So the best tactic is to write a paper from scratch yourself, and then copy it. This way they will have never had a chance to see the original and they won't be able to prove you've plagiarized.

5. Or, if you're pressed for time, you can just hand in the paper you will have written from scratch, before you copy it.