I’ve been thinking about the New York Times article on plagiarism and the digital era. Most students would understand the difference between making a mash-up of Star Wars and Star Trek – with everyone knowing that your contribution is the combination of the two at the level of editing – and presenting such a mash-up as a video assignment for a course in which you were supposed to not merely combine content created by others, but create your own content. Obviously you might for such an assignment make your own Star Wars or Star Trek video. But if the assignment expects you to produce your own content, even if inspired by earlier videos and films, then clearly it would be cheating (and very obvious cheating) if you took frames from movies and submitted them as your own work.
And so here’s my question: Is the key to helping students avoid plagiarism to emphasize that an academic essay is not a mash-up?