Information Systems Education Journal

Volume 14

V14 N2 Pages 27-33

March 2016

Teaching Case

Single Sourcing, Boilerplates, and Re-Purposing: Plagiarism and Technical Writing

Michelle Louch
Duquesne University
Pittsburgh, PA 15282, USA

Abstract: In academia, plagiarism adheres to the traditional definition: utilizing another person’s words or ideas without proper credit. Students are taught to cite everything, while instructors are given tools to detect plagiarism. This ultimately creates an atmosphere of paranoia, where students fear accusation and teachers are convinced that plagiarism will occur unless they remain ever vigilant. At the same time, technical writers create, reuse, remix, and remarket content on a regular basis in the form on instruction manuals, boilerplates, and other technical, factual, straightforward texts. In academia, the technical writer would be accused of (self-)plagiarism, which would not – given the context – be the case. In the professional world, where the majority of writing will be technical, students will find themselves creating content based on already-existing texts, a direct contradiction of their academic training. This teaching case asks students to consider not only plagiarism but also the concepts of copying and remixing, two ideas closely related to plagiarism, and develop their own conclusions, both personal and professional, about what is and is not ethical communication. It also seeks to demonstrate the importance of recognizing that difference and adjusting accordingly so that professional communications not only meet ethical standards but are also produced in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Keywords: Technical Writing , Plagiarism, Remixing , Re-purposing, Ethics

Download this article: ISEDJ - V14 N2 Page 27.pdf

Recommended Citation: Louch, M. (2016). Single Sourcing, Boilerplates, and Re-Purposing: Plagiarism and Technical Writing . Information Systems Education Journal, 14(2) pp 27-33. ISSN: 1545-679X. (A preliminary version appears in The Proceedings of EDSIG 2015)