Who Owns This Text? Plagiarism, Authorship, and Disciplinary Cultures

Edited by Carol P. Haviland and Joan A. Mullin

Reviewed by Erin M. Presley
Eastern Kentucky University


In their conclusion, Haviland and Mullin discussed their findings with particular emphasis on the Romantic notions of originality and authorship. They found that the faculty considered in these collected essays, who rely heavily on collaboration, have a clear sense of intellectual property, but because of their own educational experiences, fail to share their knowledge with students (p. 158). Instead of providing templates for the classroom, Haviland and Mullin suggested “a process of field and classroom inquiry in which faculty can engage students, exploring with them the ‘who, where, when, what and—most importantly—the why of disciplinary knowledge and knowledge building” (p. 159). The most effective way for faculty to approach this process is by directly addressing these issues and modeling the work that students do after discipline-specific practices (p. 167). In this vein, classrooms would function as “discourse communities in which members engage in building entry into a knowledge-field” (p. 168).

While Haviland and Mullin pondered a truly collaborative classroom in which the class would receive a grade as a whole, most of their suggestions were practical and would enhance the learning environment in classes across the curriculum. At the heart of their closing argument is the role of inquiry. They claim that the central role of inquiry in higher education has been displaced, so they suggested “consciously return[ing] to that purpose by studying and sharing our research processes rather than merely disseminating our knowledge” in the classroom (p. 172). Ultimately, they made a powerful case for their approach—that “by focusing on catching the plagiarists, we miss focusing on why students may be plagiarizing” (p. 165). By viewing plagiarism as a teachable moment instead of a punishable crime, Haviland and Mullin challenged faculty from all disciplines to rethink their pedagogy.

Even though this study did not offer detailed exercises (or “templates” to use the editors’ language), it did make a compelling case for faculty to simply discuss the complexities of citation practices and to design their courses to reflect disciplinary practices. Who Owns This Text?—with its focus on writing in the disciplines—would be useful to writing program administrators, to faculty teaching classes through WAC, WIP, or WID, or to anyone interested in better understanding plagiarism.