Copy from one, it’s plagiarism; copy from two, it’s research. ~ Wilson Mizner
What does that mean?
Also quoted as “If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.” and sometimes attributed to John Burke. And with the right accent, it almost sounds Russian…
This is the age old challenge to the student at school. To properly do a paper, you need to read and understand the ideas of others. The trick is to then show your comprehension and mastery of the topic by re-synthesizing the work, and describing it in your own words.
When you only select one source to read, you don’t usually get much in the way of additional ideas. And with only one viewpoint, it’s hard to do anything besides repeat what the original author said. With two or more, you can find many places where the works either compliment or contrast each other, allowing you ample room to make statements that are not simply cut-n-paste jobs.
Why is research important?
Using the definition implied in the quote, research is reading from more than one source. This is a great way to broaden your learning and understanding. Besides, popular theories are frequently disproven, and if you were relying on only that source, you go down as well.
By being diverse in your reading, you get the benefits of many points of view and can try to draw your own conclusions. Sometimes there aren’t many points of view (a problem for historians), and you have to infer what you can.
The most important difference between plagiarism and research is understanding. When you read one source, it’s easy to nod your head but not truly understand. When you read multiple sources, you have to actually think, weigh each opinion and fact, and then reach your conclusion. Then all you have left to do is use your own words to describe your conclusion.
Where can I apply this in my life?
How many of you remember when coffee was bad for your health, then good for it, then bad for it once again? That’s just medical research in the last decade or two. There have been contradictory reports on the benefits and detriments of nearly every food or supplement on the market. If you only read one report, how thorough was your research?
In astrophysics, there has been a theory of mysterious ‘dark matter’ for quite a while. Now, they have found brown dwarfs that are at room temperature, one less than 10 light years from Earth (one of the 10 closest stars to us). I wonder how may other of these ultra cold stars are out there, and what they weigh? A bunch of people who did limited research (and didn’t think outside the box) just went back to the drawing board.
The obvious point of this quote, and how I have chosen to describe it, is the use of the web for research. For the longest time I was wondering why my readership was down in the summer months. Then the fall semester started, and my numbers shot way up.
The search engine hits included entire quotes and phrases like “meaning of (quote)”. This was a double edged sword. It’s nice to think that there are young people seeking out the wisdom of the great philosophers and quote mongers. However, it also meant that there was the possibility of blatant plagiarism instead of proper research.
If you are a student (and after a fashion, aren’t we all?), please consider the whole point of your education. You are there to engage your brain, to learn things that might not come to you via the “school of hard knocks” otherwise known as learning the hard way or more simply as “life”.
Take advantage of this chance to expand your mind. I know the idea of doing the least possible to get by and then heading to the party is appealing (been there, done that, have the expulsion notice to prove it), it’s not the best use of your time, is it?
And don’t forget, if you found this post by way of a search engine, your teacher can as well. Take what you have learned from me and prove that you understand it by rewriting it in your own words. That’s what learning is all about, reading something, digesting it, and making it your own.
From: Twitter, @iheartquotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/wilsonmizn109330.html
Photo by jameskm03