Columns / Discourse / January 15, 2015

Lessons from the essay

When I was young in elementary school, I wanted to be a middle school student. When I was in middle school, I wanted to be a high school student. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a college student. Now I am in the middle of college student life. My sophomore year at Knox was started rapidly in the first week of September 2014. Many freshmen came together during Orientation Week and we were busy meeting a lot of other senior students and professors. Things are always happening outside of just our thoughts.

I didn’t know how hard Knox’s academic system would be, especially regarding the Honor Code. I had a big failure in the seventh week of the Fall Term. My FP professor pointed out that my second paper that I handed in was in violation of the Honor Code for plagiarism. What I had written about was how women could overcome the glass ceiling in the male-dominant society in terms of using their own language by gaining social power through language, such as Facebook’s first female COO, Sheryl Sandberg. I thought that I cited my source well, mentioning what she said in the TED lecture video; however, my essay had a few grossly misleading statements that seemed to be plagiarized.

In terms of writing an analytical paper, I should have thought deeply about my subjective ideas instead of repeating the main points of what Sandberg said in the video. I didn’t recognize the problem in the second paper that I turned in to my professor because of the violation about plagiarism in the Honor Code. However, as time went by, after listening to the professor’s and CTL tutor’s explanations, I understood why my essay had the plagiarism problem, which is one of the biggest academic issues at Knox College.

The major problem was that my essay’s statements seemed to only follow the same content in the Sheryl Sandberg video. In other words, my essay was understood as an imitation of the video. I was really shocked about what I did wrong in writing an analytical essay; summarizing the main points of views on the video had to be one of the points in the paragraphs of the essay. My second essay was mainly based on sentences which followed the same insights of the video.

Also, another thing that I did wrong in writing an analytical essay was to make complexities of different topics. Even though my main theme was to understand how women could overcome the glass ceiling in a male-centered society by using their own language with its social power, my essay had stopped talking about how women overcame the hardships as a process. The topic turned out to be talking about the relationship between women’s linguistic power and women’s social position.

What I learned from my first hardship at Knox was the quote, “No pain, no gain.” Of course, there is nothing achievable unless we make an effort to get it. The most important point in the trying process is never giving up on it. For example, finally I got a C+ as a final grade in the FP class after overcoming the violation of plagiarism. If I had dropped the course when I faced the serious situation of plagiarism, I may not have been able to have the chance to rewrite that paper again. It was definitely difficult for me to go through the process of finishing what was given to me as a punishment of plagiarism. However, because of the difficult time I was able  to re-learn how to write an analytical essay without plagiarism with help from teachers, including the CTL, my professor and a librarian. I had a valuable learning opportunity to understand it all clearly.

Again, if you have to achieve something valuable to yourself, you must keep going on no matter what happens to you. There is no reason to give it up just because of the external conditions which can discourage you. Even if you might not be able to achieve it in turn, as long as you devote yourself to making it happen, it will be another motivation for you to start a new aim. The ending point is another name for a starting point.

Josh Ji

Tags:  adapt Essay honor code international students persistence plagarism

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