Let’s Talk About Sampling and Plagiarism

Amanda Rose Jones and Anijah Perry, Editor, Writer

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The terms sampling and plagiarism mean different things in the literary world. There is a clear difference between what sampling and plagiarism is. Sampling is the taking of a sample or samples. Plagiarism, however, is the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. While the two words mean different things, it has now become common practice for people to often attempt to blur the lines between the two terms and differ the meanings so they can use them for their own benefit. The act of this often resurfaces a question, “where do you draw the line between sampling and plagiarism?” If you sample other’s work too much is your work still original? Or if you give proper recognition is it considered acceptable?

A nationwide project was administered to schools in the United States, to gather information about what students knew about plagiarism and proper citation. This project tested what students knew how to properly sample work. They selected a single line from a poem, or multiple lines and then braided it in so it fit well with the rest of their work. The students used proper citation and it was made sure that proper credit was given to the artist’s work that it was borrowed from. However not all did this. A large percentage of the students used different artist’s work and claimed it as their own. Not only that, but according to statistics taken from a survey of 24,000 students at 70 schools, 58% admitted to plagiarism. One out of three high school students admitted that they used the internet to plagiarize an assignment. This data was also collected from high schools in America. In the project, students sampled other artists work and used it as their own. No matter how small the amount of plagiarism may be, it is plagiarized work because you wrongfully took from an outside source.  It is however, completely irrational to say that work that has sampled bits is unoriginal, because it is only single parts. The single line or couple lines aren’t the entire body of work, and the creator of the new work may have used the sampled bit as inspiration. The work is still original because one section isn’t the final product which can be something greater.

The idea of sampling work is a slippery slope and there are many opinions on the matter. Encouraging students to sample work can foster a use of plagiarism, but at the same time can help students find inspiration and guidance with their work. Teaching students how to use proper citation will show them how to give proper credit. Our argument stands that when determining whether or not work is original or plagiarized when sampling is involved, it all comes down to an opinion. Ours fluctuates which is why we chose to do this article on both topics. Sampling can be a good or a bad thing. In the end, it just depends on the person, the work they did, and how much work they chose to use.

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