The tentative title of my project is “Reframing Intellectual Property in College Classrooms.”
My project starts with the observation that college classrooms are sites of contention where students and faculty negotiate competing discourses of intellectual property. In this study, I examine how teachers and students understand one aspect of intellectual property—plagiarism—through the discourses of another aspect of intellectual property—copyright. And vice-versa, I examine how we understand copyright through plagiarism.
The concept of “reframing” is important because the study deals primarily with the stories we tell about students, composing, and information...
The way that we frame or conceptualize plagiarism and copyright has important implications for education as well as our conception of information ownership more broadly...
This is not a disinterested study of intellectual property discourses. Like many Composition scholars, I am concerned that instructors and university administrators predominantly approach plagiarism through the rhetoric of fear and punishment. This approach has negative pedagogical implications for students because it further mystifies academic writing, glosses over the diversity of values and practices surrounding source use both in and outside of academia, conflicts with our goals as educators, and fails to prepare students to use sources effectively in future writing contexts…. (provide example)
As a teacher of writing, I am interested in identifying ways that instructors and university administrators can move past the current reductive and problematic approach to plagiarism. Some scholars have suggested that copyright, which has gained importance in education as students compose in digital environments, presents an opportunity for positively reframing discourses of plagiarism. These scholars have turned to alternative models of intellectual property from the “copy-left.” Copy-left conceptions of intellectual property challenge the dominant discourse’s emphasis on Romantic authorship and its blindnesses to the social, cultural, and ethical aspects of information ownership.
This study thus enters into larger debates over intellectual property because it argues for a specific conception of intellectual property, one that is sensitive to the social aspects of communication and the ownership of information which are largely ignored in legal or economic-based treatments of intellectual property…
So while our discipline has pointed to copyright as an opportunity to reframe plagiarism and while compositionists are ideologically invested in this change, as of yet we have no systematic studies that provide empirical data on how plagiarism and copyright are currently talked about in college classrooms. My study seeks to provide rich and multilayered account of how copyright and plagiarism are currently framed at one university.
My central research question, then, are these: How are conceptions of intellectual property negotiated in college classrooms through the terms of plagiarism and copyright? What are the implications of this negotiation for student learners?
Although I hope to encounter classrooms where copy-left discourses of intellectual property reframe approaches to plagiarism, I may find that concepts such as copyright might instead be folded under and presented to students in educational contexts through the dominant frames and narratives of plagiarism.
In order to examine how instructors and students negotiate their understanding of intellectual property through the relationships between plagiarism and copyright, I investigate three educational contexts at Washington State University. These contexts are first-year writing courses, upper level writing in the major courses, and library instruction sessions.
I will collect data from course materials, such as plagiarism statements, handouts, and assignment sheets; recordings and notes from class observations; recorded interviews with students and instructors; and copies of student work.
I will use discourse analysis to code these materials and identify patterns in how the narratives of copyright, plagiarism, and intellectual property function in these classrooms.