Poetic Power

A Creative Communication blog

What Is Originality?

on June 1, 2012

ImageIn judging contests for student writers, defining what is original is not an easy question.  The challenge comes with the entries that are shades of non-originality.  If a student gives credit to an author and takes just a few words, we allow that to happen.  In other cases, teachers will have an assignment where each student “patterns” their poem after one such as Shel Silverstein’s “Whatifs” poem.  However, if too much is borrowed, or credit is not given, the poem is not accepted.

Each year with the poetry and essay contests we discover hundreds of students who send in work that ranges from the Beatles to Langston Hughes and the student has submitted it as their own work. Word for word, there is no shade of gray when it is an exact copy.  My favorite plagiarist happened a few years ago with a poem titled “Honesty”.  

We spend hundreds of hours searching for poems that we suspect are not original.  When we do find a poem or essay that we deem is a case of plagiarism, then we reject the entry.  If the student has returned a signed proofsheet then we also contact the parents and the school.  We are educators and we hope that there can be a “Teaching Moment” for the students who are found to be plagiarists.
There are millions of poems and it is hard to catch every non-original poem.  But we take this challenge of only accepting original poems very seriously.

To learn more about our national writing contests, please visit www.PoeticPower.com.

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