Factual Plagiarism? or Incorrect Definitions?
I recently received a 0% on a major exam in a class of mine. The exam called for the overview and explanation of the history, art, literature, and architecture for four different Islamic empires through history. I spent over 5 hours working on what ended up being a 1747 word paper detailing the same four aspects for the same four empires. Sounds pretty straight forward. I got a 0% for plagiarism.
Needless to say, I was overcome with shock and confusion. The last time I was accused of plagiarism was in first grade when we were supposed to write an original story and I recreated the Titanic, illustrations included, instead. In college the same rules apply, apparently. How could such a laborious yet straight forward assignment end in such ruinous circumstance? My teacher made the argument that I had “copied entire sentences and pasted them into the exam” which meant that I had plagiarized which he defined as “taking someone else’s work and trying to pass it off as your own.” While I understand that to be a very simple and generic definition, I don’t believe it applies here.
My argument bases itself on the notion of Objective vs. Subjective work. Objective in this sense will be comprised of all works and information that makes its focus primarily on facts. These facts include dates, times, locations, names etc. Basically every boring history class imaginable. Subjective on the other had will comprise anything that uses an individual’s own imagination, creativity, insight, or opinion. Subjective works rely on the interpretation of these objective facts. They comprise themselves of these facts while organizing them to make an overall statement. The question then is why I believe my exam did not contain any plagiarism.
The nature of my exam was to provide histories, overviews, and summations for the humanities of differing Islamic empires. No question on my exam asked me to share an insight, or an opinion about these various humanities. Since my exam was all based on factual, objective information, and since the instructor allowed for an open book, open resource test, I had absolutely no ill feelings about using my resources to compose my paper with all the necessary facts, dates, times, and places needed to give everything factual credit and placement in history. These dates and names have been used all across the scholarly world for as long as folks have found interest in the topics. I, in no way, see copying the name and date of an individual out of a book as a form of plagiarism. How could it? Did I steal some form of intellectual property? Did someone’s hard work and creativity about the placement of the name in front of the date spark unrest in their heart?
In a paper asking for facts and objective information, but not cited sources, have I done anything wrong by looking up the date to a battle and beginning a sentence with it?