Much to my distress, I recently learned that the essay title I have been addressing was one set as an upcoming assignment by another UK educational establishment. I was even more distressed to realize that this was a rather surreal case of my having been briefly exposed to their material and then, when I was researching a suitable assignment to use here, having it pop up in my thoughts as my own creation.
My intention in starting this experiment was to help fellow academic writers rather than to make life more difficult for them, so I have decided to make a complete change of topic. Since I haven’t so much as glanced at or discussed material relating to the new topic for over a year – other than to carry out a brief online search of the relevant terms – I’m satisfied that this new question, ‘Evaluate Freud’s theory of personality’ is my original creation. Of course, it’s original within the parameters of being a fairly generic instruction and a subject widely studied, but I hope at least that it won’t pose an ethical problem for any of the visitors to these sites or their students/tutors.
The new topic clearly has much in common with the old one. It demands much the same approach from the student, and for me has the additional bonus of being even more baffling. Studying personality has been surprising and confusing for me, and many of the related topics are complex and contentious. So it seems like a good area for us to tackle together.
I of course apologise to everyone who has been directly inconvenienced, and also to those of you with a special interest in cognitive psychology. I hope you will continue to visit and contribute, motivated by an interest in the writing process if not by a love of the subject discussed. I’ll begin work on the new title tonight, and of course my rather chastening experience provides an opportunity for you to share your thoughts on the whole issue of originality (already touched upon by Alina, one of our fellow collaborators – see our exchange on the Wiki’s front page).
Naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot about originality. Exactly what actions can be said to violate another’s intellectual property? How can we safeguard against unintentional plagiarism, perpetrated when we have no awareness that we’ve learned rather than originated something? Indeed, given the nature of the problem, is this kind of prevention possible at all? I believe that these are burning questions for everybody who writes, since we emphatically desire to produce fresh, original work. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Finally, another change of tack for us will be the way in which I use the facilitating technology. It has been pointed out to me that most of the contributions received have been to the blog rather than the Wiki. It was therefore suggested that I publish my notes, thoughts and reflections on the blog, saving the Wiki for coherent pieces of writing. I think this is a great idea, and will hopefully enable more of you to add your ideas and responses with the minimum of fuss.