Bigger Pictures: Self-Plagiarism? Oh Yeah, It’s a Thing

“I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; 

l looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”

     ~  Woody Allen

In the Mansion of Plagiarism, there are many rooms. Most are familiar. There’s the Great Hall of Blatant Theft, where aggressive plagiarists expropriate the work of others and attempt to pass it off as their own, to say nothing of the Parlor of Poor Paraphrasing and the Gallery of Insufficient Citation.

While the Coat Closet of Self-Plagiarism has always been on the Mansion of Plagiarism Tour, it’s just easy to breeze by. So let’s take this opportunity to linger a moment and rummage around and see just what’s hanging out.

As far as students go, the most common self-plagiarism involves “recycling” a paper, either in part or in its entirety. In other words, say you write a paper for one class. Then, in another class covering similar or related topics, you elect to use the paper from the previous class. What’s the problem?

The problem begins (as so many problems do) with a rationalization. The rationalization for committing self-plagiarism boils down to ownership – I’m not stealing somebody else’s work, its mine to begin with. Thus ends the rationalization.

The Code of Academic Integrity has some news for this particular rationalization. You simply are not permitted to pass off previously submitted work as new work.  And if you didn’t know deep down in the utter depths of your very soul that recycling your entire paper wasn’t wrong… well, you do now.

But what if you decide to use just part of the paper, not the whole thing, just some of it, that couldn’t possibly be wrong, could it? Well, you’re right, there’s nothing wrong with using some of your original paper, so long as you clearly cite it and, of course, follow the formatting requirements of the required style manual, most commonly Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), or the Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago). But remember, all the usual rules of quoting and paraphrasing apply.  For instance you wouldn’t turn in a 10 page paper with a direct quote stretching a page and a half in bloc form from any source, would you? Well, don’t.

Anyway, it’s getting stuffy in here, and closets are for mothballs, not students.

By Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor, Weingarten Learning Resources Center, UPENN



Tips for Work-Life Balance Over Thanksgiving Break


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Every November, hundreds of students leave Campus for Thanksgiving feasts and quality time with family and friends. Others may use this four-day break to travel, or stay local and enjoy fall activities in Philadelphia. For those struggling to finish papers and study for upcoming exams, Thanksgiving can also be a challenging time. Finding the motivation to draft a literature review or work through math problems might be yawn-inducing, especially after generous helpings of turkey and pie. But for many students, some study time is a must. Depending on your academic program, there may be only two full weeks of class after Thanksgiving break! Read the tips below to balance work and play over break, so you can return to Campus feeling confident and ready to finish the semester strong.

Tip #1: Make a Plan

Before you leave for break, sit down and make a plan for how you will tackle the rest of the semester. This might include using a calendar to map out your remaining papers and final exams. Next, break down the steps it will take to complete each major assignment. You may also wish to reserve time in your calendar each week with activities like studying, research, and writing. This will also help you determine what tasks, if any, you need to complete over break.

Tip #2: Set Boundaries

If you are leaving Campus, you may have friends and family that are eager to see you — at all hours of the day and night! If you know that you do need to spend some time studying over break, set goals for what you would like to accomplish. You may also wish to set clear expectations in advance or at the beginning of break. Treat your study time like you would a solid plan with friends or family. It may be helpful to head to a quiet cafe or public library if the place you are staying in is noisy

Tip #3: Treat Yo Self!

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, use the break to celebrate and acknowledge everything you have accomplished so far this semester. Give thanks to yourself for working hard to achieve your goals, and the others that have supported you in this journey. Cherish that extra slice of pie, daytime nap, and quality time with someone you care about.

By Staff Writer: Jen Kobrin, Learning Fellow, Weingarten Learning Resources Center


Bigger Pictures: Mind Your Metaphors

Metaphors of Memory“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

     ~  Kurt Vonnegut

Many years ago I stumbled onto Douwe Draaisma’s Metaphors of Memory.  My copy of his slim volume has been lost to lending, or sits in one of many water-tight boxes in a super-secret book storage facility at an undisclosed location known only by the code name “Cherry Hill, New Jersey”.  If I told you any more of the super-secret book storage facility just off Route 38, well…I digress.

What I’m saying is that I’m going by memory here, my memory of a book I read and then reread in sections over a decade ago.  But, in broad strokes, as I think I remember it, Draaisma says that as scientists and philosophers through human history have grappled with this thing called “the mind,” especially this key function called “memory,” they have, in their struggle, resorted to metaphors of external storage to explain something – memory – that is internal and intangible.

As our technology changed over the centuries so did our metaphors:  Tabla rasa (the blank slate).  Building a memory palace.  “Photographic” memory.  To say nothing of our current techno blurring of mind and machine – my current favorite being when people tell me that “I just don’t have the bandwidth,” like all they need to do to pass Physics is upgrade to the Xfinity X1 platform.   What all these technology metaphors have in common is that they reduce memory to a question of data storage.

Memory is so tied up with learning that it’s too easy to forget that one is not the other.  Anyone who has ever tried to memorize – data point storage style – 329 Power Point slides can attest to the fact that there’s something missing.  Students here at Dear Old Penn are rarely asked to regurgitate simple data points on exams, like they’re pulling up contact information on an alleged smart phone.  Simple storage techniques arising from simple storage metaphors do not equal learning and won’t get the job done in these parts, mainly because you’re a human being and not an overpriced device that goes obsolete in 18 months.

Which is all well and good, but isn’t helping me remember what I did with my copy of Metaphors of Memory….

By Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor, Weingarten Learning Resources Center, UPENN


Featured Study Spot: Penn Law School

If you are looking for some variation to your usual study spots at Penn, consider Penn Law School. The study and collaboration facilities at the Penn Law School offers choice, versatility, support, nourishment and ecological access. It is located at 3501 Sansom StreetPhiladelphiaPA 19104. While you can typically gain access to the Law School with a Penn ID, please check for any changes to access for non-Penn Law School students during special Law School schedules, including final exam times, etc.

The Law School is comprised of four interconnected buildings surrounding a central courtyard (Map of Law School Complex): Silverman Hall, Gittis Hall, Tanenbaum Hall, and Golkin Hall, with Silverman being the most traditional, and Golkin the most modern. You can take a  Online Self-Guided Tour of the Law School Complex.

First, let’s pause to admire the beauty of the combined architecture styles, where the original, old and traditional co-exist fluidly with the new, contemporary and modern:

Now let’s hunt for your desired type of study space based on your preferences or mood for the day:

Biddle Law Library

This library is great if you prefer absolute silence.


Rooftop Terraces

Lounge Spaces

Gathering Spaces

There are enclosed rooms too. First check protocols for reservations, if applicable.

Relax and Nourish

And there is much, much more! If you’re looking for a change of scenery, and would appreciate an array of choices, versatility, nourishment and/or outdoors spaces – all in one complex – we hope you will explore the Penn Law School as a possible study spot for you!

Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow, Weingarten Learning Resources Center.




Preparing for Exams: Shifting Mindsets


At Weingarten, we often get questions about preparing for exams:

But, how do I know if I have studied enough?

is a familiar refrain from students in our workshops. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. One thing we don’t recommend is the practice of “cramming,” or intense studying for a few days or a few hours before an exam. When cramming for a test, you are only learning in the sense that information goes into short term memory, meaning that you may or may not retain the information on test day — and you definitely won’t be able to use the information for any “real-life” application or situation down the road, such as a job, research fellowship, or summer internship.

Instead, preparing for exams starts at the beginning of the semester. From the first week of class, you should be engaging with active study strategies, and setting aside time to review. But what do we mean by “active study”?

  1. First, create a plan for yourself.
    • If you are not used to setting your own schedule, don’t be to discouraged if you go off course.
    • Notice where you might need to make adjustments.
    • Each week is a new opportunity to create a plan for when you will study and stick to it!
  2. Next, make sure you are spending some of your study hours going back and reviewing old material.
    • For classes focused on problem-solving, this may mean going back to old concepts that caused you difficulty.
    • The trick is finding new problems to keep you mentally active, instead of reading over old problems and their solutions.
  3. Finally, Weingarten is here to help you succeed!
    • Interested in making a one on one appointment with a learning instructor or attending a workshop? You can find more information here.

What is one thing you can do this week 

to make a positive change in your study habits?

Also, check out this great archived blog entry, Making It Stick, which is packed with active study strategies and ideas for visual learners.

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow, Office of Learning Resources, Weingarten Learning Resources Center, UPENN.

Mindful Transitions

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”  – Nikki Giovanni


Whether you are an undergraduate living away from home for the first time, a graduate student new to Philadelphia, or even a returning student planning for life after Penn, chances are you are undergoing a period of transition. As the semester begins, it’s important to recognize that we are all experiencing change in one form or another. Although this can bring uncertainty–sometimes manifesting as anxiety, or lack of focus–there is also an upside. Transitions can lead to tremendous personal growth. In the words of the poet Maya Angelou,

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
  • Have there been times when you felt frustrated this semester?
  • Did you get lost on the way to a new class, or struggle to understand an assignment or reading?

In addition to feeling frustrated (because this is a valid way to feel!), try to acknowledge these moments as a vital part of your journey – as a student, a learner, a thinker, and a member of the Penn community.

While transitions are necessary, there are ways to make them gentler on your mind and body. Notice how you are feeling. If you experience negative thoughts, like “this is too hard,” “I’m frustrated,” “I feel lost,” or “I’m not smart enough,” try to stop judging yourself or comparing yourself to others.

Instead, realize these thoughts are normal, take a deep breath, and let them go. Don’t forget to pay attention to your body. You might feel tired, or tense, or hungry at hours that are not normal for you. Try to attend to what your body needs, whether it’s more sleep, a long walk, or eating delicious and healthy food.

Wherever you are in your academic journey, remember that the staff of the Weingarten Learning Resources Center are always here for you. Whether it’s helping with time management skills, identifying additional resources on Campus, or just talking through how you will manage a stressful week, we are committed to helping all Penn students cope with transitions!

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow, Office of Learning Resources, Weingarten Learning Resources Center, UPENN.


Make This Semester Your Best One Yet!

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Welcome Back to Campus!

It’s hard to believe how quickly summer went by. Here at Weingarten we are excited to have you back! We have collected some tips over the years to help you start this semester off strong and make this semester the best one yet.

1. Make a plan.

Before the semester gets too busy, write down all of your obligations, including
exams, projects, quizzes, trips, and parties for your classes, jobs, clubs,
organizations, and personal commitments. Adjust your schedule to ensure you
have time for each.

2. Make your health a priority.

Schedule time for you now. Make taking care of your health a habit early in the
semester. Decide when and how you can take time to ensure you are doing what
you need to do to stay physically healthy and active.

3. Make time for sleep.

Make a night time routine for yourself now. Getting a good night’s sleep increases
your success and focus in your academic and personal pursuits. Try to keep a
schedule so that you can be the healthiest and most productive you.

4. Make personal appointments.

Schedule any appointments you will need this semester (doctor, dentist, therapist,
counselor). Once the semester gets going, it’s easy to brush these to the wayside.

5. Make appointments with campus resources.

Schedule appointments with Penn Libraries, Career Services, Academic Advisors, or
the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. Get to know the resources on campus
now so that you are more comfortable reaching out for help later!

6. Get to know people in your classes, in your residence hall, in your clubs
and organizations.

Attend events and programming here at Penn with your friends, hallmates, and
classmates! The University of Pennsylvania is a place where we can all grow
personally and academically. Make the time to be a part of a community where
we can learn and grow together this semester.


Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Fellow and Learning Instructor