As a college sophomore in the late ’80s, I didn’t have the benefit of Wikipedia or the Google. Instead, the holy grail of research was a black and yellow study guide called CliffsNotes. These heaven-sent summaries of major literary works were a lot easier to read than the originals.
During one quarter, I took a philosophy class where I was assigned to write an essay on Plato’s The Republic. It was springtime in the Bay Area, so the last thing I wanted to do was write the essay. After a visit to the campus bookstore, I devised a strategy to quickly complete my assignment: Summarize the CliffsNotes, and then tack on some class lecture notes. I thought my plan was foolproof — until the professor returned my essay a couple of weeks later. In bright red, he marked comments up and down the margins and in between paragraphs,