Thursday, November 20, 2014

A question for the Plagiarism Police

Here's the situation: The paper is due tomorrow and you've already read and responded to student drafts a week ago. A student whose draft was barely there asks you to look over another draft just in case he missed anything. You quickly skim his draft, note tremendous improvement except for a few format and grammar problems, and then get the sinking feeling that part of this work was copied and pasted from somewhere else. How do you respond?

1. Google the suspicious passage, locate the online source, and tell the student he's getting an F on the paper and you're writing him up for plagiarism.

2. Google the suspicious passage, locate the online source, and warn the student that he'd better rewrite the plagiarized sections before submitting the paper for grading.

3. Send the student an e-mail (paper trail!) reminding him of the importance of properly punctuating and citing sources and suggesting that if he has unintentionally (!) copied and pasted from online sources without proper punctuation and citation, he will get an F on the paper. Then Google the suspicious passage, locate the online source, and wait for the student to submit the paper for grading so you can pounce on the plagiarized passages and give him his well-deserved F.

Some sub-points to consider:
a. Would the level of the course affect your answer? (First-year vs. sophomore vs. upper-level?)
b. Would the time of year affect your answer? (First major assignment vs. final paper?)
c. Would your previous experience with the student affect your answer? (Reliable but rushed student vs. committed slacker?)

I know how I would deal with this because I've just done one of these three things this week, but one of the occupational hazards of thinking for a living is that I never stop second-guessing myself. So let me know what you would do and then I'll share what I actually did.



LJL said...

I would do 3, regardless of the student, tme of year, or course level. Plagiarism irks me so that i have a script for how to deal with it. I never vary from it as otherwise I'd need to invest too much time and thought into it. What did you do?

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I'd probably do 2 or 3. 1 seems like jumping the gun, as the person hasn't officially turned it in yet.

I would be madder about it at the end of the year, especially in a composition class where we hammer over and over on appropriate citation and avoiding plagiarism.

Bardiac said...

3 seems like what I'd probably do, I hope.

Well, at least since drawing and quartering seem to be frowned upon by administration.

Fretful Porpentine said...

2, but I'm a soft touch and I work in a state where both high schools and community colleges do a piss-poor job of teaching this stuff.

Bev said...

Thanks for your responses. I normally do #3 and that's what I did in this case, although early in the semester in a freshman class I'd be more likely to choose #2. For the student who has experienced option #2 and then plagiarizes again later...well, that's where drawing and quartering would come in handy.

Laura said...

How annoying. How many times do you have to say the same thing? A wise person once told me: "Ignorance is a renewable resource". That's job security.

Rebecca said...

Since I work with mostly first-year students, 2 is my most common response. For some reason, they have a difficult time internalizing the fact that changing a word or two does not a paraphrase make, and that even paraphrases and summaries have to be cited. (If only I had a dollar for every time I've heard, "We have to cite even if we use our own words?!?")