I don’t know how common plagiarism is in courses with traditional essays and term papers, but experience has taught me that it can easily creep into blog-based work. Over the years (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012a, 2012b), I have learned that just because it is obviously shameful, and just because the university thinks likewise, and just because avoiding it seems like common sense, I still need to work hard to head it off. That is worth the time and energy investment because prosecuting a student for academic integrity violation is never fun and very time consuming. And we don’t want well meaning students falling foul of the rules simply because their schooling prepared them inadequately.
So again this year, I made sure the Academic Integrity section in the syllabus was clear, and the links up to date. I then did a session in class on plagiarism (Sept 8, early in Week 3). In that, I spent 10+ minutes going over the excellent TLT tutorial on plagiarism. Using that tutorial, I particularly emphasized the problem that sets in when students copy text from another site. I urged them to put quote marks around any such text as soon as they copy it, so it can never ‘accidentally’ become their own text. And I went on at great length about how using their own words is a way to get a great grade. Using someone else’s in quote marks is ok, but if it is the vast bulk of the post, it won’t get a very good grade. But using someone else’s without quote marks is academic theft, the most serious academic integrity violation. I also made it very clear I would not hesitate to prosecute any cases we find, and pointed out that one reason I was saying all this was so that I could say I had said it all when it came to prosecuting any cases (I know, but such is the bizarre world we now live in).
And having learned from previous years, I took attendance that day so I would know who would be there, and then after class, I sent an email to all the students:
As discussed in class today, plagiarism is totally unacceptable in all circumstances.
The tutorial I discussed today is at http://tlt.psu.edu/plagiarism/student-tutorial/ That has an outstandingly good discussion of what to do to avoid giving even the slightest hint of plagiarism. Please look at it. The last page of our SC200 syllabus has detail and links on the legal situation.
If you are worried or not sure about how to cite or quote, ask your TAs for advice. If in doubt, ask. If you ever feel even the slightest little temptation to deliberately commit plagiarism, don’t….. Instead, reach out to me. I am always available to discuss any circumstances that got you to that point. Remember: plagarism is theft. Just don’t do it. It demeans us all.
-quoted from email from A.Read to SC200 students 9/8/2015
All of that might have made a difference, but sadly it did not reduce the plagiarism to zero. I had to report two students on academic violation. Both were in class on Sept 8.
After the academic violation paperwork on those two cases moved to the next step, I sent that email around the class again, this time adding above it:
I now have two students on academic integrity violations over plagiarism on the blog. Plagiarism is extremely serious, and also easily detected by plagiarism software. Please, please, please review the tutorial below. There is no excuse for plagiarism. If you ever, ever, ever find yourself copying and pasting, put quote marks around the material “like this” , so that you never run the risk of trying to pass someone else’s work off as your own. Quoting large chunks of someone else’s material won’t get you a great grade, but at least if it is in quote marks, it is not an integrity violation. Lightly editing someone else’s work and trying to pass that off as your own is even worse. Use your own words. If in doubt, ask the TAs.
Plagiarism is intellectual theft, and the university takes it as seriously as I do. There is NO excuse. Don’t do it. Seriously, it demeans us all.
-quoted from email from A. Read to SC200 students Oct 5, 2015
I so hope that will be the end of the plagiarism. But I dunno. I was in a shop downtown Saturday when the person working there discovered some merchandise had been stolen. I was told it was students who did that – they catch them quite often. But it is too much work to get the police involved, and nothing comes of it anyway. Evidently the students aren’t even apologetic or worried about being caught.
In all of this, I try to focus on the many students with integrity, the ones who are engaged. They are very rewarding. I hope in the end, they do the best in the world.
Image cut and pasted direct from blog.c22.cc, as suggested by the author