Monday, December 19, 2005

If my philosophy of science students read this blog ...

...they'd have some sense of my view of plagiarism and they'd maybe think twice. But if they don't read the assigned reading (or, you know, the syllabus), they probably aren't going to read this blog.

Especially lame venues for plagiarism I have discovered this term:

  • Online discussion threads. The idea is to use the discussions to grapple with difficult readings. As such, it is possible to get full marks for the discussion while essentially admitting that the reading made no sense to you at all -- provided you actually make an attempt to spell out what you're confused about, ask others in the discussion questions, etc. Why, oh why, would you cut and paste something smart-sounding about the general topic of the reading from some professor's web page and use that, without any attribution, as your "contribution" to the discussion?
  • Extra-credit assignments. Do they not realize what a big concession it is for me to offer extra credit in the first place? The course was designed with enough credit, as well as ways to cushion the effects of crises on one's grade. (For example, one can choose in which 10 of the 15 designated reading discussions to participate, the lowest of the short essays is dropped from the grade, etc.) Extra credit is mostly extra grading for me. So, given that I'm already grumpy, an obviously plagiarised response to the extra credit (of which I detected two today) makes my head burst into flames.
  • Keeping it in the family. Short essays are one of the venues in which you expect to find plagiarism, so mine are somewhat idiosyncratic. Most of the papers-for-sale don't really fit the questions the students need to answer in their short essays, so their best hope for dishonesty is to cheat off another student's essay, and so far, there haven't been a lot of students willing to accommodate the needs of the would-be plagiarist. But this term, a student emailed me late essays. Thing is, when I downloaded them and opened them up, they didn't have his name on them, but his girlfriend's. (She's in the class, too.) None of the other words in the essays had changed since she first handed them in, either.

I get that not all the people registered for my classes think they're all that important. But in that case, why not have a frickin' backbone and admit it? Don't try to put one over on me. Accept the grade you earn thinking your own thoughts and writing them in your own words. Be a grown-up!

That said, the grades are submitted!!

Please stand by. Our regular program will resume momentarily.

Update: Via Inside Higher Ed, this post about the paper mills. Given the typos in their ad, I'm not sure the papers would be worth the money. Also, despite claims that is powerless to detect high-quality paper mill papers the way Google sniffs out papers pasted together from internet sources, it's worth noting that Turnitin also checks submitted papers against other student papers submitted to Turnitin. Just one other human being using the same paper (say, due to a clerical error at the paper mill) and your ass is grass.

Sloppy work on the part of the hired paper-writer, of course, can also put you on the hook for plagiarism.

What most dishonest students seem not to realize is that we're tipped off to plagiarism by writing styles that sound nothing like our students. Please don't underestimate our intelligence!


At 4:58 AM, Blogger JM said...

Color me unsurprised.

At 10:05 AM, Blogger Unlearned Hand said...

You want to be cruel? Demand drafts handed in with all assignments. Cheating might in fact be more self evident, and on the manipulative self-interested side, you probably get a better product to read.


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