Search This Lamp

Comments Policy

1. Be courteous.
2. Don't make it personal.
3. Keep it Clean.
4. Don't be a troll.

See more about the comments policy here.  

Note to Spammers: All comments on this blog are moderated. This means that when you post comments linking to your imitation designer handbags, you are wasting your time because I will not approve them. Moreover, I will report you, and your IP address will be banned from all Squarespace sites.

Recent Comments 


Powered by Squarespace
« Top Ten Bible Versions: Revisited (2010) | Main | Official Word (pun intended): STILL No RTL Text Support in Office:Mac (2011) »

Plagiarism Is the Worst Part of Teaching

Clearly, the worst aspect to teaching is dealing with plagiarism—and I'm not referring to the inevitable confrontation about it. That's awkward enough. No, plagiarism is an ethical issue. It's a personal violation on multiple levels. And I grieve to see a student do that to himself or herself no less than I'd grieve to see physical harm come to a student.

Granted there's an initial thrill involved in the "detective" process. However, in the end, knowing that there's a real live person connected to the offense grieves my soul. It grieves me because this person has not only violated the assumed trust between us, but more seriously the student has taken an ethical shortcut, endangering academic status as well personal integrity.

Every time I begin a new class, I warn my students about this. I tell them I assume that they will not plagiarize, but I discuss the issue because I have found that discussing it up fronts cuts down on its occurrence. I implore them to come to me to negotiate turning in a paper late if they are behind in their work. But it still happens. I've actually had students turn in plagiarized papers in the same class where we've had the discussion about it, which along with signed statements that the paper is their own, included at the beginning of the paper, makes the act even more egregious.

I know the difference between carelessness and willful intent. I can handle carelessness or lack of experience citing a source properly and help the student correct these issues. Careless work is not the issue, although I often stress to students that carelessness can result in plagiarism, intended or not.

I suppose that when a student plagiarizes, I ought to feel anger at some level. Yet, that is rarely the emotion I feel. Normally, for those who seek to knowingly pass off work that is not theirs, I can only feel grief (that is indeed the correct emotion).

And sadly, I've dealt with plagiarism at every institution in which I've ever taught, despite the fact that most of these institutions have religious affiliations.

The majority of my students do not plagiarize (or I'm not as good at detecting it as I think I am). Occasionally, I hear from an instructor that he or she never has to deal with plagiarism. All that tells me, based upon my experience and the simple odds of occurrence, is that those individuals are not reading their students' papers closely enough.

Some of the tells for plagiarism are so obvious that I can't imagine a student thinking that there's any chance of getting them past me. I never share the signs of plagiarism with students; why equip them to become better at deception?

I do seem to be "gifted" at detecting plagiarism. I jokingly refer to it as one of my super powers. But ultimately, it's no joking matter because the exercise of this "gift" brings to the forefront how flawed we (as a culture) really are. But I still press forward with idealism and naivete. I really do assume that no student will ever plagiarize again. I will not allow myself prejudice against them.

Surely, I'll never have to send another paper to the dean again...

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (2)

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by R. Mansfield, Rick Stawarz. Rick Stawarz said: Plagiarism Is the Worst Part of Teaching [...]

Hello there,

In the early 90s, some of my university teachers demanded some sort of progress diary together with the final paper. We were to note down what we read, what notes we took, and at times even draft versions of the final paper. It worked!!!!

At the same time I must remember it was a time were most students could not afford a computer and everyone used typing machines. I guess that with word-processors being used by everyone it would be more difficult to establish such a system.

August 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJesús S.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>