Student Plagiarism

I really wish I had the time to dedicate more than one session on each major assignment. For some students this is not enough. In a perfect world students would come to campus with strong time management skills and feel prepared for the rigors of academic life in the classroom. The reality is that many are not yet able to integrate source material well into their papers. Many also do not know how to cite, quote or even paraphrase.

There are also those times when students go further and plagiarize. At times some will do this unintentionally. They think that adding a “the” or another word to a quote is paraphrasing. Other students will outright copy and paste large passages and not attribute the source. In 99% of these cases I have found that when confronted the students are wholly apologetic and either admit to the plagiarism or offer that they did not realize that they were plagiarizing.

When I think that I need to upload a paper in to Turnitin, which is a plagiarism software program, I actually have a feeling of dread. I do not want to “catch” a student. I am most concerned with academic integrity and my hope is that the report will find that there is one sentence that was not attributed properly and then the bibliography comes up as a source, as it should. But, when the report finds one to two dozen hits I feel frustrated. I review the report line by line to differentiate between poor attribution or worse.

Contacting the student for a meeting is not fun either. I am prepared for anger, tears, denial and acceptance. I find that few students are angry. Most will own up to it and say some of these things: I knew it was a poor paper. It was not by best work. I was so tired that I did not pay attention. I did not think you would catch it.

My ultimate hope is that the student will learn from this and never do it again. And, more importantly my hope is that the student will work in his or her writing and pull from sources in a more efficient manner next term. I can only hope so!

2 thoughts on “Student Plagiarism

  1. I wonder how much of this is also related to students not really understanding what they’re using sources for and what we are expecting of them. many read articles and books for information and facts not arguments. If you think something is a fact, where you learned about it is less important than it is if you think something is a position in a debate that you are engaging with.

    I think we need to more explicitly teach disciplinary literacies. Reading is a complex activity and the kind of reading, and writing, we require of them is fundamentally different from what they have done before. Maybe we wish they have done this kind of work before they get toi higher education but the evidence does not suggest it.

    • Dear Jo: It’s so true. I consulted with the Chair and we’re going to have workshops dedicated to writing a Political Science paper. The major issue for my first years was attribution errors. It wasn’t always outright source lifting, but the proper integration and proper attribution errors. And, this will only be learned with more writing. Frankly, many of them are not learning this in high school. Add to the list of things that we need to do.

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