« When Reagan really was Right | Main | A not-so-short academic autobiography »

June 07, 2004


Jonathan Dresner


I've never noticed a strong ethnic bias in my plagiarism cases.

But doesn't Federal law prohibit us from revealing a student's grade to a third party without consent? I suppose giving you a postcard instead of an envelope consitutes some form of consent....

This semester there was less blatant plagiarism than usual. But there was a lot of memorizing of the book coming back to me on in-class tests, which was troubling for a variety of reasons.


My aunt is a high school teacher in Utah and got the exact same paper turned in by two of her students. Another student had apparently just cut and paste things from the internet into a word document and made no attempt to even format them. There were different fonts, sizes, margins, spacing, etc. One paragraph had even been literally cut out and taped onto the page. Periodically throughout the paper the student had taken a black felt marker and crossed words or entire lines out. I can imagine it would be more frustrating to have that happen at the college level. It's hard for me to imagine that students don't think they'll get caught despite the fact that there's often a fairly impressive alphabet soup after our professors' names and plenty of technology to help them. And of course, there's always google.


might have something to do with a comment you once posted to the effect, read the first and last paragraph and one sentence in between, then grade appropriately. but then bleeding heart liberals have never been accused of being consistent. :)

"I was getting ready to explain why it is that my main field of interest as a professor is gender studies, even though my doctoral degree is in English medieval political and ecclesiastical history." Hugo Schwyzer (personal weblog) june 4, 2004

patiently waiting for this post

Brian Auten


I seem to get about 2-3 cases per academic quarter. This even after I've warned them, shown them different 'types' of plagiarism, warned them again, etc. We'll see what happens this round. Last week, I already warned one young woman about plagiarism in a draft that she turned in -- last night, she thanked me and stated that she was glad to get the warning because she fears that she's plagiarized in all of her classes (citation, but exact wording and no quotation marks, so there's no way of telling where her words stop and someone else's begin).

Col Steve

Hugo - Has your college considered adopting an honor code? Surely there is at least a standards of academic conduct in the student handbook.


We do have an honor code, and violators can get be placed on probation or dismissed from the college.


I always find it amazing that students think we won't figure out that they've plagiarized. Usually, it's pretty damn obvious. I had one case where the student wrote two paragraphs in barely standard, badly constructed prose, shifted for two paragraphs to a Freudian psycho-sexual analysis way beyond anything presented in class, in complicated prose, and then back to the student's badly mangled own work.

I don't feel quite so bad about giving the F in that case. if you're stupid enough to submit an assignment as above, you probably shouldn't pass the class to begin with.

Col Steve

Hugo - thanks. I took the time to read PCC handbook..I like the fact it has a citizenship portion that puts plagiarism into that category as well as academic honesty and that instructors have the ability to reprimand students in addition to recommending more severe actions.

Although it's an issue between you, the student, and the college, I hope given your view that this kind of conduct represents "profound depravity," that you're taking additional action.

The hardest part in an honor code system - and many leave out this part - is internalizing the "nor tolerate those who do."

Brian Auten

Nate's comments ring so true. It's even more apparent when the student's first language isn't English.

My favorite recent example is a student who used "labour" instead of "labor". He (a) wasn't British and (b) wasn't writing about British politics). A trip to google and all was made clear...


I haven't noticed any ethnic biases in plagiarism cases either, unless "fratertities" and "sororities" count as ethnicities.


My mother (an adjunct prof of composition and a first year seminar course at a small liberal arts college in Ohio) has to deal with plagiarism ALL THE TIME. So much so, in fact, that she has become somewhat of an "expert" in dealing with it, so has been asked to lead training seminars for other profs at the college. I have a feeling she has become an "expert" because she actually deals with students who plagiarize quite strictly, taking the college honor code seriously.

Also, being a composition teacher, she can spot with an eagle eye differences in writing style, etc. (although I suspect it's not that hard to do!) and of course, as others have mentioned, Google makes it quite easy to find sources cribbed from the internet. She's busted many a student that way...


I remember well the terror you struck into my heart over plagiarism is your class. I remember that paper being particularly difficult to write, as my subject was somewhat obscure and my knowledge of it came solely from one source. I think I cited every single paragraph even though if they didn't contain direct quotes. Sadly, having worked in a university environment myself, I too have noticed that there was a particular group of people who didn't seem to have the same stigma attached to cheating that others do. In one case, a girl that I caught cheating slashed my tires, so watch out! Revenge is a dish best served cold (cue ominous music).


In this litigious age, i suggest you have a clearly written plagiarism policy to hand out to students on the first day of class. Some students, and their parents too, might be willing to fight an F in court.


Well, the only ones I have flunked so far are students whose papers are clearly taken from the Internet. You can't argue with a webpage that contains your paper word for word, and is uncited in your bibliography.

Still, I might put it in writing. What I tell my students is that my punishment is an F. If they contest it, I turn over all the evidence to the vice-president for academic affairs, who initiates disciplinary action. Never met anyone who wanted to go that route.


Ok, so I'm a year and a half late, but the issue still lives, right? I bumped into this site while making last minute adjustments to a paper I am about to present at a Business English conference in a few days. The paper deals with the headaches of rooting out plagiarism and teaching student show to avoid it in a collectivist culture where posters advertising sales of pirate copies of CDs and DVDs adorn numerous bus stop shelters and electricity poles around town. I find that it is not that difficult to teach students that plagiarism is considered wrong in Western cultures and will not be tolerated in my classroom. iIt is far more difficult to make them understand why. They find it all very silly, as a matter of fact. They find all kinds of excuses for why it is perfectly acceptable for them to plagiarize - if they only do it "a little", if the paper is not "really important", if the topic is "stupid"... When confronted with the fact that American students plagiarize (and in general) cheat much less often (case in point - I usually find anywhere from 30% to 50% of the assignments turned in to be plagiarized in some way), one of my students just recently said it was because Americans never had to struggle to survive the same way we have, and it is acceptable for our students to plagiarize, because of our political situation (post-war, post-communism), which makes the use of any means necessary to survive perfectly ok. Have you ever heard a more original (and, of course, non-sensical) excuse??

scottsdale medical marijuana

I just hope they won't. And it's not late after all, someone has probably figured this out.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Regular reads

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 01/2004