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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: April ::
Re: Plagiarism and Update
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0926  Wednesday, 3 April 2002

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 12:43:49 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0899 Re: Plagiarism and Update

[2]     From:   Peter Paolucci <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 15:38:54 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0910 Re: Plagiarism and Update

[3]     From:   L. Swilley <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Apr 2001 17:39:33 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Plagiarism, and students' ignorance of it


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 12:43:49 -0600
Subject: 13.0899 Re: Plagiarism and Update
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0899 Re: Plagiarism and Update

David Wilson-Okamura asks,

> Don, could you say a bit more about how this works better than an
> accusation of plagiarism? If you can't prove plagiarism, how do you
> persuade the putative offender to write that replacement paper? I can
> see how this might work with a student who already feels guilty or
> nervous; but in my experience a lot of students don't.

I don't persuade. I threaten. I have given them the time to re-do the
paper and told them why I won't accept the first one. If they want to
try and prove that the work is wholly original, I am more than willing
to re-consider. But I have to have a paper I'm sure is theirs before
I'll pass them.

It may have more to do with the kind of student. When I taught college I
encountered a fair number of students who were of the cynical sort you
refer to. For them the program was not a discipline to be endured but a
system to be beaten. For the past nine years, I've been teaching at a
gifted high school and have far fewer of that sort, because (I think) of
both age and intelligence. (A lot of rather dumb individuals attend
college in this country (the U.S.), though not so dumb that they can't
figure out ways of doing the work without doing the work.)

I think that a statement on your syllabus explaining the rule (that they
have to be able to show that the work is original or it may be rejected)
is all that's required to keep yourself "on the windy side of the law."

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Paolucci <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Apr 2002 15:38:54 -0500
Subject: 13.0910 Re: Plagiarism and Update
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0910 Re: Plagiarism and Update

This recent exchange on plagiarism only skims the surface of the
problem. Here are some of the core issues:

1/ The etymological root of plagiarism includes a sense of "kidnapping"
and "man-stealing;" it is a serious offence that undermines the
integrity of the institution, the course, the instructor, and most of
all, it demeans the work done by the "grinders," those diligent students
who earn C's the honest way.

2/ I estimate 80% of my students cheat in some way, with a full range of
offences ranging from "faking" a "works cited" entry, right up to paying
$600 for a first year essay in Humanities. Academic Integrity
(http://www.academicintegrity.org/) estimates the plagiarism rate at
75%.

3/ Faculty are overworked and not as highly rewarded for teaching and
marking as they are for research (I disregard totally what most
institutions claim they are doing for teaching). We can't track every
suspected case because we do not have time or the patience. University
administrators need to respond positively to this workload crisis, and
do so quickly.

4/ And even if we do catch a plagiarist, the formal processes for
investigating and/or charging a student are cumbersome by definition, in
order to protect the innocent. The result is most faculty prefer to
dodge this route at all costs. Who can blame them?

5/ Many of us still mark on paper not digitally, and we do not archive
from one year to the next. This makes searching for repeated (or
hauntingly familiar) phrases even in our own back yard, quite impossible

6/ The use of de-skilling learnware like Web CT, Lotus Notes Quick Place
and MANY others, is increasingly popular because all that's required is
superficial knowledge of the Learnware environment itself. It holds the
promise of modestly good results without demanding any substantive, open
standards technological expertise. We put courses online without
insisting that students or faculty have any quantifiable training on
Internet technologies. When students become frustrated, they are more
inclined to cheat. In the online environment, most faculty do not know
how to detect even simple things fraudulent email senders, nor do they
know more sophisticated things like how the powerful "auto summarize"
function in MSWord can be used to re-work (and disguise) plagiarized
content. With students driven by desperation to cheat, and faculty in a
remarkably naive state about dishonesty, the situation is a dry powder
keg.

7/ We are significantly responsible for encouraging our students to
cheat because we give them mixed messages by insisting that they be
graded and evaluated individually, but by simultaneously requiring them
to work collaboratively in groups, online and in class.

8/ We are also responsible for the increase in plagiarism because at
every turn we confirm the students' suspicions that they are largely
anonymous and unnoticed in the educational environment. Longer admit
waits, longer line-ups, bigger classes, and faculty who never use
students' first names
nor want to know anything else about their private lives, all make the
educational experience LACKING IN HUMAN INTIMACY. It's much easier to
cheat when you have no personal stake or relationship with your
instructor. Like some medical specialists, we've stopped looking at the
whole person; we only see "my 3rd year Shakespeare student"

9/ The cost of education has gone up disproportionately to the cost of
living. In 1970 it took me 4 weeks (gross pay at minimum wage) to earn
the equivalent of my first year's tuition. Now it takes a student almost
3 months work to earn that money (in Canada anyway). Is it any wonder
they see education as a consumer commodity?

10/ The Center for Academic Integrity (www.academicintegrity.org)
suggests that the rationality of preventative education and a kind of
"contract" will help alleviate the problem. I hope they are right, but I
remain unconvinced for reasons below.

11/ We have not only created a DEMAND for plagiarism (our students WANT
to look for essays to buy), we have also created a SUPPLY by
impoverishing and dis-enfranchising our grad students so that when they
graduate and cannot find employment in the work they have spend a
lifetime learning, it becomes very profitable (and I daresay
understandable) for them to want to produce essays for these essay sales
centers.

I think plagiarism is a CULTURAL response to the deteriorated quality of
modern education (I know I sound like an old guy). Technology
(searchable databases), the bureaucratic rationality of mutually agreed
contract (Academic Integrity) and psychological intimidation (faculty
bullying, "education about what plagiarism is" etc etc) are all at best,
only stop gap measures that do not get at the fundamental causes.
Prevention or appealing to a hoped-for innate sense of morality are, in
my opinion, only partial, short term remedies.

If I am correct in my hypothesis that plagiarism is fundamentally
cultural, then it CANNOT be controlled or eliminated until we address
the root causes. And the things that we need to do are all almost
instantly recognizable as impossibilities: smaller classes with more
humane instructor-student relationships; essays and assignments with no
mark value so that the education (process) rather than certification
(result) is emphasized; lower tuition; more work for grad students
within the system.

These ideas are extracted from a brand new course that has been designed
to help faculty develop pedagogically sound online content. The course
is called Digital Architecture: Imaginative Pedagogy for Educators and
details can be seen at: http://www.learncanada.org/e-pse.html

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 2 Apr 2001 17:39:33 -0500
Subject: 13.0910 Re: Plagiarism, and students' ignorance of it
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0910 Re: Plagiarism, and students' ignorance of it

Professor Burt wrote,

 >At Umass ...[p]lagiarism has to be intended.
> (In a way, ignorance of the law is an excuse here
> as well since students
> have to know what plagiarism is.)

You mean there is a student at, of all places, the University of
Massachusetts, who does not know what plagiarism is??!!  How is it
possible that such would be accepted into the University as a student?
He should be in special ed. - although I think I insult special-ed.
students by suggesting that they don't know that.

      L. Swilley

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