Plagiarism

Photo taken by Mylene Bressan and found on Openphoto.netThis is an article that’s being posted around the Interwebs from the New York Times: Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age.

Interesting points in it for teachers and students to keep in mind. Like Wikipedia (besides not being a serious academic source) is not common knowledge. You do have to cite it.

While reading this article I was thinking of how we teach students not to plagiarize. Usually we focus on rules and citing styles and the penalties for plagiarizing. Maybe we should focus more on why plagiarizing is wrong and reasons why it benefits the student not to plagiarize. As an ESL teacher, I always tell my students, if you don’t write, you don’t learn. Learning to write only comes from actually writing. And I can’t give you feedback to improve your English if I don’t see your actual work.

I also had a student who wrote in an essay on cultural manners that saying, “Sorry” when you want to get someone’s attention or ask a question is wrong because sorry means, “I apologize.” I told the student this wasn’t correct; “excuse me” and “sorry” in these cases are interchangeable. He told me he had copied this rule from a website. If he had cited the website, I wouldn’t have marked him wrong and taken points off, because I would have known he was quoting someone else. But I thought it was his own idea so he lost points. So citing sources is important because, especially in the digital age, not everything you read is 100% correct. Don’t take credit for bad ideas.

Finally, I was thinking about telling my next plagiarist that I really liked some of his essays and things he had said in class and was planning to present it to the director of the school as my own. The director often gives bonuses for good essays, so hopefully I’ll get some money out of it. See how he reacts. Then explain that when you plagiarize, you are stealing someone else’s ideas and getting benefit for work you didn’t do. It’s simply unfair.

Any other ideas on how to get students to really understand and internalize why plagiarism is wrong?

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