The technology war escalates
Last year, I wrote about discovering that I had had a visit to the blog on a search for a distinctive sentence from an earlier blog post, with quote marks around it, a common method used by teachers to ferret out academic dishonesty. At the time, I warned students not to attempt to copy something from the Internet to turn in as their own work, with the admonishment, "Don't even THINK about it. You WILL get caught!" – a standard warning I always issue to my students at the beginning of each term.
Still, this term, I have had two students who have attempted to turn in plagiarized papers. It's frustrating, and it really eats up a lot of my time to document the incidents and file all of the paperwork. The college where I teach requires that I report all incidences of academic dishonesty, no matter what. I consider this to be an excellent policy. I do not believe that academic dishonesty should be tolerated in any way, shape, or form. However, it eats up lots of my time, which, especially toward the end of the term, is a scarce commodity.
Part of the time-consuming aspect of documenting plagiarism is verifying that the work is plagiarized. This is usually done by doing an Internet search for distinctive phrases or sentences to find the original. The first student this term made the task time-consuming by pasting together material from four different sources. The second student, however, stymied me – every distinctive phrase I entered into the search engines turned up nothing. I knew the papers were plagiarized, and some other instructors who looked at them agreed – this was a student who couldn't put together a coherent sentence or develop a paragraph, and these were well written and well developed essays.
Then I discovered the latest online "service" provided to lazy students who just want to get a good grade rather than actually learning anything: plagiarism "prevention." These sites will allow a student to upload a paper, and then they will somehow modify it, changing words and phrases, and possibly making other adjustments, so that a teacher who does an Internet search on distinctive sentences will come up empty. The websites make such claims as "remove all plagiarism from your papers before you turn them in."
Bullshit. These websites don't remove plagiarism. They only disguise it. A paper is just as dishonest after being run through one of these websites as it was before.
And you know what? If you're a student and you turn in plagiarized material, even if you use one of these websites, you still WILL get caught. Even though I couldn't confirm an original Internet source for my student's essays, there were still enough glaring differences between this student's work and the plagiarized material that it was obvious. I just filed the report to the Dean of Students this afternoon.
Okay, I hear some students say … that was a student whose writing was really poor, so the plagiarism was blatant. What about students who write well enough that a plagiarized essay isn't going to be obvious? Well … if you're already writing so well that plagiarism won't be noticeable, then you don't need to plagiarize, do you? Your own writing will stand for itself. Don't cheat yourself out of an opportunity to hone your writing skills.
Labels: geeks, grammar, rants, teaching, work, writing