Dealing with Plagiarism

Discussion in 'High School' started by MizDubya, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. MizDubya

    MizDubya Rookie

    Sep 15, 2008
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    Oct 19, 2008

    Oh boy.

    So, a few weeks ago I assigned my 11th grade class an in-class essay on the importance of social scenes in Pride and Prejudice. I graded their in-class essay, made comments for revision, and gave them about a week or so to rewrite and get another grade. (This is something my department requires.) Now I am currently in the process of grading their rewrites, and have found that at least FOUR of my students have plagiarized in their rewrites.

    Now, at the very beginning of the year we went over plagiarism. We discussed what it was, and I told them I was a master at finding out if someone had copied something from somewhere else. And yet, nothing seems to have stuck.

    I am so angry and frustrated--both at my students, and at myself, because I feel like a great big fat failure. I'm having some problems with this class anyway--they're unmotivated, non-participatory, etc.--and I'm stuck with reading materials that I can't figure out how to teach in a way that forces them to be more actively engaged with the texts (which is probably a subject for another post). And now this.

    I guess I'm wondering how you all have dealt with plagiarism before. My school (an international independent school) has only come out this year with a handbook of rules and the "official" way of dealing with plagiarism, but the unstated policy is to just deal with it myself. What I want to do is give these students zeros on their papers and require them to write something else in lieu of the paper that is their own work, but I'm stuck on coming up with something about the novel that wouldn't let them plagiarize.

    Any suggestions for dealing with it and for coming up with an appropriate "punishment" (i.e. new assignment)? Since they didn't do their own work on this rewrite, I need them to actually demonstrate to me that they can do so. Do I have them rewrite their paper a third time? I'm just afraid they'll get more creative with their plagiarism.

    (P.S. I am fairly confident they've done this before, because I was shocked by the low level of writing ability present in their in-class essays, when I had been told, when hired, that my class was essentially a super-honors class. Apparently I was the first teacher to require an in-class essay, which provided an opportunity for students to reveal their actual writing ability. This is also disturbing, since it suggests a culture of cheating at the school.)
  3. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

    Sep 28, 2004
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    Oct 19, 2008

    Giving them a zero for signing their names to work that was stolen from someone else should be an automatic given. Since you've talked with them previously about what plagiarism IS, they've got no excuse whatsoever. Please stress to the entire class that there is no difference between stealing someone else's ideas and stealing someone else's money. Both are STEALING, and those who steal are thieves. Don't be afraid to make them cry; with plagiarism, that's so often a ruse. Plagiarists are people who have tried to get by with something, and when such people are caught, they'll try anything to get out of it, including pleading that they didn't know, blah blah blah, all lies.

    These kids knew what they were doing. They KNEW they were cheating. To let a deliberate cheater off easily is only enabling them.

    You might also tell them that if they plagiarize in college, they'll be dragged before a committee of professors and deans and expelled, and any employer who inquires about them will be told about the cheating. And who wants an employee who cheats?

    Nobody honest and decent, anyway.

    When their parents come in to yell at you for picking on their sweet innocent child, be sure to have the kids' version AND the actual authors' versions at hand. Often, the parents of cheating kids have a hard time believing their child would DO something like that!

    Alternative assignment? I hope it doesn't take the place of the honestly earned zeroes!!!! But NEXT TIME, perhaps you could assign an essay that requires the use of personal experience and people they know. For Pride and Prejudice, or any period piece, maybe a comparison/contrast of modern times and olden days? Ideally, each student would have a different topic.

    Good luck. A sad fact in our profession is that students who plagiarize once will do it again, hoping that YOU will assume they've learned their lesson, and you won't check on them so thoroughly.

    Stupid kids. All we have to do is enter a couple of sentences in Google and the original pops up.

    I am all for hammering a plagiarist hard, and if it happens again, make an example of the kid to the entire class, as well as yet another zero and a busload of cool classroom activities that he/she has to sit there and watch instead of participate in.

    Unfair? No, it isn't. Stealing is unfair. The consequences of it are entirely fair.

    Self esteem? Don't get me started. Unearned self-esteem is nothing but a joke.
  4. ku_alum

    ku_alum Aficionado

    May 24, 2008
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    Oct 19, 2008

    I spend a lot of time about plagiarism and share what happens in college for plagiarism.

    When I discover plagiarism I mark the paper on the front "plagiarized" and enter the grade as a zero. I do not mark the plagiarized section. The student has 2 class days to redo the paper and repair the grade.

    I usually offer to meet with the student outside of class, too, in case he/she has questions.

    A crazy side story: I did what I described above to a student. His mom FLIPPED. I received several angry emails and an angry phone call. Finally, I figured out that the MOM had written the paper. So, I was not calling her son a thief (in so many words), I was calling HER a thief. I had the website that matched the paper when she came in for a conference. Her story: "well, someone stole MY paper and put it on the web."
  5. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

    Jun 21, 2008
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    Oct 19, 2008


    I agree with most of what everyone has said, but I don't give second chances for plagiarism. You had the assignment, you chose to cheat, you get a zero, period. In my school kids also get written up for academic dishonesty, which goes in their file. I emphasize to my classes that I am extremely intolerant of this kind of dishonesty, and that while I have a hard time remembering their names, I remember what I've read, and I read everything they turn it. I've already warned them about copying vocabulary sentences - per our school policy, copying homework is plagiarism. Both parties get zeroes, too.

    Just don't do it! :naughty:

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