18: Plagiarism


I just taught about plagiarism again in class. This is the practice of using the thoughts and ideas of others without giving them credit for their work; making it appear as if the thoughts and ideas were your own. Now, this is a subject that I teach again each year, and refer to often during the course of the year as well. Beginning writers often make mistakes in citation, that is quite normal. This is the time when they are learning how to cite properly in preparation for higher education in a college or university.


The problem occurs when it is apparent that the lack of citation was deliberate, and not just the mistake of a beginner. I use, like many other teachers, a plagiarism detection Web site that helps me track instances of copying from sources. Many students are shocked to discover such sites exist, and that they make copying from others in a paper very obvious to the teacher. For many of them, this is their first time being caught doing something they have quite happily been doing for years in school. They are quite put out that this is not acceptable anymore, when they have been getting ‘A’ grades for doing just this very thing for years. It is a tremendous attitude adjustment for a significant number of them, and I can completely understand their consternation. WHY is is suddenly not acceptable?


Well, the truth is that it was never acceptable, and I blame the large class sizes and the lack of time most teachers have for really scoring papers. It is sloppy grading, but when there is not enough planning time provided for professionals to work, they, like many others, have to cut time somewhere. It takes a tremendous amount of time to track down plagiarism without the use of one of these sites, and many school systems do not subscribe, or PAY, for their teachers to have and use this resource that makes detecting this problem much easier. So, as a consequence, students do not get caught in these cases of academic theft, and do not learn how to do things properly. Until now.

Please excuse me, there is some wailing, whining, moaning and groaning I have to deal with……….


2 thoughts on “18: Plagiarism

  1. I think that you are completly right students should’nt use other people’s work without giving them credits. And the best way to prevent that is to use those web sites. In addition students that used to do this should change their way of working because in university you have a second chance.

    • At some schools, they EXPELL you for that, whether it was an honest mistake or not. I think that is too harsh- beginners need to learn, and colleges cannot be sure that plagiarism and proper citation was well-taught at the student’s high school before they GOT to college.

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