Sunday, February 9, 2014

Plagiarism Thoughts

As I read Dr. Strange's essay, "Is It Plagiarism Yet?" I had several thoughts occur to me. One is that, I am really grateful that Dr. Strange was sticking up for the students and pointing out that perhaps instead of bringing down an iron hammer on students who had committed plagiarism, that first the University needs to reassess whether or not they have done what they should to ensure that students know exactly what plagiarism is so that they aren't being punished for committing an offense in ignorance. I like that Dr. Strange brings out the importance of looking at intent in plagiarism as well. If the student is willfully aware that they are passing others words off as their own, well then that is distinctly plagiarism. However, if a student is unaware that they haven't cited a source adequately, then it seems unfair to hold them accountable with such an extreme consequence as expulsion from the program.

As a personal confession, I must admit that I was unaware that the person's words had to be put in quotation marks when paraphrasing. I thought that as long as you gave the person credit directly before or immediately after the thought, then you had done what you needed to do in order to avoid plagiarism. I thought quotation marks were only necessary for exact quotes. So, I am remiss in my own right! It helps me appreciate even more the stance that Sr. Strange held when this was brought up as a faculty a few years ago.

I like that Dr. Strange polls his students to see what they know or their thoughts on plagiarism. It was interesting to see the confusion that surrounds this issue, on a college level. It could be because students weren't taught about plagiarism well during their educational foundation, or that the standards have elevated since they were taught about it, or that they have been away from the school setting for so long that they simply didn't know or remember. I appreciate that Dr. Strange showed that the University didn't have a set place or plan for students to go to in order to inform themselves of plagiarism expectation, even though it is expected of them to do such a thing when signing the forms at the beginning of each semester.

A better way of ensuring that students are aware of what plagiarism is and looks like and how to avoid it are to explicitly teach it at the beginning of the semester. Or, perhaps create a project where the students teach what plagiarism is and provide examples.

I would like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and in something as serious as plagiarism, I'd really want to be sure that the intent to do harm or mis-quote, etc. was in place before reprimanding a student in such a severe way. So, in my opinion, it would be wise to just take a bit of time at the beginning of each term and cover what plagiarism is, what it is not, provide examples, etc. Then, everyone should be on the same page.
plagiarism, accidental or on purpose chart


  1. Great post Mary! I agree that students should be taught in the very beginning of the semester about plagiarism to avoid it. I personally include information about it in my syllabus and I have students sign a contract stating they will not plagiarize. However, a number of students do not take it seriously because there are no consequences except for simply getting a zero for the assignment. For the most part, some students will try to get away with it to see if the teacher is actually checking for plagiarism. Nevertheless, I believe it should be taught frequently and every teacher should be on board with educating students who how to avoid plagiarism to minimize the problem.

  2. Thoughtful. Interesting. You obviously read the material I provided. You misunderstood its contents, however when you write "...unaware that the person's words had to be put in quotation marks when paraphrasing." Only exact quotations of 5 or more words need to be in quotation marks. So confusion continues.