Thursday, May 20, 2004


This will be a brief post, as I have far too many things to do right now, but I'm having a quick lunch and wanted to share (aka vent). In my lecture I dedicate a decent amount of time to discussing plagiarism; I have multiple handouts that I provide to the students on the topic (one has examples of plagiarism and another details how to properly cite literature) and I give a 10-20 minute talk on plagiarism to the entire class before any major papers are due. In that talk I outline literature citation requirements, tell the students that I will be scanning their papers for plagiarism, and that they need to e-mail me their papers so I can scan them for plagiarism.

I started this policy in my second semester of teaching, and since that semester have had relatively few problems with plagiarism. I had thought that my materials and discussion of scanning were working as a deterrent, but unfortunately I was wrong. Last night and this morning I ran my students' papers through Eve 2, a plagiarism detection program that I use every semester, and found that seven papers contained significant amounts of plagiarized material (some >80% plagiarized), and many others had possible examples, though I haven't had time to look through them all. For scale, I've scanned about 55 papers so far.

Thus, I've spent a good number of hours last night, and all of my non-class time today, poring over dozens of websites and student papers trying to document the plagiarism. To do this I print out copies of the websites and highlight all the portions that are shared; each paper is typically plagiarized from at least 2 different sites, and I'm very surprised that my highlighter hasn't run out of ink. To make an official plagiarism report at my campus I have to have first confronted the student about the plagiarism, so I've started doing that today as well.

So, to summarize, it's been a very frustrating and disheartening day. I haven't been able to complete any of the work that I had hoped to do today, and I still have hours more work to do to file these reports with the dean. Additionally this has prevented me from returning the graded, non-plagiarized papers to the rest of my class, so nobody knows their grade going into the final. Looking over the papers (which form a stack on my desk now) just infuriates me.

The only thing keeping me sane today is that, from what I can tell, most of my students didn't plagiarize.

Oh well, dinner's over; I need to go and rearrange my lab exam for tonight's lab.

[updated to fix a few spelling errors]

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