Not sure if a paper has been plagiarized?
Here are a few warning
How can you determine if a submission has been plagiarized?
- The written "voice" does not match the student's voice in
previously submitted writing or in in-class writing. For example,
the vocabulary can be too technical or sophisticated.
- The submission does not follow the directions you've outlined or
does not match the assignment choices you've provided.
- The paper contains internal references to personal experiences that
seem unlikely for that particular student.
- There are references to current events that don't jibe in fact with
the current year.
First off, don't assume that the student had criminal intentions. Despite the fact that you may have covered the topic in detail in class,
some students can be very confused about the protocols for documentation.
In addition, because copyright rules for cyberspace have only been addressed
lately, it can seem as though it's an environment where "anything goes."
Because of this perception, some students sincerely believe that copying
and pasting passages from an online article is O.K. Also, students
can easily get disorganized and inadvertently leave out a parenthetical
citation (or even two).
- Interview the student about the topic and research.
Ask questions that require detailed answers. Usually if the student
cannot respond, s/he will reveal which material had been borrowed.
- Find the article online. Use a comprehensive browser,
like Google or Dogpile.
Type or copy and paste a sentence that you feel sure has been plagiarized
into the browser text box. Frame the sentence with quotation marks.
The browser will return the online sites where that sentence appears.
If the browser comes up with nothing, try a sentence from another section
of the submitted essay.
You can also try this method at Findarticles.com
- Peruse the the texts listed on the works cited page. Especially
if the student has been careless with documentation, you may very well
find the plagiarized passages here. In the case of intentional plagiarism,
students don't expect teachers, who are typically overwhelmed with dozens
of papers, to actually go to the resources listed on the works cited page.
- Announce to the class that you have noticed instances of plagiarism
in several submissions. The assiduous (or guilty) student will
go back to her/his copy and check it for evidence of plagiarism and ultimately
let you know if s/he thinks it is the paper in question. This gives
any serious student guilty of careless plagiarism the opportunity to correct
the error without getting into too much trouble.
- Ask the student if s/he had help composing the paper. Sometimes
the "helper" can plagiarize material without the knowledge of the student/writer.
In this case, the instructor would, of course, also want to help the student
distinguish between getting help and divesting coursework responsibilities.
What can you do if you discover a plagiarized paper?
Currently, the college is handling instances of plagiarism on a case by case
basis. Of course, the first line of action is the classroom teacher.
The teacher should establish penalties for plagiarism early on in the semester
and even publish these penalties either in the syllabus or within a distributed
course policies page. The teacher will probably want to indicate the
plagiarism policy and penalties during the first week of the semester and make
sure that students understand these policies and penalties. Some faculty
even have students sign a document acknowledging that they understand these
policies and penalties.
Here are some possible penalties:
- Student gets an F for the paper.
- Student gets an F for the paper, but may revise for a passing grade
(but not for an A).
- Student gets an F for the course.
- In cases where there have been multiple instances of plagiarism,
despite any advance warnings of penalties, instructors can send the student
to either the Department Chair or to the Division Dean.