[Air-l] RE: plagiarism

Kendall, Lori Lori.Kendall at purchase.edu
Thu Mar 21 13:30:41 PST 2002

This is a bit long.

In answer to the last question first -- if a student downloads
*anything* and turns it in for an assignment, I expect them to
tell me where they got it.  In most cases, I would only allow
them to use material from online if they were also analyzing 
that material and writing something additional about that material.

Purchase College has recently rewritten their plagiarism policy
in response to a perceived increase in the amount of plagiarism
in classes.  In my Classical Social Theory class last semester, 
4 out of 40 students turned in papers that included some plagiarized
material.  (In one case, half the paper was downloaded uncredited
from a website; the others included less material, and one student
credited some websites and not others.)  The semester before
that, in my Computers and Culture class, I also had four 
plagiarized submissions (2 from the same person) out of only
25 students. In that group, most were entire downloaded papers,
some with slight alterations.  One was a Salon.com article!  

To discourage this, and to make it easier for me to spot instances
of plagiarism (as well as for other pedagogical reasons), I 
structure my classes so that students do several writing 
assignments over the course of the semester.  I almost never assign "library
research" topics or traditional "term papers."  As part 
of each assignment, which they receive in writing, I require that 
they use (quote from or reference) a set number of readings from 
the course, usually at least three.  A typical assignment has 
them gathering original data of some sort (doing an interview, 
looking at a website) and then analyzing their data using the 
readings and theories presented in class.  I usually have them 
turn in their original materials as well.  (For instance, in my 
popular culture class, they just did analyses of magazine 
advertisements and attached the ads they analyzed to the paper.)

In the case of Classical Social Theory, I paired each classical 
work (by Durkheim, Weber, and Marx) with a modern work which used 
that theoretical perspective.  

These strategies generally prevent my students from finding entire 
papers which meet the criteria of the assignment.  Any paper which
fails to complete the requirements of the assignment, fails 
to cite class materials, or has very different writing styles in
differen portions of the paper, sets off my plagiarism "alarm" and 
I start doing online searches for material from the paper.  (If
you would like tips on this, feel free to ask, but I don't do
anything fancy -- I just use search engines.)  

Purchase College does not have fraternities.  At UC Davis, where
I taught previously, we had a problem with fraternity "paper
banks."  Those can be harder to catch unless you regularly
vary your class assignments in some way.  Individually-tailored
papers, which can be purchased online, would also be harder to
catch, but I don't believe most of my students have the financial
resources to devote to that -- I guess if they do, I don't know

I will be interested to hear what experiences other people are
having with this.
Lori Kendall
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Purchase College-SUNY
lori.kendall at purchase.edu

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