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infinite thought
15-05-2006, 10:58 AM
http://library.kcc.hawaii.edu/main/images/plagiarism_cartoon.gif

Some of you lot are teachers, now or in the past, and/or have been students at one point or another - this thread is for you!

Am marking 2nd-year university essays for a London college (shall remain nameless). Literally massive amounts of internet plagiarism (usually from wikipedia). The sloppiest of attempts are made to try and cover up their total lack of effort. Have a incredibly strong desire to write in capital letters in red ink at the bottom: SHAME ON YOU, but have so far resisted. Policies for dealing with plagiarism seem completely vague (obviously folk should be failed, as I will argue - again - in the meeting today), so the students end up getting low enough marks to reflect their lameness, but are not failed (institutions don't want the hassle if people appeal, etc.).

Anyway, plagiarism makes me cross (it even happened to me online quite recently) - all quotes should be referenced, dammit! I have no truck with these bad po-mo colleagues of mine that argue if the plagiarism is done well enough the student should be rewarded for organisational intelligence. No way.

What do other dissensians think? Any good plagiarism stories? Anyone fancy defending it?

matt b
15-05-2006, 11:03 AM
currently marking, so will get back to you :(

luka
15-05-2006, 11:13 AM
i did a-levels,i also was enrolled in university for a year and a bit and what i learned is the only way to get a grades for essays is by plagirising. this is what university teaches you,to copy and to regurgitate. you read a book,you read books about the books and then you summarise what you have read, if any attempt at original thinking is attempted the student is punished. university is lessons in regurgitation, nothing more. (this presumably applies only to arts degrees) why should copying from wikipedia be any worse than copying from a book from the librabry. why should students who are more adept at putting things 'in their own words' ie rewoding what someone else has said, be given a better mark than students who copy the same sources but cleave more closely to the original wording. neither student has thought for themselves.

jenks
15-05-2006, 11:17 AM
Have been discussing this with other English teahers recently. It is becoming a huge problem - obviously the internet/ cut and paste culture is partly to blame - it's just too damn easy to rip off other people nowadays, you don't even need to get off your arse and walk to the library.

However, i think another cause might be a rather dismissive attitude to academic standards. Education is constantly being represented as service industry and i think students do not feel as if plagiarism really matters. Too often i feel that they can't understand what it is that i am getting worked up about.

I am really pleased to hear of a number of institutions that have removed students from exams because of it but i feel we probably are fighting a losing battle

matt b
15-05-2006, 11:31 AM
why should students who are more adept at putting things 'in their own words' ie rewoding what someone else has said, be given a better mark than students who copy the same sources but cleave more closely to the original wording. neither student has thought for themselves.

at undergraduate level, you're not expected to have 'original thoughts', but you have to reference the ideas you're using- quotation/ reference is not difficult

IdleRich
15-05-2006, 11:32 AM
"university is lessons in regurgitation"
I think that's quite a depressing way to look at it, is that really what it's like?
I reckon that if someone has blatantly copied and pasted something from the internet then they should be failed, especially if it's wikipedia. If that's all they've done then you can't even argue that the plagiarism has been done "well enough", it's just lame. In fact you could probably just say that if you've caught them then they haven't done it well enough.

luka
15-05-2006, 11:34 AM
yes,thats really what its like.its a tiresome routine of memorising and copying out.

matt b
15-05-2006, 11:35 AM
Have been discussing this with other English teahers recently. It is becoming a huge problem - obviously the internet/ cut and paste culture is partly to blame - it's just too damn easy to rip off other people nowadays, you don't even need to get off your arse and walk to the library.

not only that, the little tinkers type a couple of words into google and nick the first result: absolutely no critical thought of the reliability or otherwise of the source material. a trend i see more and more in a range of situations.


i think in HE, if you plagiarise you should get kicked off the course.

luka
15-05-2006, 11:37 AM
i agree, its easier to copy from just one source (wikipedia) than the 3 or 4 sources you would be copying from if you went to the library, but the process is exactly the same. such and such says this, such and such says this and some other bloke. great, how enlightening.

matt b
15-05-2006, 11:40 AM
such and such says this, such and such says this and some other bloke. great, how enlightening.

depends on the source, surely. i learnt loads of good stuff through reading/ essays at university

IdleRich
15-05-2006, 11:43 AM
"yes,thats really what its like.its a tiresome routine of memorising and copying out."
This is a digression but it seems that you are saying the whole process of teaching (or at least assessing) arts degrees is deeply flawed, how would you suggest teaching this kind of stuff?

luka
15-05-2006, 11:57 AM
oh, thats a serious question. i'd like to be able to answer that, although i'm not sure i can. let me go away and think about it. just something off the top of my head though, you shouldn't be able to do english literature without actually writing yourself. i think it should involve both reading and writing,like learning engineering or something,a practical part to the course so you know what these people are actually dealing with.

matt b
15-05-2006, 12:01 PM
This is a digression but it seems that you are saying the whole process of teaching (or at least assessing) arts degrees is deeply flawed, how would you suggest teaching this kind of stuff?

like they do in free schools?

Slothrop
15-05-2006, 12:22 PM
i agree, its easier to copy from just one source (wikipedia) than the 3 or 4 sources you would be copying from if you went to the library, but the process is exactly the same. such and such says this, such and such says this and some other bloke. great, how enlightening.
Except that to get a good argument based on three or four sources, you have to have read and understood the points that the sources are making, and thought about how they fit together. Even using only one source but making big alterations to the expression requires some degree of this. But just copying word for word or with trivial alterations doesn't.

droid
15-05-2006, 01:00 PM
http://www.turnitin.com/

luka
15-05-2006, 01:08 PM
Except that to get a good argument based on three or four sources, you have to have read and understood the points that the sources are making, and thought about how they fit together. Even using only one source but making big alterations to the expression requires some degree of this. But just copying word for word or with trivial alterations doesn't.


that doesn't convince me in the slightest. its still regurgitation. at best its a comprehension test, and thats what you do in primary schools.

Slothrop
15-05-2006, 01:37 PM
that doesn't convince me in the slightest. its still regurgitation. at best its a comprehension test, and thats what you do in primary schools.
Yeah, I knew it was going wrong when my girlfriends dissertation had the title "What Did Spot Do With The Ball?"

Seriously, though, the big thing that I'd change about arts degrees, based on my gf's experience, is to try to remove the bias that seems to exist in marking towards unusual and energetically argued but fundamentally unsound positions and away from carefully considered and well thought out presentations of fairly standard positions, as it tends to reward bullshitting and promote the sort of thing that turns academia into a highschool debating club...

owen
15-05-2006, 01:56 PM
university is lessons in regurgitation, nothing more. (this presumably applies only to arts degrees) why should copying from wikipedia be any worse than copying from a book from the librabry. why should students who are more adept at putting things 'in their own words' ie rewoding what someone else has said, be given a better mark than students who copy the same sources but cleave more closely to the original wording. neither student has thought for themselves
you shouldn't be able to do english literature without actually writing yourself. i think it should involve both reading and writing,like learning engineering or something,a practical part to the course so you know what these people are actually dealing with.

sure, university is not as conducive to original thought but neither is the world outside its confines.
the idea that you have to have spent some time writing 6th form poetry in order to be qualified to write about ezra pound is just ludicrous.


such and such says this, such and such says this and some other bloke. great, how enlightening.

yes but then if you're not an idiot you can go on to say 'but i think this'.

(ta for the sludge incinerator directions tho)

luka
15-05-2006, 02:05 PM
you don't have to, but it sure would help. it wouldn't be six form poetry though, unless you were doing it at a-level level, otherwise it would be 5 form, or undergraduate or whatever

luka
15-05-2006, 02:07 PM
think back to school days. who does well in education? there is a specific personality type which suceeds in that enviroment, the meek,the obidient, the dull. these are the values edcation promotes. it does not reward intelligence. i have never met a genuininely talented person who did well in education. never in my entire life, i think that says a lot.

jenks
15-05-2006, 02:18 PM
I think there are two different debates occuring here. One is about the actual process of plagiarism, which most seem to think is wrong/pointless and the other is about modes of assessment.

The second is the gordian knot of education and the plagiarism issue could well be linked to the attempt in the eighties to move towards continuous assessment and coursework and away from terminal examination.

Luka's points are all about original thought and the ability to construct an informed personal response, something that the examination specifications are incapable of rewarding (and that most students are incapable of producing). When this is allied to something akin to payment by results (league tables and ofsted) then it is no surprise to see schools 'teaching to the tests' and turning performance into a straitjacket of exam technique. On top of this, most students are happy to do this because they do not necessarily value education in any other way than in how it will help them to get a job.

I don't know the solution but asked a upper sixth literature class how they would like to be examined and they all thought the old fashioned idea of a viva would be fairer and more accurate.

IdleRich
15-05-2006, 02:28 PM
Luka, I would be interested to know how many of the people on this board you have just described as meek, obedient and dull.

luka
15-05-2006, 02:46 PM
loads,deliberately.

i need to refine my point though, i have actually met a lot of very talented, brillaint girls who did very well at school indeed, but not one single boy. i don't know why that is.

luka
15-05-2006, 02:51 PM
what i'm saying is that i.t shouldn't be failing anybody. life is hard enough without teachers failing you. i'm also saying there is no real difference between plagirism and 'proper' essay writing. naming your sources is just a minor detail. the process, cutting and pasting essentially, is identical.

matt b
15-05-2006, 03:09 PM
what i'm saying is that i.t shouldn't be failing anybody. life is hard enough without teachers failing you. i'm also saying there is no real difference between plagirism and 'proper' essay writing. naming your sources is just a minor detail. the process, cutting and pasting essentially, is identical.

i'd agree, but reverse it- naming your sources is important, the process etc is a minor detail ;)



oh, and girls do better in school (up to degree level), for a whole host of reasons- loads of research is about

luka
15-05-2006, 03:16 PM
why i would say naming your sources is a minor detail is that it takes no effort and no ability. it doesn't exactly sort the wheat from the chaff does it. i can see where you're coming from though. it doesn't take any effort or ability to turn the taps off once your bath is full but its important to do it.

infinite thought
15-05-2006, 03:22 PM
The major point about plagiarism from any source is simply to do with lack of references. What I'm talking about is people cutting and pasting chunks from wikipedia about a particular topic, not identifying the source, and changing a couple of words to make it look as if it that's what they wanted to say. This is equally reprehensible whether the original source is the net, a book or an elder sibling's essay. The lazier the students get the easier it is to catch them out (although I don't bank on many older academics being that wise to searching out strings on the net, but maybe this is unjust).

Summarising using quotes and referencing your sources (however uninterestingly done) is not the same thing as plagiarism. One of the major side effects of serious plagiarism is total lack of structure in the essay - the question is not answered because the material stolen usually has nothing to do with the specific topic. Essays are not simply marked on the basis of 'ability to represent ideas', they're also marked according to things like structure, style, ability to write using paragraphs, depth of understanding, etc. If you spend time marking, it becomes obvious which essays have involved the student 'thinking for him or herself', which have involved massive amounts of effort in trying to understand the topic/arguments at hand and which have been tossed off in five minutes using wikipedia/other dodgy internet source.

In other words, plagiarism makes for bad essays even if the sources used are interesting/well-written. A plagiarist is usually lazy, and doesn't take the time to redesign the stolen material so it addresses the question at hand.

Luka asks:
why should students who are more adept at putting things 'in their own words' ie rewoding what someone else has said, be given a better mark than students who copy the same sources but cleave more closely to the original wording.

Simple: when students are asked to put something in their own words they have to think about what it is they're trying to say - much of the understanding precisely comes out of having to present ideas in your own words. The very conception of 'essay' (literally an attempt/to try) is something like a work in progress, a step towards grasping the major ideas at stake in whatever subject it is you've signed up to do. This kind of 'understanding-in-progress' just isn't there if you copy out sentences verbatim from books or the net. What Slothrop said, basically, even if Luka is not convinced it's not still primary school:


Except that to get a good argument based on three or four sources, you have to have read and understood the points that the sources are making, and thought about how they fit together. Even using only one source but making big alterations to the expression requires some degree of this. But just copying word for word or with trivial alterations doesn't.

I think Luka's grumbling is really about something else, which may or may not be a separate question, namely the possibility of something like genuine, dynamic and original expression in a university context. I admit the possibilities are limited, but they do exist - however, constant assessments, the RAE, the desperate need to publish (usually second-rate) research and other bureaucratic idiocies are putting a stranglehold on this something chronic at the moment. We do need a revolution in FE and HE, no doubt about it. There's also a massive disparity between extremely good lecturers and extremely poor ones in both sectors, not to mention a completely different mentality between those who walked into a full-time teaching job several decades ago and those (like me) who get paid by the hour on short-term, utterly non-inclusive of marking/preparation type gigs. But don't get me started...

The gender/educational attainment discussion is something I can talk about for hours. I may come back to this, as I think it's the most interesting point Luke makes. Ironically enough, I won a prize for my A level sociology dissertation on this topic (top twenty in the country!). But then girls just seem to do better than boys these days, don't they? Shame they don't get paid properly for it :)

luka
15-05-2006, 03:26 PM
inceidently owen, ezra pound was a particualry bad example, becasue he agrees with me. its a famous essay, i'm sure you've read it.

i have to go to work now so this thread will hav a chance to become intelligent and civilized.

infinite thought
15-05-2006, 03:41 PM
what i'm saying is that i.t shouldn't be failing anybody. life is hard enough without teachers failing you.

If people sign up for a course in which the demands placed upon them are obvious from the start, then (unless there are extenuating circumstances) they should be failed if they deliberately flout them. If you tell people they'll fail if they cut and paste from wikipedia and they do it anyway, then they should be failed. Otherwise, for one thing, it makes a mockery of the work done by students who have put the effort in, as well as confirming the wider suspicion that education has become a joke in which people simply pay fees for a piece of paper with their name on it.

FE/HE is not the place to pamper and reassure lazy students - effort should be rewarded. For one thing, it cuts across things like class privilege. My favourite statistic of all time is the fact that by the time they get to university, people who went to state schools get more firsts than those who went to private schools, even though parents forked out all that cash for a 'proper education'.

owen
15-05-2006, 03:45 PM
i know he agrees with you luka he agreed with hitler as well :p
pound is actually a good example, cos is if the cantos aren't 'regurgitation' i don't know what is- a collection of obscure references and other people's ideas which frequently he hasn't even bothered to translate out of the latin or the chinese. just cos they're in verses and hence 'poetic' doesn't make them much different in structure to say, the criticism of walter benjamin

Rambler
15-05-2006, 04:08 PM
Am marking 2nd-year university essays for a London college (shall remain nameless). ... Policies for dealing with plagiarism seem completely vague (obviously folk should be failed, as I will argue - again - in the meeting today), so the students end up getting low enough marks to reflect their lameness, but are not failed (institutions don't want the hassle if people appeal, etc.).

Depressingly, this is exactly my experience of marking second year essays, also at a nameless London college. These were non-assessed pieces of work, so they didn't contribute to the students' final grades, but I'd find pages of stuff lightly reworded from major reference works. When I brought examples to the attention of the course supervisor he advised me not to a) fail the students, and b) not to lodge an official notice of plagiarism because both would cause big hassles for me and the department. Instead, I should slash the mark to a bare pass, and advise the student to be very careful in future. A bit of a joke to be honest.

Raw Patrick
15-05-2006, 04:41 PM
Anyone who plagiarises from fucking Wikipedia should end up getting low marks anyway as the whole thing is so badly written and so often wrong! If yr're gonna copy, at least copy from a reliable source.

borderpolice
15-05-2006, 05:06 PM
My students mostly fill their reports by cut&paste. i can usually tell as the words culled from the web are usually thought through and grammatically correct, unlike my students own produce. i have given up on caring about this form of plagiarism except in BSc/MSc theses, because there's just too much of it going on, and, more importantly, if they plagiarise rather work through their assignments, they will have a harder time in the exams, in other words, they are punishing themselves already, they are just too immature to understand this.

Our department now runs all final year theses through a plagiarism checker, the aforementioned turnitin (http://www.turnitin.com). It is quite effective.

borderpolice
15-05-2006, 05:07 PM
Anyone who plagiarises from fucking Wikipedia should end up getting low marks anyway as the whole thing is so badly written and so often wrong!

but still vastly superior to the average student's output, i assure you.

turtles
15-05-2006, 09:04 PM
I'm suprised to hear that UK schools are somewhat lax on plagarism, here at my uni (UBC) it's a standard university policy that anyone caught cheating on any exam or assignment (which includes plagiarism, obv.) gets a zero on it, and goes up before a review board to see if they fail the course. Apparently expulsion can also be considered in extreme cases. So yeah, they take plagiarism VERY seriously here, and I believe that's fairly standard for most canadian universities (and maybe american ones as well?).

Anyway, on the "what's the point of citation" debate, I use to think citation was just an annoying chore done to avoid plagiarism, but having slogged through a writing course that talked a lot about this sort of thing, it finally dawned on me that if you actually *read* the citations, there's actually a lot information contained within them. Obviously the reputation of the authors being cited (and the reader's opinion of them) mean a lot, but also simple things like the date of the research being cited is pretty important. I know certainly in computer science (what i study) if you're referencing anything older than about 1998 or so, unless its some classic seminal work, its considered to be kinda dated. I suppose this is more for academia though than for undergrad papers, but I think it still applies somewhat. Standing on the shoulders of giants (http://scholar.google.com/schhp?hl=en&tab=ws&q=) and all that crap...

nomos
15-05-2006, 09:22 PM
Don't get me started on plagiarism :mad: At least make some bloody effort if you're going to try to put one over on your prof/TA. I caught one wikipedia fan simply because a lot of proper names were underlined (ie: hyperlinks just dumped into Word). Clear the formatting for god's sake! It's insulting. Or sad.

I heard of another case recently involving a student who plagiarised once, got caught, got a second chance, plagiarised again, got caught, cried about it, and then had her dad call the prof and essentially say that he wasn't paying for his daughter to get Fs in school.

Seriously, this university as service/student as client business is out of hand. And profs are being pressured to maintain certain class averages regardless of the quality of students' work, leading to this erosion of the rules.

It's bad enough that kids get to second year without knowing how to write properly. They should at least understand that it's legitimate to be punished for copying something and calling it your own.

luka
15-05-2006, 10:13 PM
'pound is actually a good example, cos is if the cantos aren't 'regurgitation' i don't know what is- a collection of obscure references and other people's ideas which frequently he hasn't even bothered to translate out of the latin or the chinese. just cos they're in verses and hence 'poetic' doesn't make them much different in structure to say, the criticism of walter benjamin'

owen, i do the philistine stuff round here ok. post a picture of a nice building instead.

luka
15-05-2006, 10:14 PM
'pound is actually a good example, cos is if the cantos aren't 'regurgitation' i don't know what is- a collection of obscure references and other people's ideas which frequently he hasn't even bothered to translate out of the latin or the chinese. just cos they're in verses and hence 'poetic' doesn't make them much different in structure to say, the criticism of walter benjamin'

owen, i do the philistine stuff round here ok. post a picture of a nice building instead.

infinite thought
15-05-2006, 10:53 PM
Seriously, this university as service/student as client business is out of hand.

yep, totally right about this - what's worse I think is the confusion that follows from students thinking of themselves both as consumer-clients and at the same time as potentially-criticisable subjects of improvement/learning. It's this total lack of clarity that makes people (both students and teachers) cross, irritable, liable to take legal action, etc...

Nobody currently knows what the universities are for - if students are paying for their degree then lecturers' interests are likely to be seen as offensive/secondary/whiny (just look at the reception of the current AUT non-marking protests!) - but if employers care about what kind of degree you get from where, then the quality of teaching/learning can't be underplayed by anyone, least of all the students.

This utter ethical/practical/economic confusion re education might potentially be an interesting situation (Paris May 68 was a lot to do with the proposed hierarchical grooming of students and the revolt against this, after all), but at the moment it's just murky, bureaucratic and fraught.