Monday, March 15, 2010


I love writing. I love talking about writing. But sometimes I don't love teaching writing. Out of 27 papers turned in my Writing in Psychology class, four were plagiarized. Two of these were almost completely copied word for word off the net. The other two had substantial sections copied word for word. Because I've dealt with plagiarism before, far too many times, I put information on plagiarism into my syllabus. It's also covered several times in the book we use, and we've had two quizzes about plagiarism already in the class. I start DAY 1 with a discussion of plagiarism, and discuss it again before every paper is due. I tell you, it just hurts my soul a little bit to see it happen despite all that discussion. Not to mention that it adds a lot of extra work to a job that is already pretty tough.

Anyway, three of the individuals were given "F's on their papers and asked to drop the class. I've not been able to contact the fourth yet. Wow, it's just really been fun.

In the meantime, though, I have gotten some good news on my own writing front. "Chimes" got great reviews from: Rick and Kate. Thanks so much to them both. I really appreciate it.

The FDA inspector is here and has all the files. Nothing much to do now but wait. I'll try to get around to a few blogs today.

Best to all.


Lana Gramlich said...

My favorite thought about the plagiarism issue is that these people are "the future." If so, we're f*cked. <:(
Good luck with the FDA thing. I hope all turns out well.

fairyhedgehog said...

That really sucks.

SQT said...

Where do these kids get the guts to turn in plagiarized work? I get it-- they're lazy and somehow think you won't notice. Just eye-rollingly dumb.

Good to see you back though.

Randy Johnson said...

Yes, the young think they are the only ones who can find the works they plagiarize. Us "old" folks are just too dumb with this internet thing.

It's disheartening, I know, to see young minds not stretching themselves fully.

ArtSparker said...

Work in the trenches. Oh, I think there's something our culture...I had a conversation yesterday with someone who has been living here for two years (from Nicaragua), who asked me why Americans didn't seem to want to work. Can we blame it all on the TV ad from 20 years back with the line "I'm worth it, and I deserve it?"

Anonymous said...

The worst paper I ever received still had the hyperlink in it.

"To learn more on this disorder click HERE." No joke!

BernardL said...

I'll take the optimistic view - at least there were only four. :)

Paul D Brazill said...

Did you see this Charles?

AvDB said...

Research papers were so much more difficult for me than essays, because the original authors always stated their theories in such a succinct and perfect manner that I had a hard time figuring out how to convey their ideas in my own voice. Even so, I clearly remember the terror of possibly being called a plagiarist and twisting my brain to re-think a single sentence that grazed the original author's thought in order to avoid it.

It's not just that these kids are doing themselves an injustice; they're wasting your time and insulting your intelligence.

Great reviews, btw. I have Chimes on my desktop. I promise I will read it very soon. I'm looking forward to it. Avery loves escalating terror!

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, looks like the FDA thing is going to be fine. So far at least.

Fairyhedgehog, indeed, indeed.

SQT, especially straight off the net with unique phrases that are easy to google.

Randy, yep, And I feel like it's such a waste of my time to have to log all the sites from which they plagiarized. Sucks.

Artsparker, at least a couple of the guilty ones started out their explanations with how busy they were. I'm sure a lot of it was social, though, rather than truly work related.

Christine Purcell, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

BernardL, at least that I caught!.

Paul D. Brazill, I haven't but I'll check it out.

Avery DeBow, thanks for picking up Chimes. I appreciate it. I often tell the students that I don't expect their prose to be as good as most of the sources they are using, but that it's still critical to get the practice at putting into their words. Writing is hard, for sure.

Angie said...

At least none of these students can say they didn't know, they weren't warned, it's not fair. Or rather, they can't legitimately say any of that; it wouldn't shock me to find that one or more of them tries to whine about it anyway. :/

Congrats on the reviews! That always feels wonderful. :D


Spy Scribbler said...

Have I ranted about this before? (Sorry in advance, lol...) When I started teaching, fifteen years ago, I used a series of theory books. I hardly ever had a student do two levels in a row: they always skipped from 1, 3, 5, because they were so easy.

My last teaching year, students could BARELY GET THROUGH the series. Doing NO skipping. Complaining that it was hard.

And the worst part was, at least HALF of the parents did it for them. True, they said their kid was "standing right there," and that they just "wrote it down for them," but...

I honestly don't blame the students at all for this. This one, I gotta blame the parents. Yes, I know they're older, but it's hard to undo eighteen years of that so quickly.

jodi said...

Charles, try not to take it personally. I know it must be hard but that's only cuz you are passionate about your craft. And people will always find an easy way out. Ouchy, for sure..

laughingwolf said...

it's called, as you know, entitlement :(

re the fda: i saw it as they have all the 'flies'... so? i admit to being a bit dyslexic ;) lol

LoveRundle said...

Wow. See, this is one thing that keeps me from wanting to teach. I have a headache and I'm not the one having to deal with these students. At my college, if you got caught, you got kicked out of the university and it went on your record so if you tried to get into another university, it was right there in print. I would think the thought would be enough to keep people from trying, but it appears it doesn't.

Steve Malley said...

I know a few tattooists like that, too. They consider cutting and pasting off of Google Images to be the soul of creativity.

Worst for me is how often people honestly don't seem to understand the difference between 'research' and 'swiping'... *sigh*

G. B. Miller said...

How thick were these four individuals?

And this is what were trusting the future too?

X. Dell said...

In the old days, it was much easier to spot plagiarism because, as the instructor, you would know pretty much all of the hard copy sources a student would copy from. Pretty much the only ones that would get by you would be the ones which a student might have bought from a professional paper-writing service.

I'd guess everyone uses Turnitin or similar software to compare stuff off the web. Still, it has to be heartbreaking to realize that there were four students who either didn't listen, or couldn't understand the concept.

Jo said...

I have a friend who has to deal with plagiarism in his classes too, and it really bothers him too. As a teacher, you must take it personally, and that would be difficult. You want everyone to do well, and to be honest.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

I think it's silly to plagiarize as well. That being said, I've worked for a term paper company so I've made money writing other people's papers. What I found so stupid about a lot of the people I have dealt with is that with just a little bit of rewriting effort and updating of sources they could have been just fine. IT's being stupid and copying word for word that gets them into trouble. OR, not attributing where they got their source material correctly.

Thumbelina said...

It hurts me that they obviously think you are that stupid. Sorry you have to deal with that. It sucks. I never understood it. I always preferred to take pride in my own work. :0/

Sorry I am (very) infrequent. Take care.

sage said...

Good for you, Charles. You covered the issues well and they made a decision to break the rules. Sooner or later they'll have to pay, its better for them to learn the hard lessons early.

That said, as my blog contains many book reviews, at least half of my "hits" are for people looking for reviews of a particular book. I've wondered what kind of grades "my reviews" have received.

ivan said...

Bad enough to have plagiarists, but try students who won't hand in papers..."I already have my B.A.; It doesn't seem to open doors, though...I'm not interested in your Diploma. I'm in a community college to get a job.
I think I was weasly in giving this coterie a DNW, as in Did Not Write.

Should have had the cojones to give them an F.

But the "Did Not Write gave them a message, I think.

j said...

It must be terribly disappointing knowing that fresh young minds are too lazy (or insecure?) to write their own paper. I'm sorry you've had to deal with plagiarism.

While I'm thinking about it, let me ask you a question. How often do you worry about plagiarizing something without intending to? I worry that I will inadvertantly (sp?) copy a phrase that another writer has used. My memory is lousy and it is one of my fears that I will do just that.

I hope your week gets much better Charles.

Charles Gramlich said...

Angie, I've had one in whining already. So far not any of the others. But yes, it wouldn't surprise me. And thanks for the comments on the reviews.

Natasha Fondren, And when this group gets to be parents and are doing it "for" their kids, imagine how much worse it'll be then. It boggles the mind.

jodi, yes, I take it clearly more seriously than most of them do.

laughingwolf, lol. The FDA review looks like it's not going to be too bad so far.

Christina, our university is strengthening the plagiarism policy even now to try to help curb this trend.

Steve Malley, yes, the line between research and stealing is being steadily eroded. It's frightening.

G, in at least a couple of cases it comes down to sheer, outright laziness and thinking that since they didn't care, I wouldn't either.

X. Dell, They were warned and warned. Man that is really just about the height of laziness. Yes, in the old days too, you could often tell by how the writing would be at a much higher level than what the student would be capable of, but in at least one plagiarized piece of this bunch I was first 'correcting' the horrible prose before I realized I was correcting something they'd gotten off the net.

Jo, they would have done much better writing in their own weak grammar than this. That's for sure.

Rachel, the subtle forms of plagiarism don't get caught anymore much. It's the word for word copying that catches your attention because it's so common.

Thumbelina, it's so much laziness. I just find it hard to imagine. And the net makes it easy to do, although also easy to catch.

sage, I wouldn't doubt they've been stolen. I once found one of 'my' papers for sale by a term paper mill. I always thought how interesting it would have been if a student from one of my classes bought it, slapped their name on it, and turned it in to me.

Ivan, that's even lazier than copying off the net. Man, pretty soon they will need someone to wipe their ass for them.

Travis, yes, I did, and I don't feel terribly bad after I think about that. It just bums me out when I discover it.

jennifer, I don't really worry about that kind of plagiarism. I mean, phrases and stuff may catch your attention and then come out years later when you're writing something down. First, nothing can really be done with that, and if you end up with the same four or five word phrase as something somebody else wrote years ago, I don't really think of that as plagiarism. It's only when you have a consistent pattern of sentence after sentence that is the same or very nearly the same that you are really dealing with plagiarism. This is a good question, though, and I think I'll address that in a blog post. Thanks for the idea.

Erik Donald France said...

That sucks. And it's usually so easy to detect even without all those fancy internet filters.

Hate dealing with it -- especialy, as you do, after copiously warning and showing all the ways to avoid it. Idiots. Lazy. Arrogance.

Good luck with the hideous fallout! Sometimes I'll say "plagiarism" comes from Latin, "to kidnap," and it's not a good idea to kidnap other people's work without permission and/or full citation, in which case it's usually "research."

Greg said...

That's sad about the papers. Especially in a college setting, where the students are supposed to at least somewhat "want" to be there.

Seems like more and more people look for the easy way out.

the walking man said...

Damn shame that a student doesn't realize two things.

1) That you have the same and more resources as they do...


2) That they have this wonderful thing called a mind that if they but stretch it a bit they would never need to copy work from another.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, they also kidnap a lot of the teacher's time with that kind of crap too. Not fun to deal with.

Greg Schwartz, the writing class isn't required either so I don't know why they even bothered to take it.

Mark, a mind is a terrible thing sometimes. Not just terrible to waste.

Harry Markov said...

Peculiar. I realize perhaps that as new to the field, students are not in the position to add anything new with their own work at this stage, so it is natural to regurgitate the known information in one form or another, but word for word is just a tad too much.

Good to see you here though.

Charles Gramlich said...

Harry, yes, they do have to regurgitate the information but it should be at least partially digested before they spew it back up. I mean when you kick it back it shouldn't look exactly like the fish you had for supper anymore.

Harry Markov said...

Cannot agree more with you [splendid analogy, btw]. As a student I've done both [not a proud plagiarist, but it was German and that topic was incomprehensible] and it is not worth the time or effort. There are no short cuts to anything and plagiarism just makes any road longer, because of the complications it creates.

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

I had a young woman write a paper for me once. She used a citation. And seemed dumbfounded when I failed her. The citation was one of those websites which sells students papers on different themes.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I've caught it only a few times in my own classes. In the cases I've seen it is usually just a small part of the paper and it looks unintentional. They forgot to cite it. I haven't had an instance of wholesale plagiarism and I hope I never do. What I've had to deal with, just recently, was a student who didn't like me and the way I teach and spent the whole assignment (10 pages) ripping me and my teaching assignment apart in viciously nasty terms. I had to send him to the head of the department and ask him to drop the class.

Merisi said...

It is beyond me to understand why plagiarism is still the way some students go.

I am not as pessimistic as Lana about the young generation, what I see from my children and their friends, they work harder than I ever had to and the future looks less promising than mine did when I was young. Everything seemed still possible back then, nowadays ...

Unfortunately it is not only young students who apparently think nothing of stealing other people's work: Using photographs to embellish one's blog is apparently not viewed as stealing by adults. Dismissing the photographer by crediting - if crediting at all - "the web" or "Google" is the ultimate insult.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

I'm with Lana on this one -- the thought of these nitwits being the "future" scares the hell out of me. Once I got a paper that I knew was plagiarized. I asked the student what the paper was about -- he was so lazy that he hadn't even read the paper he bought. Busted!

Charles Gramlich said...

Harry Markov, a lot of universities are starting to put in pretty stiff penalties for plagiarism too, so the cost is going up and up.

Stewart Sternberg, shaking my head, but unfortunately, not in disbelief. Not much is beyond some folks.

Ello, wow, so far I haven't had that happen, though I've had snide comments made behind my back at times. Two of the papers I got really were wholesale plagiarism. The other two were definitely plagiarized but not entirely, and there were some moments of genuine confusion on the students' parts, although one admitted pretty clearly what had happened.

Merisi,I think a lot of folks see information that is on the web as kind of global property. I hardly ever post photos but I'm sure that some folks who do have seen their stuff ripped off with no credit.

Michelle, I've done that at various times with words that students have used prominently. Ask them if they know what the word means and they have NO idea.

Cloudia said...

In this cut and paste age, these students really don't GET it (even with your careful warnings)


Aloha from Hawaii my Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Cloudia said...

Lana is right. YIKES!

nephite blood spartan heart said...

I am still surprised that anyone tries to get away with it.

Gonna try and get to Chimes soon.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, it's just so easy to cut and paste. That's for sure.

David J. West, I've always seen the case here and there but it seems even more prominent now. Not quite sure why. Hope you enjoy "Chimes."

Heff said...

Maybe they were just plagiarizing to TEST YOU, lol !

SzélsőFa said...

aw, plagiarism sucks :((
it's great to use other people's ideas, and feed upon them, but to pretend they are one's own - that's just nasty.
i'm glad you managed to get them what they deserve.

Clare2e said...

These are the people who don't seem to realize that they aren't being asked to write a paper because the teacher doesn't understand the subject! They're being asked to prove that they understand and have mastered the process of absorbing and transmuting a particular arena of produced work through their own engine of critical, and, occasionally dare I hope, creative thought.

Today, a lot of people are in quote-unquote higher education who don't need it or even desire what it offers. In the past, they wouldn't have thought it was mandatory simply to have a career outside the trades. I wish high school was as good as it used to be for basic literacy, numeracy, and civics. Employers wouldn't have to do so much remedial employee education of college grads like your thieving dolts, and you wouldn't have so many time-wasters in your classes.

L.A. Mitchell said...

How, in this day and tech age, they think they'll get away with plagiarism, is beyond me. Ballsy. Glad you caught them, Charles. Show no mercy ;)

Unknown said...

If you examine some of the reasons that they are plagiarizing, you will be supporting their learning rather than just telling them not to plagiarize.
Guiding the Gifted to Honest Work

eric1313 said...

I never once wanted to plagiarize anything, but...

If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and steal Fight Club.


All kidding aside, it is really easy for a skilled reader to detect plagiarism. And it really is so arrogant! As it is, most non-plagierized papers are regurgitated enough.

Charles Gramlich said...

Heff, I think I passed!

SzélsőFa, if I hadn't explained and explained it might not have bothered me so much.

Clare2e, the remedial part of it is so much of what I do, and is so time consuming and exhausting. Colleges are sometimes becoming glorified high schools, teaching what should have long ago been learned.

L.A. Mitchell, a certain amount of I don't care seems to be operating.

debbie, we spend almost entire classes on the issue of plagiarism, and talk a lot about why it happens. We cover inadvertent plagiarism in detail, and by the time they get to these papers they are not plagiarizing whole papers because they don't understand that they're making an error.

eric1313, I've thought that if I ended up in an alternate world where novels had never been invented I would tell the stories of Dracula and Frankenstein myself.

Research Writer, It's a delicate situation in some cases because the individuals who generate information through hard work do want to earn some money or at least recognition for their work.