Friday, August 29, 2008


A few times since I've started teaching I've had to give a talk about plagiarism. Apparently it's not frowned upon here to copy and paste someone else's work and pretend it's your own. A couple clear signs to me that someone has plagiarized are:

1. The use of words that I have to look up to understand.
2. An error free paragraph on "what I did last summer?" by a student who up until this very moment hasn't comprehended the difference between "went" and "go."

3. The actual website address accidentally copied into the text.

In my teenager class this week I had a new plagiarism detection siren go off -- two girls handed in the same exact essay about the Jonas Brothers (apparently they are some teen rock band). It wasn't that one girl copied the other girls paper, they both copied wikipedia. They literally had 95% of the same article from the website.

Today, before I handed back the papers, I gave my class a lecture about plagiarism which went basically like this: "If you study abroad and your parents pay tuition -- let's say $40,000 -- and you plagiarize, you will be thrown out of school and your parents will lose their money." This got all of the students attention. As you can imagine $40,000 is a lot of money here.

At the end of class I handed back everyone's essays. I handed the two plagiarizing girls their essays last and said, "Look I know you copied this but what I'm most upset about is that you lied to me when I asked you if you copied this on Thursday (NOTE: When they handed me the paper I immediately knew they hadn't written it and asked them straight up, "Did you write this?" They both said yes.)." One of the girls looked at me and said, "I didn't copy this. My brother did it." So the question is, which is worse: having your sibling do your homework for you OR turning in material you plagiarized yourself?