A Note On Plagiarism

As an English professor a recurring theme in my career is plagiarism. No matter how much help I offer, often times students fail to show up scheduled one on one meetings, remain confused in class, and choose to give up. It is typically one or two students each semester who may struggle with writing itself or even the English language. In College Writing, students write a total of six essays a semester (over a span of 14 weeks). This provides time to discuss the type of writing in class, read examples, write examples, and eventually move to creating a rough draft which will then become a final draft. I try as much as possible to do work in class so that I can be readily available to help. While this sounds ideal, some students need more help than others, and time catches up with us rather quickly.

My first encounter of plagiarism was when I first began to teach at the college. A student who spoke English as their second language fell behind. Despite my coaxing to see me for additional assistance the student insisted that it could be done on their own. I would later receive a late compare & contrast essay from 123helpme.com. It was so blatantly not the work of the student, and the transgression was so egregious that I was shocked. There was no attempt to alter the work at all. The student failed the assignment and was reprimanded. I did not want to end the child’s academic career so early in his first challenge at college. He was given a chance, and I did not report him. That student would later thank me and pass the course with a C-.

The college recommends all professors use Turnitin to scan for plagiarism. While the program is a great tool, it comes with it’s own set of problems. Some students believe that there is a certain percentage that is allowable for plagiarism. I had one student argue that 25% plagiarism was acceptable, (which, of course it is not) because 75% of the paper was original. Another issue is that electronic grading is not beneficial to the student. Students rarely go back to review the essays online to understand why they were given a certain grade. With submitting a physical paper, students are more likely to review their work and ask questions. Nonetheless, the poor judgement to plagiarize is lessened with Turnitin.

I make it a point to discuss at length all types of plagiarism and it is also spelled out in every course syllabus at the college. I make it known that I am always available if they need help but it is only truly up to the student to make the right decision instead of the lazy one.



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