Looking at my referrer logs, I find an uptick in people who find this blog through searches like these:
This is because right around now, all over the country, undergraduates are writing final papers or taking final exams in sociological theory courses like the one I teach.
Some of those searching are doing legitimate research and some are looking for material to plagiarize. I don’t know what the relative sizes of those groups are, of course. I usually get at least one open-and-shut case of plagiarism each semester.
Like hepatitis, plagiarism comes in several varieties.
Few things annoy faculty more than plagiarism, particularly when it’s poorly executed. (That doesn’t mean well-executed copying is better, just that it’s a different sort of insult.) Because people who plagiarize are usually also poor students, they tend not to realise that it’s obvious when a paragraph of bumbling prose suddenly rises from its own ashes to become lucid and flowing, or even just moderately coherent.
The most annoying sort of plagiarism is the low-expectations variety. To my mind, plagiarism ought to be about copying something really good in order to get a better grade. But for many students, it’s just about turning in something that will help them scrape by. Plagiarism is hardest to spot if the student’s highest ambition is a C and so doesn’t mind copying something that’s already a poor piece of work. That’s why the File Cabinet method is the most insidious variety. It’s hard to spot (the work’s already bad) and hard to prove (it’s not published or online).
Thanks to the Lazy Web, though, I think most plagiarism is now Google-based. This gives me a fighting chance. Because I have a blog, it also lets me contribute to the base of copyable texts. Perhaps some of my posts—like this one, for instance—have already been cannibalized by someone, somewhere. My ambition, naturally, is to have a student quote my own words back to me without attribution in a final paper. That’s an office hour I’d look forward to.All Categories
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