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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Plagiarism Paranoia

So final essays are due next week, and though I encourage the students to pursue topics they find interesting, I also find myself weighing every topic individual students suggest for how easy those topics would be to plagiarize.

"Oh, you want to write about madness in Hamlet?" (Quick, how can I tweak his idea to make it a bit more plagiarism proof.) "Hmmm, nature in King Lear. There's definitely a lot to say, so what exactly excites you about this topic? what do you plan to say about it?"

I'm sure 99% of them have no intention of plagiarizing (or is that too high?), and there's a reason these are well-trod topics, so I wish I weren't plagued by quite as much paranoia as I am.

But horror stories like Truewit's (what was it, five students plagiarizing their final essays?) are always lurking in the back of my mind, generating more skepticism and suspicion than I wish they did.

  • At 3/02/2006 11:11:00 AM, Anonymous Hermione's Mom wrote…

    It seemed only appropriate to share the following, which is but a snapshot of the most bizarre/hilarious/troubling plagiarism story I have ever encountered:

    When I confronted a student with evidence that his paper on _King Lear_ had been taken from a website, he responded--without missing a beat--that I was sorely mistaken. The work was his, and the only explanation he could find was that the website (through means never convincingly explained, though he tried, lord did he try) had, in fact, plagiarized from him.

    Points for pure hutzpah.

    I won't even tell you some of the other excuses he offered.

     

  • At 3/02/2006 11:19:00 AM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    That's amazing. Clearly the website had installed spyware on his computer in order to log his keystrokes--after all, this was the guy, right?, who was being wooed by various websites due to his superlative, cutting-edge, and profitable (!) literary criticism. I seem to remember reading about him somewhere.

     

  • At 3/02/2006 04:09:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    I always have plenty of plagiarism in Shakespeare classes--usually one or two per group of 35-40. But I really don't like the idea of giving them incredibly specific or even outlandish topics just to avoid plagiarism. After all, the first element of rhetoric is inventio, and they need to learn it. I count on being able to catch the plagiarists anyway, and I'd estimate I catch 90% of it, because it's so obvious (especially to professors under the age of 50).

     


 Scribble some marginalia



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