Friday, August 5, 2011

Candy from Casa Grande With a Friday Thirsty on Plagiarism.

What do you do....

When you've put your policy against plagiarism in your syllabus (namely, plagiarism = FAIL),

When you've told the students upfront that all papers are automatically run through upon submission,

When you've told students repeatedly that the better option by far when confronted with a time crunch would be to turn the paper in a day late (at a 15% deduction/day) rather than get a fatty "F,"

When you've handed out a plagiarism quiz in class that students were required to complete and return to you, with their signature, indicating they understand plagiarism,

When you've offered your office hour services repeatedly for any student who may be confused about plagiarism,


When a student STILL decides to plagiarize?

What is your process for dealing with plagiarism? An email? Asking them to stay after class? Saying nothing at all and letting their grade be a surprise? Do you go to your administrator first?

How do you handle plagiarism?


  1. "Saying nothing at all and letting their grade be a surprise?"

    -This. Color me cruel, but I love seeing the expression of complete surprise when I hand out the essay with the grade of a 0% (which is a grade I invariably give even if just one sentence was plagiarized.)

    I don't write extra emails or ask them to stay after class because I don't see why I have to be penalized with losing my time for their screwups.

  2. I compile the plagiarism report and send it to my chair before I inform the student. Then I inform the student via email that they have failed the course, and forward my report to them, which has already been submitted.

    It's all done before I even write to them.

  3. In this day and age, I have two phases.

    Phase One: first 10% of term (depending on my uni, the first week or 3 weeks of class) -- I call the student in, I review the terms of plagiarism, and make them admit what they did, and if that all goes well I allow them to do the assignment again for half-credit. (I then report it to the Dean so there is evidence in case of repeat offenses)

    Phase Two: After this grace period, when I have done what you described and hit them with the Plagiarism Bat every day for 5 class meetings, I follow through with my threat.

    Automatic F with a letter to the Dean for academic dishonesty. The Student is CC'd on the letter (well, email).

    And you know what? YOU SHOULD DO. For all of us.

  4. Ps, before I take too much flak form the CMers -- only about 3% of the plagiarizers fall into the first category, and of those perhaps half get a second chance.

  5. I would write on their paper "The only one who got an F was U."

    If you can find the kid's parents' address, mail the bad news to them as well, along with the Dean, head of the department, and the Pope.

  6. Does your institution have a policy against the liberal use of napalm in the classroom?

  7. We have to go through official channels when it comes to plagiarism.

    We are, in fact, technically forbidden from "accusing" any of the precious darlings of plagiarism (or cheating), even if we have the source of their uncited material right in front of us.

    We must send everything through the special committee for academic dishonesty. In the meantime, we have to grade the assignment as if it were not the plagiarized pile of shit that it clearly is.

    To do otherwise could put the school at risk of legal action, and we can't have that.

    Needless to say, I'm not a big fan. Napalm is more my style. Or zeroes. Glorious, glistening red zeroes.

  8. My school has a first fail the assignment, then the class, then be expelled rule.

    So, first I report it and am told which of the three steps they are on. Then I hand the paper back with their F and whatever else is happening, as well as the source they copied and a copy of the honor code attached.

    There's generally a note on there that says we can talk about it if they like, but most of them don't.

    And only one student didn't notice because she never even looked at her grade till she had failed the course from failing the paper due to plagiarism. Idiot.

  9. My school is similar to J. Harker's. All accusations of plagiarism must go through the proper channels, and the university makes it so arduous to do so that many profs just look the other way and simply ask the student to redo the assignment. (Which isn't a punishment, it's an extension.)

    The college's rule is that the first offense is the professor's prerogative to deal with--I can do nothing, I can give an "F" on the assignment, I can give an "F" for the course. But that's the maximum. The next level (a "directed 'F,'" meaning an "F" with an asterisk that denotes academic dishonesty) requires that (a) this is the student's second offense, (b) the first offense was actually recorded officially (which, see above, most profs don't do), and (c) the student attend a hearing where he/she can make his/her case to a jury of half profs and half students. In the one time I experienced that, the students completely bought the argument that my plagiarizer "was a freshman and didn't know any better." They only went through with the "directed 'F'" when they learned that the student used the high grade on his plagiarized paper to ask me for a recommendation letter.

    Expelling or suspending a kid for plagiarism? I've never seen it happen at my school. And I've seen plagiarism at its most deliberate, so I doubt it does happen.

  10. I send a letter to the Dean with photocopies of the assignment and the sources with the parallel passages highlighted, and send a copy to the student as well, giving them a "0" for the assignment. No muss, no fuss, all rather straightforward and unemotional (from my end, that is). Students rarely seek to speak with me about it, as the academic dishonesty policy for the college is well-known and reiterated in each syllabus I hand out, and the evidence sent to the dean is clear and conclusive.

    I rarely assign more than one major paper for any given class, so students don't usually have the chance to commit a second offense.

  11. I'm at an institution with a policy similar to Ruby From Richmond's. Filing the paperwork is hard (but I do it) and we have a choice of a F for the grade, an F for the semester, or a re-do of some form.

    F**k the re-do. They were warned (by me verbally and in the syllabus) AND have to complete an anti-plagiarism module when entering our program.

    Sooooo... I spend time compiling the evidence so it won't get overturned. I know (yes, I do) my colleagues don't do similarly.

    Like Ruby, I've never heard of anyone expelled; they just get a mark on their record. However, there's a certain institution about 60 miles west of Richmond (VA) where expulsion does happen. Good for them.

  12. P.S.

    I had a student who didn't understand what the problem was with her paper(!) and asked me about it. Sooooo... I gave her selected examples (and not all of them).

    She admitted guilt but seemed surprised at what I found. Her reaction made me think this was a case where someone else wrote her paper (and, obviously, cut corners).

    Too bad.

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  14. I had a student last year who was caught for a second time. They were suspended for a semester, flunked the course, and there is a note on their transcript noting that the student was suspended due to academic cheating, so they can't try to hide it from other schools.

    and yeah, this particular student is an idiot.

  15. You follow through with your threats, of course. This is the problem with some children today -- parents don't follow through with the punishment they tell their children they'll get, which leads to continued bad behavior.

    In this case, I have it somewhat easy. I send the material to my immediate supervisor and argue like crazy that they should get the F they've earned, either on the paper or in the course. I also push for it to be on their transcript, but he can be a bit of a pushover on both counts sometimes.

  16. My school has a very vague policy on academic dishonesty so it's pretty much up to the professors to set the standard. For me, I give them a zero for the first offense and I note why they received the F in the comments. If they fess up, I allow them to redo the assignment for 50% of the credit. After that, if they plagiarize a second time then they automatically fail the course. I document everything and keep records (e.g., Turnitin docs) so that if there are any accusations made against me I can cover my ass. Ironically neither my dean nor the chair of the department want to hear about plagiarism. To be honest, my chair is surprised I'm so vehement in enforcing my policy.

  17. I can't believe that there are universities who require a jury to decide whether there is enough evidence for plagiarism or not.


    Of course they are cheating. They plagiarize their facebook statuses, why would they write unique material for class? The only hope we have is to punish 1/10 of them hard enough that they bitch to their friends and warn their friends about how much of a hard ass our faculty can be.

    Juries. OMG pleeez.

  18. Accidental plagiarism (or anything I can't prove is deliberate plagiarism -- i.e. not copied entirely from a single source) on drafts gets a failing preliminary grade and a chance to revise (same chance that every student gets to revise).

    Deliberate plagiarism (i.e. plagiarism from a single source not mentioned anywhere in the notes or bibliography) at any stage in the process, and any kind of plagiarism on a final version (whether I saw it in draft or -- as is most often the case -- not) gets reported through the appropriate channels, and I inform the student afterward (we've got a final grade option that indicates that an investigation is in process). Our process involves some paperwork, but generally works well (I can suggest a penalty, which is always worse than if the student simply hadn't done the assignment, and usually leads to failing the class, and my suggestion is nearly always adopted; records are kept and second offenses get harsher punishments).

    I do occasionally grade down for "inadequate citation" in borderline cases, but most cases are pretty egregious.

    My main suggestion: don't take it personally. You did your job; if they don't do theirs, it's not your fault. Sometimes it takes going through a formal, outside-of-class process to get the message across.

  19. P.S. Plagiarism on drafts pretty much automatically results in a conversation (during a conference or office hours). The only time I'd schedule a conversation about a final version would be if I got all or part of the same final paper or exam from two students, and couldn't find the original on the internet. That hasn't happened for years; one good thing about the ease of copying from the internet is that it's reduced the temptation to steal papers from roommates, the professor's physical inbox, or similar sources. I'm glad of that, since the couple of cases of student-on-student plagiarism I had early in my career were painful for all involved, and extremely stressful for the victimized student. Given the litigiousness of the current climate, and the likelihood, given the alternatives available, that such a case might involve some sort of personal grudge between students, I might kick it straight into the formal honor process anyway. But my explanatory email to both students (individually, of course) would be much gentler, since I wouldn't know who was at fault (at least until I got two emails back; I'm not Solomon, but in those cases I'm pretty sure I can tell).

  20. At my Online College of Asses in Classes, we used to be more strict ten years ago. Now, they want us to give a zero for the assignment, but anything beyond that is frowned upon. (I still assign an F for the course after a second offense, but I pay for it in my evals). Failing courses upsets the poor dears, after all, and upsetting the customer is bad for business.

  21. I fill out all of the paperwork to make the case for failure: letter to the academic affairs office; letter to the student telling them about it; color-coded copies of plagiarized material and the source the student stole it from. Before completing the letters, I meet with the student. Ultimately, the way the student reacts determines how I finish the letter. If the student admits to the dishonesty, s/he gets a zero on the assignment and loses additional credit (otherwise, the student would get the same result as not having done the work at all, and that doesn't seem to be sufficient to me). If the student denies cheating, s/he fails the course.

    My school is supposed to have a 3 strikes policy, but, as others here suggested, I doubt it is ever enforced. Given that I detected one student's third strike and he remained my advisee, I know for certain that the policy is optional.

    To those of you who have to go through a committee, I feel exasperated on your behalf. That type of policy makes no sense.

  22. I fill out all the paperwork (except the portion that asks for the student's response to the accusation) that our school requires and then give them back their paper with the F grade. I attach a note asking them to stay after class, at which time we walk to my office (if there is time) and I complete the rest of the paperwork and get their signature (which we are required to get).

    If you don't have a policy, I'd simply assign the F and let THEM seek you out.

  23. I make them sign a statement with each assignment they turn in, acknowledging that they have followed the Honor Code and are aware that plagiarism will result in an F for the course. They know I'm serious and willing to be really obnoxious about it.
    If they still plagiarize, they get an F for the course. No negotiating, no breaks, no nuffin'.

  24. I go through all the mandatory hoops: contact dean, contact student, give student a chance to respond, fill out paper-work, send it to dean, zero on assignment. It's a bitch, especially since we're not allowed to use turnitin (!). The most difficult ones to prove are the cases in which a student has paid someone to write his or her essay. Sometimes they cop to it. If they don't, I'm in a bind.

    I know of at least one of my students for whom the "three strikes and you're out" policy was enforced. I am also fully aware, though, that many of my colleagues do not report plagiarism which means there is no record of the number of the student's strikes.

  25. On the syllabus, my policy of assigning an "F" for the final course grade in response to any act of academic dishonesty is clear.

    In class, I tell them that cheaters don't tell me when they cheat so I don't tell them when they're caught. I just do the paperwork and assign the "F" at course end.

    The little surprise at semester end brightens my day.

  26. O how I love my institution! If we have even a hunch, we forward materials to the Ministry of Few Consequences and give the student a "Pending" grade. The Ministry finds the evidence, contact the student, meet with him/her, and decide the penalties. I have the glorious task of assigning either an F or a 0 for the paper and the Ministry administers a light slap on the wrist in the form of community service or taking a course on plagiarism. Unfortunately this means that you can plagiarize and not fail a course. But the lack of time-wasting for me makes it all worth it.


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