Friday, May 18, 2012
Every semester, I discuss plagiarism with my students. I give them handouts explaining what plagiarism is, I lecture them on it, I put "Don't Plagiarize!" on the assignment instructions. I do this when I hand out the assignments and in short little mini-lectures as the due date draws near. I even tell them the stories of my dumbest plagiarism cases: "Can you believe a student in a past class cut-and-pasted the Wikipedia article and thought I wouldn't notice??" We all laugh together over how dumb that was, and they agree they would never, ever do anything like that.
And then they do.
This semester I caught three. Three wiki papers. Of course it was easier than usual because they all used the same article. As usual, confusion and denial: "I didn't realize it! I made a mistake! I forgot to put the quotes in! Oops!"And then, my favorite: "This is impossible! I didn't even look at the internet! I've never even seen that article, ever!"
Yes, fellow Miserians, it is an end-of-the-semester miracle. MAGIC INTERNET RAYS traveled through the air and into my student's brain, causing him to reproduce, WORD-FOR-WORD, the wikipedia article on his topic. That's the only plausible explanation. Maybe we should alert the press. Or one of those cable shows that investigate amazing supernatural phenomena.
Meanwhile, I'm going to put tinfoil hats on next semester's syllabus, because otherwise this could become an epidemic.