Plagiarism

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Let’s talk about it… what is or isn’t ‘ cheating.

First of all, plagiarism IS cheating, plain and simple.  It’s an attempt to pass off someone else’s work as  your own.  It’s just like looking at someone else’s exam and writing down theiir answers.  You didn’t think of it, but you’re pretending you did.

So,IF you copy and paste something into your paper, it’s plagiarism.  IF you type it yourself, only changing a few words here and there, it’s plagiarism.  IF you re-phrase a unique argument into your own words, it’s plagiarism.  In the re-phrasing instance,  you should just cite your source in a footnote and move on.

For the most part, if I can google a sentence or two of your paper, sentences you don’t have citations for, and I find it — it’s plagiarism.

It’s actually shockingly easy to avoid plagiarism, write your own stuff.  period.  Most plagiarists I’ve caught (and every semester I catch a few, at a minimum) are caught because either a) their paper is close to being responsive to the prompt, but it misses by a bit, b) they write a few really poorly written paragraphs to introduce and conclude an otherwise good paper — and THOSE paragraphs are the ones that link the paper to the prompt, c) the paper includes a lot more on the topic than is covered in class, or d) the paper is simply much better written than their other work or the work of freshman in philosophy.

Besides the obvious unfairness that some students work hard to write papers while others copy and paste, when a student gets away with plagiarism, they’re avoiding the work that makes the course a good prerequisite to other courses, so they can easily get into a new course that they aren’t prepared for.

I look at my courses as part of a student’s overall college education.  Many of my students are going into important fields like law and medicine.  I don’t want someone to get into a nursing program after having cheated in Biomedical Ethics — for selfish reasons.  Would you want them to just fake your chart instead of actually making rounds in the hospital?  Would you want them to think that medicine AB is close enough to medicine BA to count for now?  I kinda think not.. Would you want your police officer to be dishonest when filing a report for your missing kid?  probably not… and IF not, as a student and a member of the community, you should be outraged when someone turns in a paper they didn’t write.

Personally, when I find a plagiarist, I’m a little miffed that they thought they could get away with it.  I’m mostly irritated because
I know there will be more paperwork involved, and I hate to give a student an F.  I also know there will be begging e-mails full of pleas for mercy, which I’m not going to fall for.  I give plenty of time to get papers in, there really are no good excuses that aren’t also excused absences and I even re-designed my Ethics course as a pilot to see if I could reduce the pressure to turn in papers and thus reduce the plagiarism — we’ll see if it works..

SO — if you want to avoid all of that, turn in your OWN work — even a couple of crappy paragraphs of your own will be better than an F for the class.

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