Sighkey wrote about plagiarism:

“We continuously fight against plagiarism here as well. I always give a big scary lecture in the first class of each semester pointing out how much I hate plagiarism, that I’m not interested in other people’s words, I’m interested in the students own words. At least my students usually accept that it is wrong. I caught one plagiarism case (copied from a previous year’s assignment) in the first semester but the system is very frustrating. The university rules make a big deal about plagiarism and how being caught can lead to suspension or expulsion – but they never do it! We had all the evidence and all that happened was the student got 0 for that assignment. Some years ago I had one good tutor who gave up tutoring because of the university’s lack of action over plagiarism. My suspicion is that the bigwigs don’t want the publicity that goes with expelling people because of plagiarism – doesn’t make the university look quite so good when they are trying to sell the university as a’top research institution’.”

I think the most frustrating part for me is that so many of the students honestly don’t seem to see any problem with copying. We did a project on reporting information, and I gave them a shared topic: a paragraph about an endangered species of mussel. Nearly all the papers came in with shared phrases — “yellow-brown with green rays,” for example.

“Well, how else would you say it?” the students asked.

“If you had all just looked at the picture, then what would you have said? Some might have said ‘tan’ or ‘ochre’ and some might have called those green lines ‘stripes.'”

I gave them Stephen Jay Gould’s example. There’s a dinosaur which is almost always described as “roughly the size of a rat terrier.” Gould points out that even Americans, who have mostly never seen a rat terrier, use this phrase.

“If we all went and looked at that dinosaur and then someone asked each of us separately how big it was, we wouldn’t all say ‘roughly the size of a rat terrier.’ Some of us would say it was 24″ or as big as a chicken or ‘kind of little for a dinosaur.'”

We talked about how, if you really want to use someone’s words, you can quote them, using quotation marks.

“And if when you finish writing, your whole paper practically is in quotation marks, what does that tell you?”

There was a long silence while they pondered this, and at last one girl suggested, “It’s not your work?”

“Exactly!” I suggested to them that if they actually did their research and read a number of different things, and then sat down to write what they had learned, they would not have any problems with plagiarism. A few seemed to find this plausible.

I’m going back up today to work with them on the concept of supporting a claim. I’m contemplating a PowerPoint. I really am.

Yesterday’s meetings went well, and I met my deadlines and made the optometrist’s appointment (as well as getting an emergency pair of contacts). I had a mysterious request to interview for a writing assignment. I sent off an email to the individual with my rates and links to samples of my work and so forth, and got an instant response, “Do you want a new project?”

“Yes, I am interested in a new project,” I answered. It didn’t seem like the kind of situation in which a brilliant response was called for. However, I haven’t heard back. Still, my calendar is full for the rest of this week and I have things on the horizon. It’s also two weeks to Thanksgiving, and I have some in-laws from France visiting in the next week or so.

What I need is a cleaning service that would barter for a site analysis…