Cutting and pasting

I think one of the problems with plagiarism is that some of the faculty, especially older faculty, have a huge blind spot for it. So, I am trying to decide whether to copy an article in today’s NY Times to the faculty list. It indicates that 38% of undergraduates cut and pasted parts of their work from the internet in the last year. That’s up from 10% three years ago. The scariest part of this is that students cite pressure to get into a good graduate school as one of the reasons for plagiarizing. That’s a scary idea.

Some have argued that this is just a part of living in the information age. I disagree. I think understanding the need to cite is more important, not less, as technology increases the flow and availability of information. I think when we let plagiarism slide it is both a disservice to the students and an indication that our teaching is not up to snuff. That should be a given, but several of our faculty disagree. They think that it is not our job to be cops. I think they missed the idea, somehow.

But it could be worse.

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  1. Jenn
    Posted 9/3/2003 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you 100% and that’s why I have always liked your policy on plagiarism.

  2. Dehlia
    Posted 9/3/2003 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I think if you are copying and pasting something for personal use, such as a quote or lyric you want to remember, it isn’t bad. It’s when people start using these quotes or other peoples work as their own. I know if I am trying to remember a web site or an interesting quotation, I don’t consider it plagiarism because I am not passing them off as my own.

  3. Posted 9/3/2003 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Yeah plagiarism is bad news. It would really suck for someone to get away with it during their undergrad work because you know they will get nailed for it in grad school

  4. Posted 9/4/2003 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Imagine my shock when I saw that someone had, ahem, “borrowed”, entire sentences (in addition to parts that just looked rewritten) from my IRB proposal from March. I’m not talking about the standard “No recruitment materials are required” or other stock phrases – but specific phrases regarding blogs. It’s too late to do anything about it now – it’s just made me extremely reluctant to post any more writing online – and especially to share what I’m doing with other communication students. That’s the saddest part – that collaboration and community have to suffer because people are too lazy/ignorant/incompetent to come up with original work.
    I’d like to see what the percentage was for graduate students.

  5. Posted 9/4/2003 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I am thinking I signed that IRB proposal. Though I recognized the similarity, I simply assumed that it was with your permission. I agree that for things like IRB proposals some boilerplating is acceptable, but I assumed, since the person in question said that they had consulted with you, that such borrowed materials were with your permission. Had I known otherwise, I would have obviously put the kibosh on it.

    As to whether it is a problem at the graduate level, our grads consist of about 50% Asians, who come without similar ideas regarding citation, and we anticipate some of their difficulties, and keep this in mind. (Last year, however, we dismissed an Asian student after a warning.) The problem, however, extends to students who came up through the US system as well. When I was a graduate student, I literally could not have conceived of my peers plagiarizing. Now, it’s a reality.

    I think the only solution in the short run is to make sure our undergrads and grads understand how serious the issue is, and follow through on sanctions for this. Most of the faculty is willing to do this, at least to some extent. I think Draconian action needs to be taken, and students who are caught need to be held accountable. I know one of our faculty members requires the student to apologize to the class, in addition to other penalties, and I think that is a good way to go.

  6. Posted 9/4/2003 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    I am quite sure that I said to take a look at what I did and how I did it, but as for taking what I wrote and using that verbatum in any way, that would NEVER happen. The “boilerplating” for certain things (especially for IRB) is acceptable, when someone is writing about their original idea for a topic they should be able to throw together a few sentences that encapsulate that idea. To do otherwise is just lazy. I feel bad for that person, and for anyone else who does it.
    It’s a lesson learned, though.

  7. Gabriel Garnett
    Posted 9/16/2003 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I read your thoughts on the “cut and paste” plagiarism and I was wondering if you had any ideas on to why most students plagiarize. If you have any thoughts on this I would greatly appreciated it if you emailed them to me at I am writing a research paper on plagiarism and would benefit from your thoughts ( i will need name for citing the comments). Thanks!

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