How to cheat good

I just submitted my last set of grades for the semester. This is always a big weight off my shoulders, but since it will be the last set of grades I ever submit at the University at Buffalo, it is an even greater relief. And so I think it’s time for me to “give back” as the kids say.

I had a 24 hour take home (distance course, so “keep home”?) final exam. Students had to submit it in text–and most submitted it in Word. In the exam, I noted that “I expect everyone to behave honorably,” and noted that receiving assistance from others or plagiarizing work was a bad idea.

I would prefer that students don’t cheat. Yes, they really are mostly cheating themselves, so fine. But it also reflects poorly on the community. Rationally or not, what particularly irks me is that it is disrespectful: of me, of their fellow students, of the university, of the institution of learning, and of themselves. And–did I mention–of me? It is particularly irksome when their cheating implies (reminds?) that I am a fool.

So, to help students across the country cheat better, saving themselves both from easy detection and from incurring the wrath of insulted faculty, and leading to a much more harmonious school environment, I offer the following tips, based on recent experience:

1. Don’t cheat off family.

If you are in a class of several hundred people, and you share an unusual family name with another student in the class, it is best if your reply to an open ended short-answer question is not identical, word-for-word. This is particularly true when the answer is wrong, and when it is wrong in an idiosyncratic way. Many profs, as I do, grade “blind,” without reference to the names of the students, but still, it’s easy enough when you find something like this to track back to the names. My suggestion, in this case, is to continue to cut and paste the answer, but to legally change your name. A convenience marriage may do the trick.

2. Don’t talk British.

The only people allowed to use the word “colour” are those with Indian surnames. “Weight,” you may argue, “I was bourne and razed in the english countryside.” I have no doubt, but your Commonwealth heritage is not easily detectable by your surname, so I’m afraid you will need to switch to Amerkin spelling for work in my classes. (If you are Indian, but your surname has suffered from various Colonial incursions, I’m afraid you’ll have to lose the U’s as well.) Otherwise, fair or not, it somehow appears that you have copied your work from another author.

3. You Google, I Google

How do you think I check suspicious work? It’s not like our state university is shelling out for TurnItIn. I am pretty good with that Google thingy. And changing two words won’t send me off the trail. So copy from something a bit more obscure. Or–and this is really tricky–try making up your own stuff.

4. Dont rite to good

When you “write” a sentence like “The veil of ignorance, to mention one prominent feature of that position, has no specific metaphysical implications concerning the nature of the self; it does not imply that the self is ontologically prior to the facts about persons that the parties are excluded from knowing,” you have two ways of being caught up. First, while I make no claim of having anything approaching an eidetic memory (more like an idyllic memory), it may ring some dusty bells and heck, I might be able to pull the book you stole it from down off my shelf, even if you followed the advice of #3. If my memory fails to serve, as is frequently the case these days, Google Print might help out.

The second way you can trip up is by following this with your original words, which tend to be less sophisticated, or equally sophisticated material from an entirely different source that simply does not seem to make sense in this particular context.

As a corollary here, try not to plagiarize the teacher. You will be less likely to suffer her ire, since it will amuse her and her colleagues to no end, but you are more likely to be caught. Steal her ideas and rephrase them in your own prose, because there is nothing teachers like more than knowing that students can write well but have no original ideas.

5. Malaprop big words

Make sure you pick a word that sounds impervious and use it incorrigibly, or inventorate words. We’ll be udderly convinced of your genuinity (not to mention your precedential potential). Snuff said.

6. Use the word “rediculous.”

This almost magical word will cause any instructor to instantaneously turn off all internal plagiarism detection.

7. Borrow from someone who writes as badly as you do.

Don’t do what one of my graduate students did, and steal a text on Korean feminism from someone who wrote slightly better English than he did. I’ll notice the slightly better writing, even before I notice that you have expressed no interest in or knowledge of feminist perspectives in the past. (Once kicked out of our program, he applied to the English department. No kidding.)

8. Edit > Paste Special > Unformatted Text

This is my Number 1 piece of advice, even if it is numbered eight. When you copy things from the web into Word, ignoring #3 above, don’t just “Edit > Paste” it into your document. When I am reading a document in black, Times New Roman, 12pt, and it suddenly changes to blue, Helvetica, 10pt (yes, really), I’m going to guess that something odd may be going on. This seems to happen in about 1% of student work turned in, and periodically makes me feel like becoming a hermit.

If you follow these simple rules, you are almost guaranteed to pass off your plagiarism and cheating as your own work. This will allow the faculty to remain in blissful ignorance, believing that–despite the low pay–they are spreading knowledge in the world, while at the same time convincing your parents to continue to pay for several more years of school, drunken orgies, and Prada bags. Your classmates who do not follow the above rules will constitute the “low hanging fruit,” easily picked off and tormented by mean-spirited unfulfilled teachers for their own amusement. You, however, will rise above the fray, secure in your superious ability to act smart, even if you don’t understand the text you are passing off as your own.

And what if you follow all eight points and still get caught? Here’s your “get out of jail free” card. Simply say this to your teacher (no, no one has tried these exact words on me yet), and you are off scot free:

“Like a postmodern version of Searle’s Chinese Room, I am able to re-articulate existing knowledge through my command of its (re)presentation and manipulation. Any claim to originality ignores what I like to call our ability to stand on the shoulders of giants. By this, I mean that there is a well-known correlation between book sales and height, and we should use their height to our own advantage, to avoid mud and small dogs.

“Also, is it really all that original to give me an F? After all, I’ve already received an F from two other profs this semester alone. Be an original: give me a C.

“By the way, I don’t know who this ‘John Rawls’ guy is–is he even in our major?–but I think it’s possible he cheated off me.

“Finally, and I think this is most vital, my plagiarism in this case is a clear indictment of the educational system. After all, I’ve been failed by my high school and by three years of university, while continually passing. I don’t think it can be entirely my fault if I’ve gotten this far by plagiarism, and in this, my last class, you decide that it is somehow ‘wrong.’ Clearly, you should use this outcome as a way of evaluating your own teaching and expectations.”

You have my permission to use the above excuses, verbatim and without attribution, in any discussion with your respected faculty. I don’t guarantee their success, but would be happy to hear from any of you who employ them as to their efficacy.

Update (6/16): Be sure to read the huge number of comments below, because they have some top-notch cheating tips. Also, a few have asked whether they can reprint, borrow this in some way. It got lost with my last blog redesign, but everything here that is original is Creative Commons licensed for non-commercial, attributed use. So have at it, just don’t say you wrote it… and don’t turn it in for a grade!

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46 Comments

  1. Greg
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I have a friend who is a doctoral candidate at the University of Buffalo in Comparative Literature. About a year ago, she told me that not merely did one of her students violate your rule number 8 — the words of the paper were blue virtually throughout — but they had inadvertantly included a footnote that mentioned their previous books on the subject.

    Naturally, the student was incensed when she had the audacity to fail him.

  2. trr
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Cool! Comment #100.
    Great piece – funny *and* depressing.
    I’m surprised by the number of people who didn’t get your point regarding the American vs. British spelling.

  3. trr
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Oooops. Never mind – not comment #100.

  4. simon
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Hi, it was funny reading this post. Here’s a small example of worldwide, first class stupidity.
    My brother works as an assistant in an economics class in the University of Geneva. He had completed the same lecture he’s working on last year, and as all students had done a paper and a presentation. Well suddenly this year a student sends him his presentation and paper too late, but anyway, he gives him a chance. So he opens the presentation and he sees a familiar name on the pages: his own name!!! What a dumb f***! He’s kind enough to give him a second chance because the student in question claimed that he had sent the wrong file (yeah right!) But the poor guy only had two more days. Finally when he comes to do his presentation, he had managed to delete my brother’s name (atta boy!) but could’nt explain the equations in his talk… They found the whole story so pathetic that they didn’t expell him (he got a zero though). By the way I’m a genetic’s PhD student and maybe you’ve all heard of the Hwang’s case (photoshop, copy and paste anyone). This raises the question: where are kids finding their inspiration…

  5. Peter
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Hi there,

    I was amazed when I saw this link in the best and biggest Dutch Newspaper (www.nrc.nl).

    The thing is, I always try to be original, hate cheating on tests or papers.

    Sometimes my classmates cheat and I think it is stupid, but in the end, they get the better grades…

    One time, I asked my professor for a comment on a B, he told me to stop asking, I should be happy I passed the test and shouldn’t ask further. It is not a one way street you know.

    Interested in your reply,
    Peter

  6. Tullia
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Other tips:

    9. Don’t copy from sources that are about entirely different things and written in entirely different styles. If you’re writing about social pressures on youth, going from writing in an academic style about nineteenth-century industrial working conditions to writing in New York Times style about cell phone ringtones will out you every time.

    10. Don’t copy from Wikipedia. Please?

    Finally, in re: the British/American spellings bit … I’m American and I teach in Canada. I have to ask the students to write using Canadian spellings. And I circle American spellings on their papers, though I don’t mark down the paper as a result. Why? Because they’re in Canada, and when they write outside of university they’ll be asked to write according to Canadian style. Same thing in the States when I had students from the Commonwealth–it’s not a fatal flaw, but it is a slight stylistic adjustment.

  7. Posted 6/15/2006 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    I am astonished at the number of people who are taking offense at the idea that you would require consistent use of a spelling convention in your class. Sure, Canada is 15 minutes away. Sure, some students grew up spelling things in the English fashion. But it’s your classroom! Have these folks forgotten what it’s like to take a class, and deal with the inevitable idiosyncrasies of the teacher? I took a class where no chocolate was allowed in the room (even if it stayed in the pocket or bookbag); another professor would take points off if you used a computer rather than a typewriter (at a Macintosh-heavy school!); and so on.

    It’s your classroom. You can set the conventions. These people whining about colour versus color should get over themselves. I’m half Canadian myself, and I agree that code switching is no big deal.

    Great essay, by the way. I did write a paper for someone else once; she was in a class that I never took, so I got her a D minus. An indication of the professor’s ability to detect shoddy work, at the very least.

  8. Margot
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Former IT teacher here, current homeschooling mum.

    The system is broken. Before you college blokes or even high school for that matter, go whining and wailing about the quality of students and their dishonest work, why not take a good hard honest look at the system that pays you and uses/digests/excretes students from ages 5 and up?

    Why shouldn’t they cheat? I know, I know, “They are only cheating themselves.” Maybe. Maybe, they’ve been screwed with for so long they can’t see the difference? Maybe cheating allows a bit of autonomy and self-respect that sucking up to the TA all semester doesn’t?

    If soooooo many students do it, perhaps it is because it works.

    Margot

  9. kdownwar
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    This made my day. Thank you.

  10. artgirl
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Would it be plagiarism if I copied this and passed it out to my class before they did a report? Hahaha!

  11. Posted 6/15/2006 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I have a question. Have you ever received a paper produced by one of those automatic social science paper generators found on the Internet that every so often makes it into a journal (no doubt submitted by someone in the hard sciences) and causes an uproar?

  12. Toby
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    I never cheat.
    Once.

  13. Posted 6/15/2006 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for a very entertaining read! The comments left have been almost as good!

  14. Daemon
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    #2 – Don’t forget Canadians. We tend to mix and max proper and American ways to spell things if we aren’t careful.

  15. Meg
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Oh wow, this is amazing! I remembered with a sudden flash helping to grade the papers of a High School English class where we were able to Google the first lines of FIVE papers and find the entire body online. Sitting through college, I’ve seen the same amazing things… I think these kids put more effort in to cheating than they actually would put in to the work!

  16. Mike
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    You left out a favorite “preventor” for plagiarism. Put a very small footnote at the end of the paper, staple the report and rip the last page containing the single footnote crediting your source. Well, it could work…

  17. suze
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    For Zwack: if British or Canadian students don’t know American spelling while at an American university, doesn’t it follow that the American professor at an American university might not know British or Canadian spelling and simply see it as incorrect (which it is in America)? And here’s a newsflash: MS Word used with American English automatically corrects spellings like “organise” to “organize,” and flags words such as “colour” and “honourable” as misspellings, so it’s not like this is a huge challenge for Canadians or Brits in American universities.

  18. Anne
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I teach ESL, and cheating is extremely easy for me to spot. Most of it is pretty pathetic, too. I get mad just as much because they think I’m dumb enough not to notice as because I consider cheating (of any kind, not just plagiarism and other academic sorts) to be an act of pure cowardice.

    Lots of my friends have rolled their eyes when I’ve said it, but I never cheated in school–not from elementary through grad school. It was a matter of honor (or honour, for those of you who are tracking the spelling thread here). Perhaps I have unusually high standards for my own behavior, but at least when I catch cheating students–and dishonest colleagues, too–I can’t be called a hypocrite.

    For all the students who think that grades are all that matter and that it’s OK to cheat in classes because “everybody does it,” I bring up a point that others have made. Do you want yourself or your child to be treated by a doctor who cheated his way through medical school? Do you want to be represented in court by a lawyer who cheated on her bar exam? Do you want your taxes audited by an accountant who cheated his way through the CPA certification? Do you want to hire employees who cheated throughout high school and college and really don’t know how to read, write, process, or evaluate information? Do you?

  19. Kevin
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    If you work for a department as a lab monitor, don’t use your key to let yourself in after hours, steal another student’s lab work and turn it in as your own.

    Seriously, I had a case of that back when I was teaching. Usually, we dealt with plagiarism informally, but this turkey got the book thrown at him – expelled with a permanent hold placed on his transcript, as I recall, so that none of his earlier work (he was a senior, I believe) could be offered for transfer credit at another institution. (I think that the University’s lawyers put the kibosh on prosecuting him for accessing computers in excess of authorization, so he didn’t get jailed for it. He should have.)

  20. UberSchatz
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    IN RE: color vs. colour:

    I also am saddened by the number of posts ripping you for the color/colour thing.

    I also got the impression that your issues about the matter had more to do with consistency rather than spelling. Either one is right, in my opinion.
    It’s not about using these spellings as it is more about the student from Arkansas or Mississippi switching from: “Shakespeer was fixin’a set for a spell when he grabbt aholt to a snake that bit’em”, to “and lo and behold! he evisioned a fair maiden with lips of rose petals standing erect before his very eyes.”, in the same sentence.
    And before anyone starts with the north and south comments, I am not making fun of the Arkie’s (I’m an Arkie myself) I am simply using this as an illustration.
    When you get to know your students, their writing styles, their language skills, etc., you KNOW when they are passing someone else’s work off as their own.
    There is nothing wrong with “grabbing aholt to” anything, but if youre not consistent with your grabbing then that’s where you can get caught.

  21. Posted 6/15/2006 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I am an American. Like most Americans I grew up reading children’s literature written by British authors.

    That does not make any sense whatsoever.

  22. ACoile
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I had students turn in identical Excel worksheets, that had an error that made Excel pop up a box complaining about a Circular Reference on cell such-and-so….by the third student who’s assignment popped up the identical error, that was kind of a hint to me as the professor…

    I had another student for a programming class who included in his ZIP file the original files he had plagarized from, including the original author’s name. I was co-teaching, and we offerered the student the chance to do a different assignment that proved he knew the material, otherwise we’d fail him. The student went to the Student Conduct Office and said that yes, he had cheated, but complained that we were being unfair to him by making him do the new assignment! (This is equivalent to going to the DA and saying that you have burglarized a house, but the police are harrassing you by arresting you for it.) That started an independent investigation by Student Conduct, and THEIR investigations get noted on your transcript. This same kid cheated his way all through school….he really should have been expelled, but he worked the system just perfectly to sneak by.

  23. Posted 6/15/2006 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    For reasons too complex to go into, I had to take a freshman level Sociology course. Before the first paper, the prof and TA spent twenty (!) minutes going over style (margin no greater than 1 inch, font of 12pt, yadda yadda). Five minutes outlining what to talk about.

    I didn’t understand why they’d waste so much time until I saw the paper turned in before mine – easily 14pt font, with two inch margins on each side…

  24. Posted 6/15/2006 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    [Sorry about the duplicate post]

    Regardless, I think every last one of them should be failed and/or expelled. Why won’t they stop devaluing my degree?

  25. Joe
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    This is great. I’m gonna copy it.

  26. Posted 6/15/2006 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    wcw: “For the record, I once got accused of cheating on an English paper when I didn’t. It was a really baffling experience”.

    I had the same experience once in a college philosophy course. Baffled is a good description of how you feel.

    Normally I was honors-level in everything, but I was totally blowing off this course (pulling a B) because the prof was so dry and uninteresting. When I actually managed to come up with a topic I was really excited about for my paper at the end of the year, I really knocked it out of the park … and boy was he surprised.

    It didn’t lead to an outright accusation of cheating, probably since there was exactly zero evidence (because I didn’t!). But he called me in to discuss it and was pretty grudging about giving me a grade on it, and it was obvious that he suspected someone else had written it. For my part, I think he didn’t give the paper the grade it deserved because he still felt that I must have cheated somehow. But in the end I decided to just let it slide… I was happy enough just to be done with his class and have that last humanities req fulfilled.

    factor: “In reality I think there should be a class on how to cheat.”

    But how would you grade it!? You’d have to make sure that the students are actually providing plagiarized content, not -original- content. :-) And if you can tell the difference between the plagiarized and original content, then clearly they shouldn’t be passing…

  27. Dave
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    A professor or TA doesn’t really need to spend a lot of time scrutinizing for plagiarzism. Just accuse them of it. Let guilt do it’s job and see who admits their transgression. To illustrate this my grad school advisor did just that. He came in one morning in an usually good mood. He said he had just caught a number of students in his freshmen night class plagiarizing. One of the reports submitted sounded very familiar to him. With a little reasearch he found passages from several books he had just read. The student had done a good job of piecing together a good report except for the fact when she ran across a word she didn’t know she just left it out. That night he went to class and explained penalty of plagiarizing. Then announced he had detected plagiarizing and whoever did it had two hours after class to withdraw their paper. A dozen students showed up to withdraw their papers. He thought that was so good he tried it on his next class with equally good results. Who needs to spend time checking, just accuse them and let guilt take over.

  28. Thomas
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    ‘Those smart enough to cheat effectively, are smart enough to do the work.’

    This may be true, but are they necessarily motivated to do it? The smartest students are often the least-best fit for the academic process as it stands; original thinkers resist didactic teaching. If they’re cheating in your class, it’s because they’re bored senseless.

  29. MadeInUSA
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Re: comment #126 … American (I am not prone to use USAian, as it’s ugly) attempts at children’s literature, with the exception of Dr. Suess and a very few others, are unreadable, hence those of us — of a certain age, at least — who read as children, read a great many British authors. I still, far too many years later, have difficulty with er/re and z/s. For some reason, our/or has never been a problem, nor have I ever spelt ‘tire’ with a ‘y’. I, however, as you may see, have the habit of putting many clauses in my sentences; something no properly brought up American can do, in writing or in speaking. I blame Kipling and Carroll, and even, from later years, Brunner and Amis and Orwell, for my sad state.

  30. k351n
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I once gave another student a copy of a report I had written, as an example of the type of writing that a particular teacher liked, marked in red pen with comments about how he should lay out his own paper and the function of each paragraph, including a warning that the topic he was assigned was not the same as what was assigned when I wrote this paper. He did not retype it or even photocopy it to remove the marks. He handed it in, red pen and all.

  31. Posted 6/15/2006 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    My best friend in college was a TA in math.

    In linear algebra class one semester, a student handed in a photocopy of another student’s take home exam.

    Most of the answers were wrong anyway…

    Fantastic…

  32. Mike Bube
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I read a story many years ago about plaigerising. A student in a fraternity went into the file of collected papers that had been handed down for generations. He copied a paper and turned it in. The professor wrote this comment on his paper: “When I wrote this paper in my undergrad days, I thought it deserved an A but I got a C. So I am giving you the average of the two grades, a B.” I don’t believe the story but I think it is funny.

    Here’s a story that isn’t quite a plaigerism story, but it did have to do with my helping another student get a grade. I once typed a friend’s take-home final exam because he couldn’t type very well. His writing was so atrocious that I asked if he minded that I fixed the grammar. He got an A on his paper and I got a B. It turned out that the professor didn’t grade on the content of the paper. He had asked us in the test to state whether we had read all of the reading assignments, most of the reading assignments, some of the reading assignments, none of the reading assignments. I had read about half of the assignments and I wanted to say that I had read more, but I couldn’t bring myself to say that I had read all of the assignment. The professor gave his grades out on the basis of the reading level one admitted to, so I got a B and my friend lied more than I did and got an A.

  33. Posted 6/15/2006 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Some people just shouldn’t be cheaters. This gave me plenty of chuckles. Perhaps the stupidest cheat I’ve seen is this one boy who did a paper on the Cherry Blossom Festival, and copy and pasted the content from the first webpage that comes up from the search on the above subject.

  34. Mike Bube
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    A professor of theology told me this story about plaigerism. Although he is a Catholic priest, he was teaching a course at a non-Catholic theology school in Wash DC. He received a paper once that was so typically Catholic in its imagery and use of words that he thought the student was either brilliant or a plaigerist. He asked another friend of his to look at the paper. The friend thought it was familiar so he looked through the books he thought it might have come from. It turned out that the student had copied a chapter from a book by an obscure Polish prelate, Karol Wojtyla, who later was elected Pope and called himself Pope John Paul II.

  35. Posted 6/15/2006 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    The stupid thing, the REALLY stupid thing is people do this in all manner of courses, not just achedemic. I’m in a chef school, and we have to occasionally hand in “work plans” outlining complicated cooking labs. You know, along the line of “Cut the vegetables for the soup, get soup on, work on chicken de-boning”. And people feel the need to even copy that, the very way they are supposed to come in and work on their meal. Our chef-instructor pointed out that she can’t catch everyone, but when two people spell “wine” as “whine”, well… it’s certainly not going to encourage her to believe they independantly wrote that.

    And yes, for our midterm this week, no less than three strangly identical workplans were handed in. It’s not like spelling, puctuation or ANYTHING literary counts, so it boggles my mind. It’s perhaps 30 minutes of work based on notes you really needed to have been taking during our demonstration classes anyways, but some people can’t be bothered to do even that.

    Makes me wonder if they are also the people (not in my class) who the chef mentioned habitually steal other people’s prepared foods out of the fridge to replace their own badly mauled fish fillets and jullienned potatoes.

  36. drew
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    I saw the opposite with one of my wife’s classes. She was asked to write a set of goals for her clinical class. She turned it in a couple of times but was told it was wrong. Eventually she was given another student’s goals and essentially told, by the teacher, to copy that. Of course the reason why she liked that paper was that the student had just copied bullet points from the teacher’s handout.

  37. Posted 6/15/2006 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I hope you busted them all!

  38. Posted 6/15/2006 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Hehe, Simon (#109) – that’s very similar to the story I was going to relate.

    When I started in the department I recently graduated from, I was still going by my married name. Some two years later, I’d reverted to my maiden name.

    So anyhow, I end up TAing a class I’d taken in my second quarter there, with all papers handed in under married name. And sure enough, a newer student who only knew me as my maiden name attempted to hand in one of my papers as their own.

    I would have been irritated, had I not reacted so well that it shamed the person to drop the class. (Said person handed it in to me, I glanced over it to make sure it included everything I require – name, title, etc – and caught the opening paragraph in the process. Without really thinking, I commented on how much I enjoyed that particular opening hook the first time I read it, right after I finished writing it.)

    Moral of the story, and tip #somewhere in the teens – if your prof is a female, do make sure you’re aware of all the names she’s written under.

    (And of course, how can I not join the chorus of spellings – as an American that spells like an expat, I’d probably toss a fit being told I had to change the way I spell a word just because someone would rather not read the extra ‘u’. Then again, I tend to pronounce the words as an expat would, so I probably get slides on the assumption that I’m not American – which is quite fine with me!)

  39. Bob
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    My favorite example from teaching high school for 13 years isn’t mine, but my colleague’s. I’m happy to say I was in the room when the follow exchanged occurred:

    Teacher: Is this writing completely yours?

    Student: Oh yes, I did it by myself.

    Teacher: Look, I’m going to give you one chance. Tell me the truth and I’ll let you redo it — Is this 100% your paper?

    Student: Yes, it is.

    Teacher: Okay, [pointing to a specific page of her paper] tell me about the years you spent as an ombudsman for the District of Columbia.

    ——————
    The sad thing is that evidently many teachers aren’t even educating their students that you can’t just cut and paste without citations. I’ve seen many students “take notes” by cutting and pasting from websites, often without bothering to note their sources. Sad.

  40. Stuart Young
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    My apologies if I am re-iterating what someone above me has said, but I found this article (whilst very funny) profoundly depressing. In it, you more or less confirm what I have suspected for a long time; that educational proffesionals will happily attribute work with any sense of style, consistent grammar and original ideas to copying. Us lowly students are expected to write badly because we are all quite evidently not as bright or accomplished as those god-heads of intellectual monopoly above us. Sorry about the rant, just feel it is a sad state of affairs when flawed grammar and unsophisticated sentence construction can be construed as a positive.

  41. les
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    this is hilarious. and, unfortunately, true. one of my students just plagiarized a paper from a Christian website review of the movie version of the book she was supposed to be writing about. best plagiarism ever.

  42. Posted 6/15/2006 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Someone once used the last bit of your “excuse” to a colleague of mine: “But I’m in my final year and I’ve _always_ copied my essays out of books. All my other professors have always given it a pass!”

  43. Posted 6/15/2006 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Funny stuff. I used to grade for engineering professors in college and some cheating was SO obvious. This was not writing, but problem solving (you know, big complex story problems :) ). Often a student would try to solve a problem in some crazy ass wrong way and then I’d find another student solving it the same crazy ass way, letter for letter, often duplicating simple math errors.

    I’d write smart-ass comments on their papers asking them if they were friends with the author of the similar paper.

  44. Posted 6/15/2006 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I explained in my post “I have lived in the monster” similar techniques for plagiarizing programming projects in computer science courses.

  45. EngineeringProf
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Good advice. Here’s some more:
    1- When you are plagiarising a technical paper, make sure to remove all the usage of “we”, unless your pet mouse is helping
    2- If you copy from a paper that has figures in it, don’t forget to copy the figures. It doesn’t look too good to have references to figures that aren’t there
    3- Don’t provide ambiguous references in a research paper. They raise the professor’s suspicions. Use completely random references instead.

  46. Wade
    Posted 6/15/2006 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    It boggles the mind that so many students think they can get away with such obvious tricks…

    I wonder for some if their motivation comes not from thinking they can fool their instructor, but from thinking they don’t need to. How many students are thinking “Yeah, it’s obvious I pulled this from the web…but by printing it out and handing it in, I am clearly proving I can find the information online, so why would anyone ever need to write a paper on it?”

    I remember when I was a young child(Grade 3 or so) copying out an encyclopedia article to hand in…I asked the teacher about it first, and was told that wasn’t allowed. I was very confused as a child because I couldn’t help but think “Why do *I* need to write a report on the subject when the information is already there in this book? What’s the point – if you just want me to know the information, how about I just tell you I read the article in the encyclopedia and we’re done?”

    At least that’s a charitable interpertation for why people might submit such obviously stolen work… I mean, it is hard to believe that people could be stupid enough to think they could get away with it…

4 Trackbacks

  1. By gandalf23 » how to cheat good on 6/15/2006 at 3:13 pm

    […] How to cheat good by Alex Halavais […]

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  3. […] Link […]

  4. […] Oito dicas para plagiadores serem menos óbvios em trabalhos escolares. Alguém poderia traduzir e adaptar para a realidade brasileira e fixar no mural do PPGCOM da Fabico. […]

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