I will never forget the first time I knew I had caught a cheater. It was in my first year teaching, and I remember that I really, really wanted to make sure that my kids turned in original work–I was very sensitive to plagiarism, since I had been accused of it once (long story; I will tell it another time). I worked very hard to come up with non-generic essay prompts and research projects (an absolute essential, by the way) so that students would at the very least have a more difficult time plagiarizing! Lo and behold, I knew I hit the mother-lode when a student handed in his paper…complete with hyperlinks. Yes, hyperlinks…those words that are underlined to take you directly to another webpage! How dumb did he think I was?!! This was a senior, who certainly should have known better, and I immediately confronted him. He tried to deny it at first, but all I could blurt out was, “If you were going to cheat, you could have at least removed the hyperlinks!” The class was in shock. They couldn’t believe it either…we all giggled in embarrassment for both the student and the audacity of the act.
As the new school year starts, a new set of students will enter your classroom, many of whom have (sadly) gotten by in school without very much original work or creativity. I remember each year an eager group of freshmen who had no idea that cutting and pasting others’ work was plagiarism! Every year, the same thing…no idea. Obviously, it was going to be up to me to teach them how to create their own work, and help them learn what plagiarism was. Otherwise, I new I would have to face those freshman as seniors one day–and I would be mortified to learn that one of my students had committed such an act.
To get you started, be sure to have a clear plagiarism policy in place. If your school or department doesn’t have theirs in writing, suggest they put it in writing so there is no question. Post it on your wall–tattoo it on their foreheads…make them memorize it…breathe it! I have a FREE Plagiarism Policy on my TPT site. Feel free to download (don’t forget to rate it!) and alter it to fit your needs. I suggest handing this out the first day or so of school (possibly with your syllabus), and making kids (and their parents) sign and return by the end of the first week. A clear policy with consequences is a must.
The Purdue OWL site also has a helpful article on developing a course policy.
After all of your students have returned their signed slips, you may want to have them do some research on the question ”What does plagiarism look like?” I have designed a Plagiarism Webquest ($2.99) that you can find on TPT, or you can have students peruse on their own. Here are some great resources:
Plagiarism.org Students can use this site to educate themselves about Plagiarism and how to avoid it. In addition, they can go to http://www.writecheck.com/static/home.html to submit their papers to check for problems!
Indiana University Type “plagiarism” in the search box to be taken to a host of resources, including tutorials.
Google.com Merely type in the sentence or phrase in question in quotation marks to bring up matching results.
Virtual Salt Look for Anti-Plagiarism Strategies for Research Papers under Articles for Educators and Trainers. This has great info for teachers as well, so look through.
Plagiarism: How to Avoid It A research guide for students, teaching them how to cite sources.
PlagiarismChecker A free tool. Type in the suspicious passage and hit search!
Plagiarized.org Another free plagiarism detection tool.
In addition, I wholeheartedly believe you should also familiarize yourself with those so-called free essay sites (there are hundreds of them!), so here are some that I found…poke around…become familiar with the way they work. Warning–the availability of these essays just might turn your stomach!
Best of luck on the new school year. I would love to hear your own stories of plagiarism and/or how you approach it in your classroom.