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Gary's proposal

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So, Gary, I've tried to post this comment three different times---and this time it will be honed down from a chatty response to a honed machine.

I'm glad you're presenting on this topic. Sometimes the instructors I talk to have not thought w/much circumspection about plagiarism; it is so much easier to be a cop.

I think that it would be great if you could include any information you can find on different cultural approaches to integrating source material and plagiarizing. Our rules are not always as globally held as we might think.

Another big consideration, as you know, is discerning between intentional and unintentional plagiarism. This is what distinguishes our role as educators from the roles taken by publishers or reading publics.

Three resources: our site: http://writing.umn.edu/tww/plagiarism/index.htm

The WPA statement (very education-based: http://www.ilstu.edu/%7Eddhesse/wpa/positions/WPAplagiarism.pdf

and the Ed Schiappa intro to our plagiarism panel (I attached it in the "resources" area of this blog.

Pamela -- it worked! Thanks for the resources. I do think there are cultural issues related to plagiarism that are overlooked and tricky. I've had a number of students over the years who are second language writers who have been taught that copying the work of others without attribution is not only okay but expected, and so it becomes a challenge to address those situations. As my course this semester is all about research I'm about to enter into this thicket very soon, so the timing is great for me. I sort of end up holding my breath and am always relieved to finish up a semester with no plagiarism issues, because it's never pleasant to deal with and the outcome is never good (something I tell my students as well...) And I do feel like a cop, and when I have to meet with a student who's plagiarized it feels like I've set up a sting operation, with the inevitable "gotcha" moment. So lots to think about.

Although it's possible to err in the other direction as well, isn't it? I think I've seen this more often--"okay, well, it's a first offense, so just never mind..."

I agree that there are differences/types of plagiarism, but if you say you take something seriously, then I think it's important to really take it seriously.

Maybe, though, it's possible to change it from a gotcha moment into some kind of teachable moment...who knows. Not me, anyway.

Gary, how to have the plagiarism talk with students is going to be very useful, students have to have the clearest idea possible of what plagiarism is, but when talking to them I do not want to over frighten them and made them think that almost everything is plagiarism. I do not want to create a writer's block on them with my talk. So your suggestions will be very useful.

Gary, I'd be interested to hear anecdotal reports from our classmates and your sources: What approaches to discussing plagiarism have met with apparent success? This might be accompanied by a look at what goes into formulating a "philosophy" of plagiarism (cultural and individual considerations, views on intellectual property, and so on) that guides one's classroom discussions. That, in turn, might lead to a consideration of how one's own philosophy of plagiarism interacts with institutional rules. How much leeway do instructors have? At what point might instructors be penalized for not officially addressing students' wrongdoings? I'm new to all this, so I'd like to hear others' wisdom!

Thanks for the input/comments! I'd be interested in any strategies others have used to confront this difficult issue.

I also think, to respond to Marcia's point, it is so much easier to let it go, to rationalize that it's not a big deal, they didn't mean to, etc. etc. Then again, if the writing instructor lets it go, and then it happens on an even more serious scale in another course, that can certainly come back to bite you when the student says that "they" (the instructor) said it was okay in the writing class, so they were just doing what they were taught. Certainly embarrassing for the writing instructor, of course (and to Ann's point, maybe that's penalty enough), but worse than that he/she is doing the student a great disservice in not dealing with it head on.

And to respond to Ann's question about leeway, as far as GC is concerned, I'd have to say not a lot. I had a student who had three copied paragraphs in a seven page paper that didn't contain attribution to a source and, following the advice of a superior, I filed a formal report and the student ended up with a D in the course. Too harsh? I guess you have to look at the facts -- we'd spent a lot of time on plagiarism in class and it was the final paper of the course, when you could argue that he/she should have known better. But still I wonder if I turned a teachable moment in an inquisition...

I second Ann's request for anecdotal reports - from you Gary, and also from others who have dealt with this issue. I'm also interested in the intentional/unintentional discussion. I look forward to your presentation!

A big problem that has come up in my course has been students who properly cite quotations, but simply offer one quotation after another, without stopping to analyze, offer their own interpretation. It might be interesting if you could talk about this as maybe an intermediate step between acceptably original papers and plagiarism. Maybe this is getting too outside the topic, but how can we give students the message that there is more to an original paper than the absence of plagiarism?