CURRENTS IN TEACHING AND LEARNING
VOL. 2 NO. 2, SPRING 2010
is to invest that time and those resources into teaching about intellectual property in an effort to reduuce the number of instances of plagiarism. We tend toward one or the other depending upon personality, circumstance, and teaching philosophy. Using stasis theory as a means to delineate the steps toward identifying plagiarism and varying degrees of intellectual ignorance and mis- conduct can involve student interaction in each step, thereby instructing students in the accepted methods of researching and writing in specific classrooms or aca- demic disciplines. Stasis theory highlights the process and reminds instructors and students that intellectual property is often a misunderstood concept.
Murphy (1990) makes the point that although he did catch one plagiarist through dogged determination and a bit of luck, he also falsely accused a student, a particularly vulnerable one at that. He ends his essay, “I did not mean for it to come to this,” and I believe he wishes to point out that the occasional success in nailing a dishonest student does not justify the occasional mis- take when a student’s character is wrongfully attacked.
e teacher/student relationship is an uneven one, and
any disrespect we feel from students who cheat in our classes is, although a valid feeling, not as damaging as the feeling of disrespect a falsely accused student would feel. Educators must assume that at least some students will take shortcuts and try not to get caught. Students, however, should not have to assume that they are under suspicion at all times. Such a relationship precludes any real chance of a productive learning environment because of the teacher’s heightened sense of alert, which some would call paranoia.
A related problem involves detection software. A number of scholars have pointed out that the most popular program, Turnitin, has several shortcomings. John Royce (2003) notes that Turnitin is effective in discovering two kinds of plagiarism: the copying of published material that is available on the Internet and the copying of previously unpublished material that
Bolin – Addressing Plagiarism
is available on the Internet (other students’ essays, for example). However, he notes that the program does not search what is sometimes referred to as the Invisible Web--those areas of the Internet available through subscription databases and discussion lists. In a test for effectiveness, Royce submitted a few essays he had plagiarized, along with several genuine student essays, to various detection software companies. He found that Turnitin discovered no matches for the intentional plagiarism from online encyclopedias, online journal articles through subscription databases, and discussion groups. Turnitin also came up short when confront- ing loose paraphrasing. Further, Royce cites another study whose authors conclude that detection software is not effective in tracking down Internet plagiarism and that “some of the products/services promote a real lack of trust and [a] resentment between professor and student” (qtd. in Royce, 2003). Evidently, Turnitin has responded to this blind spot and now claims on its web- site that its algorithms search three main categories of sites: the two previously mentioned, as well as “various proprietary databases” (e WriteCycle Collaborative Writing Solution, n.p.a.). e claim is vague, though, on just how extensive a search the service can do on the most common databases to which universities sub- scribe and to which students have access. Moreover, any article or presentation addressing plagiarism detection software relates an anecdote about how that software failed to perform a simple task. is essay is no excep- tion, and here are two personal anecdotes:
Two years ago, I was charged by my department head with leading a committee to write a mission state- ment for the department. e committee members and I began our task by searching the Internet for depart- ments at universities similar to ours in order to examine their mission statements. We created an early draft of a statement that borrowed heavily and even quoted selectively from a few of the existing statements, all easily accessed through the Internet. Out of curiosity—