CURRENTS IN TEACHING AND LEARNING
VOL. 2 NO. 2, SPRING 2010
and a little boredom—we ran this early draft through Turnitin.com, and the report came back saying that it was one hundred percent original. Of course, the pro- motional materials for Turnitin.com claim that it will find matches of phrases on the Internet.
e other anecdote involves an undergraduate
course on the rhetoric of Plato. I had the students write response papers to the assigned reading, and the responses were to include personal experiences or observations related to one or two points in the reading. One particular paper did not seem to fit the assignment but did seem especially polished. I fed the first sentence into Google and discovered that the entire paper had been copied and pasted from a website called Suite101. com. Afterwards, just to check the skill of Turnitin in detecting this plagiarism. I ran it through that software, which returned a report that the paper was only fifty- one percent original, borrowing the other forty-nine percent from another student paper. Moreover,Turnitin did not give me access to the student paper that was submitted to another university and that was forty-nine percent like my student’s paper. is exercise led to two conclusions: First, that Turnitin was not terribly effec- tive, since it did not accomplish what it promised to do as effectively as did a free search through a search engine, and, second, that someone else’s student was a bit shrewder than mine in copying only half a published piece from Suite101.com, while my student used only one, copying it wholesale.
is last example brings us to the second reason
to invest time in teaching students to avoid plagiarism rather than in policing it. Rebecca Moore Howard (2001) fears that we are “replacing the student-teacher relationship with a criminal-police relationship” (B24). Such a relationship shuts down the possibilities that we will teach our students through healthy, coopera- tive means. ey will write papers and lob them fear- fully at us rather than bring them to us in a spirit of mutual trust. Moreover, she points out that submitting
student papers to plagiarism detection programs vio- lates the students’ intellectual property rights because the student papers become a part of the programs’ databases (cited in Foster, 2002). Other detection tools exist which do not keep copies of student papers in their databases. Two of these are Eve2 and Copycatch (Foster 2002), but these are not so widely popular as Turnitin. However, even if they were popular and even though they are utilized, their use still exemplifies the attitude that Howard describes as unfavorable: that the students and teachers are locked into an antagonistic relationship regarding the students’ ownership of the writing that they submit.
A number of scholars have offered suggestions for teaching writing in a way that would help decrease instances of plagiarism by making sure the students are regularly reminded of the accepted ways of giving credit to others and of the consequences for taking academic shortcuts by passing off the work of others as their own. For example, Maryellen Hamalainen (2007) describes what she calls research assignments with a twist: asking students to go beyond merely presenting information that they have researched—and could have too easily found in just that form—and adding another dimension to the assignment such as writing a persuasive essay to a particular audience based on the researched material. Although Hamalainen does not mention this, such a twist that turned upon a local angle would increase the effectiveness of this idea because a student bent on shopping for a completed paper could easily find some- what generic persuasive essays based on research. But a requirement to include local features would reduce that threat. Laura Hennessey DeSena (2007) offers a book full of tips, and while many of them are written for assignments involving literary analysis, one important point serves an interdisciplinary audience. at point is to spend time and energy teaching students how to summarize, paraphrase, and integrate external sources into their own writing. While DeSena does not shrink
Bolin – Addressing Plagiarism