Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How (Not) to Commit Plagiarism

Been back in the teaching saddle for a couple of months now. It's been good to be back in front of a class, shooting the bull, waxing poetic, using clips from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" to illustrate composition concepts. It's kind of like coming home again.

But as fun as all that is, you never really feel like you're a teacher until you nail someone for cheating. In my case, that cheating comes via plagiarism, and I've busted two students in the last week.

For the uninitiated, plagiarism is ripping off someone else's work and calling it your own. It's the next natural step once fattening your margins and boosting your font and spacing won't do the job anymore. There's always some magical moment in every semester where I'm going through a stack of papers and suddenly come across a sentence that sounds a little odd for an English 1010 student. Especially if that student has only been coming to class about a third of the time.

So you hop on your computer and punch a suspect sentence or two into Google, and voila! Looks like Little Bobby either moonlights as a content writer for Wikipedia, or there just wasn't enough time after last night's kegger to write up a cause-effect analysis of The Great Depression.

The sad thing about plagiarism is that it can get you kicked out of school. The fun thing about plagiarism is that the people desperate enough to try it are usually too desperate to do it right.