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  #51  
Old 03-10-2010, 09:34 AM
Jackmannii Jackmannii is offline
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If you plagiarize after getting an express warning against plagiarism at the start of the class, you deserve to flunk, background and "cultural predilection" not withstanding.

Claiming not to "understand" the warning signifies that you are too stupid or insufficiently grounded in the language to pass the course, so the outcome should be the same.

There was a fooferaw recently over at the N.Y. Times about how one of their financial bloggers was stealing stuff from the Wall St. Journal, including online scoops that he was reproducing on the Times site within a short time after they appeared on the Journal website. His excuse was that he was mixing in his own data and research with stories from other media into a common file, and so was accidentally using others' work. Uh-huh. His lazy ass got fired.
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  #52  
Old 03-10-2010, 09:47 AM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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Oh, can I play? I am living in the grown up world where these plagiarizing twerp students have now entered the workforce as plagiarizing twerp adults. I mentioned in this thread that the production side of things is clashing with writers because they think the proofreader is mean and it hurts their feelings when he corrects their mistakes.

I didn't really go on about the rampant plagiarism, here's my favorite top three:

Number 3:
Assignment: Formal article about experts in the field of a certain high-finance topic.
Plagiarism: Copy-pasted info from the corporate websites of the individuals that had executive profiles online.
Tip off: Irrelevant content - "David lives with his wife Clara and their parrot, Moe."

Number 2:
Assignment: Annual research article about the impact of evolving financial reporting standards on small to mid-sized companies.
Plagiarism: Copied last year's article from the same publication but replaced "2009" with "2010" where appropriate
Tip off: See above thread link, plagiarized from last year's rough copy, including egregious errors comparable to saying NYSE stands for New York Smurf Exchange*

Number 1:
Assignment: Formal article about anti-fraud controls and corporate governance.
Plagiarism: Copy-pasted from Germany-based business/finance publication.
Tip off: Run through Google Translator with predictable results: "...reminiscent of the days when the residence of the powerful steel baron a kind of unofficial seat of government of the German economy was."

(That writer was summarily fired.)

*Fake example, but the real deal was just as bad.
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  #53  
Old 03-10-2010, 10:06 AM
Foma Foma is offline
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Plagiarism story #23954

In college, I was a TA for a high-ish level engineering course where assignments were given out of the book. I knew that a copy of the solutions manual was floating amongst the students. I made it very well known that while I will not PURSUE those with the manual, if you turn in work that is copied line-for-line, I will give a zero on that assignment. (After some repeat behavior, I changed "zero on that assignment" to "drop in letter grade" to "see you next semester.")

About halfway through the semester, a student turned in a suspicious homework assignment. It had:

Notation: All rounding, significant figures, and notation were directly from the solutions.

Layout: This is hard to explain. The way a student's math flows on the page is like a fingerprint. This one was from the solutions line-for-line

The last work-problem required the student to graph something on a computer. His graph was PHOTOCOPIED from the solutions manual.

I would like to say that he failed the course, but the professor just dropped him a letter grade and eked out with a C-.
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  #54  
Old 03-10-2010, 10:23 AM
Rumor_Watkins Rumor_Watkins is offline
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
If they are Chinese, culture may indeed play a part of it. China has an academic tradition going back thousands of years that is based on imitating the masters. The old imperial exams were basically about memorizing and reproducing huge chunks of text. To some degree this model lives on, and students are rarely asked to produce the kind of research and analysis that we consider to be the main point of a university education. Furthermore, it is considered better to turn in something perfect that might not be entirely original than to turn in something that may be flawed. Finally, the idea of an honor code doesn't really grok- most people would consider it stupid not to do something that would get you ahead.

For example, on a final exam where I asked my Chinese English students to define vocab words and use them in a sentence, I was surprised that they used the exact sentences from the book- they had apparently memorized the entire thing! Colleagues assured me that this is normal and expected. Even essay questions are usually about reproducing chunks of the textbook.

So they don't really get why we get so worked up about plagiarism- in China, it's kind of considered a useful technique. Indeed, I've heard my students report that university professors actively teach them how to plagiarize more effectively. It's considered just another tool in the academic tool chest.

Makes you crazy, huh? I had an essay writing assignment here where I told my students outright "If you plagiarize, you will fail. If you write you own thing- anything no matter what it is, you will get full points" and fully half of them still plagiarized!

this is basically the accepted philosophy in Law, too (except the honor code part). Although you have to attribute/cite.

Not quite sure why their culture couldn't adapt/the individual students couldn't adapt in a given classroom to properly cite and source their material.
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  #55  
Old 03-10-2010, 11:19 AM
Vinyl Turnip Vinyl Turnip is offline
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Kinda lends a new perspective to the issue of intellectual property piracy.
Cracked software disseminated via torrents is the second sincerest form of flattery.
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  #56  
Old 03-10-2010, 11:22 AM
Mr. Excellent Mr. Excellent is offline
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My freshman year of college, I was assigned to a four-person group project for World History.

*Two* of the people in my group plagiarized. Not just one. Two. One of them at least had the decency to apologize, and try to fix it - the other one never understood that she'd done anything wrong all all. I had to work hard to convince my prof that *I* hadn't been involved.

I despise plagiarists. If I had my druthers, they'd all be expelled on detection. But not immediately - it takes time to heat the tar properly first.
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  #57  
Old 03-10-2010, 12:20 PM
Swallowed My Cellphone Swallowed My Cellphone is offline
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*Two* of the people in my group plagiarized. Not just one. Two. One of them at least had the decency to apologize, and try to fix it - the other one never understood that she'd done anything wrong all all. I had to work hard to convince my prof that *I* hadn't been involved.
I had that happen in my senior year. My group got bad vibes early on though and one heard a rumor that the plagiarists boyfriend had been doing a couple assignments for her. So I guess technically, he was the plagiarist, she was just a lazy bitch.

Anyway, we proactively went to our prof and said we were worried about her contribution. Our prof asked who Lazy Bitch was and when we revealed her name, she went "Oh, her." She didn't elaborate, but we gather Lazy wasn't a particularly diligent student. Our prof's solution was that, when we collated our material, we were to mark Lazy's section with a sticky-tab, and she would grade the three of us according to the quality of our work, and Lazy would be graded according to her boyfriend's work.

In the end, since our prof was being so fair, rather than excise Lazy's part, our group decided to hand in a complete project, so we divided Lazy's work into three and finished it. We handed in our project and Lazy's component together, but separately, and our prof was pleased.
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  #58  
Old 03-10-2010, 12:33 PM
MLS MLS is offline
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Ha. Decades before the internet existed, I had a 9th grade student copy his book review from the back cover of the book itself. When I explained why he was getting zero credit for the report, showing him my own copy of the novel, he cried.
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  #59  
Old 03-10-2010, 01:25 PM
Enderw24 Enderw24 is offline
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In law school we had two people get expelled for plagiarizing an assignment for the class on legal ethics.
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  #60  
Old 03-10-2010, 01:53 PM
jayjay jayjay is offline
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Originally Posted by Enderw24 View Post
In law school we had two people get expelled for plagiarizing an assignment for the class on legal ethics.
*calls Alanis Morisette*
*reads Ender's post to her*
*points out that THAT is irony*
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  #61  
Old 03-10-2010, 02:42 PM
D_Odds D_Odds is offline
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A question for the professors - to what extent do you ding a student for plagiarism? I ask because back when I was in college (pre-internet and when most students, self-included, still used typewriters for papers), I wrote a 8 - 10 page paper with copious endnotes and extensive bibliography. Turns out when transcribing and typing (last minute, of course - I was a college student) I missed endnotes on one or two quotes. I wasn't trying to plagiarize or cheat - it was an honest error. I got the speech about how I was getting a favor by not being thrown out of college and that I would have to take the course (or a similar course that fit my requirements and schedule) again.

Today, if I missed a footnote, it is easy enough to adjust in any word processing program. Then, it would have meant edits on every page with a note, carefully trying to line up the paper, and fully re-typing the endnotes page. Not that I knew I had made the error; it was my error due to sloppy note taking on index cards and rushing to finish. But I do feel that the professor went overboard in this situation.
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  #62  
Old 03-10-2010, 02:45 PM
Spoons Spoons is offline
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
For example, on a final exam where I asked my Chinese English students to define vocab words and use them in a sentence, I was surprised that they used the exact sentences from the book- they had apparently memorized the entire thing! Colleagues assured me that this is normal and expected. Even essay questions are usually about reproducing chunks of the textbook.
I also found this with Chinese students when I was a TA, years ago. They were mainly from Hong Kong, and had come to Canada to study. Anyway, it was a little odd, to say the least, when their exam papers were marked--they had indeed memorized and regurgitated entire chunks of the textbook. It was a proctored exam, with students allowed nothing at their desks except a pen while proctors walked up and down the aisles, so we knew that there had been no copying or cribbing from materials smuggled in. Besides, the textbook excerpts were much too long to be scrawled on an arm hidden in a sleeve, or on the back of a watch.

They got a passing grade for their "answers," since they were technically correct. But they did not receive as high a grade as students who had demonstrated knowledge, and analysis, and non-textbook examples, and application of the course material in their answers to the questions. The questions were essay questions, and by the way they were written, required all of the above in order to get full marks.

What made things truly bizarre (at least from our point of view) was when these Chinese students complained about their grades. Hadn't they answered the question? How could we not give them perfect grades when they were quoting the textbook? If you could memorize and quote back the course authority, what else could possibly be necessary? Their attitude basically indicated that they considered their classmates (who had done much better) somewhat subpar and deserving of lower grades, simply because they didn't memorize textbook chunks.
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  #63  
Old 03-10-2010, 03:09 PM
Angel of Doubt Angel of Doubt is offline
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Well, in our case, the class gets a stern warning and horror stories about what happened last semester (former straight-A students getting caught). I believe there's also a statement in the syllabus, but that makes about as much difference as writing it in smoke signals as far as the students are concerned. Officially they fail the class if they plagiarize, but the instructor, just as in this case, makes a judgment call.
The student's now claiming that he meant to "cite but forgot the quotes". It'll be interesting when classes start again and we're back face-to-face.
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  #64  
Old 03-10-2010, 03:11 PM
mhendo mhendo is offline
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Originally Posted by D_Odds View Post
to what extent do you ding a student for plagiarism?
Every situation has to be decided on its own merits.

If it's just one or two overlooked citations, i generally make a note to the student to be more careful with his/her referencing in the future. If it's more, and suggests a pattern of laziness or sloppiness, i will make a note of it, and will also start dinging the grade of the paper. I will also, in most of these cases, return the paper and tell the student to get the citations right and resubmit.

Note that, in all above cases, i need to be reasonably sure that any neglected citations are inadvertent, the result of either rushing or simply overlooking a footnote or two. If i suspect any intention to deceive, it's a different story. My aim in penalizing plagiarists is to penalize cheaters, not to ruin the academic careers of students who are trying to do it right. A sloppy mistake, one or two poorly-cited quotations, an accidental failure to place quotation marks around a quotation—these are things that should be corrected, but that don't generally warrant any actual punishment beyond fixing the error and dinging the grade on the paper a bit.

Every act of plagiarism where i've actually punished the student by failing them on the paper and/or the course, and reporting them to the Dean, has been so egregious that there was no room for doubt about whether or not it was simply a mistake. I'm talking about whole paragraphs copied and pasted from websites or from books, with no attribution.

I had one case last semester where basically every sentence of a 4-page paper on Alexander Hamilton was lifted verbatim from three different websites. I downloaded the pages of the website and converted them to PDFs, and marked the relevant paragraphs using the highlighting feature. I then did the same on the student's paper. I used a different color highlighting for each website, and used those same colors on the student paper, so you could see at a glance how much had been lifted from each website. Then, after confronting the student and letting him know he would receive an F on the course, i passed the documents, along with an Academic Dishonesty form, along to the Dean.

Where i was teaching last semester, i think that, in addition to failing my course, the first Academic Dishonesty violation gets the student a talking-to from the Dean. they are also placed on some sort of academic probation, and told that a second violation will result in expulsion from the university.

Working out whether a student has been sloppy, or has been trying to deceive you, is usually reasonably easy. Context is important. If the student has 25 other accurate footnotes, and has clearly read and understood the source material, then it's pretty clear that one or two missing references were probably inadvertent, and deserve nothing more than a "Be more careful next time."

The most difficult cases to adjudicate, and cases where it's most difficult to explain to students what they've done wrong, are instances where the student essentially lifts their argument straight from the source, but puts it in their own words. No matter how much you explain plagiarism, there are some students who simply can't get their head around the notion that it is possible to plagiarize even if you don't copy the sentences verbatim. Taking other people's ideas without attribution is still academic dishonesty, and it's a difficult thing to explain sometimes. There are also genuine grey areas between using someone else's argument to help make your own argument, on the one hand, and simply lifting someone else's argument and presenting it as your own, on the other.
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  #65  
Old 03-10-2010, 03:44 PM
D_Odds D_Odds is offline
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Thanks, mhendo. My case was back in 1986 or 1987, when I would have been a Jr. or a Sr., and my memory might be a little fuzzy. I remember talking to the Prof and admitting something like, "Oh I'm sorry, I forgot to put a note on that one" which was treated with a big "Gotcha!" I had at least a dozen endnotes (much quicker to do than footnotes); I'm pretty sure the sources were cited in other endnotes and were definitely in the bibliography. As I noted, it was sloppy work. There was never any accusation of plagiarism from any other class. I guess my failure to love Russian literature to the same extent as the teacher, and not seeing all the merits she did when discussing in class, came back to bite me in the ass. Didn't get the talk with the Dean though, so I guess she was being nice to me.
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  #66  
Old 03-10-2010, 04:13 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
I've never heard of turnitin.com before. I think I'm going to submit my old papers when I get home and see if it thinks they're plagiarized.
You can't. It's a subscription service.


A lot of plagiarism really is unintentional- unintentional possibly being synonymous with stupidity. Many students honestly don't know that they have to cite these things if they're quoting more than a few words from another source. My favorite response to this was when a friend who teaches psychology called a student out on this and the student- a not particularly bright freshman- said "But you said you wanted us to use other sources." The professor told her "Yes, but you're supposed to cite them, and the majority of the paper- the conclusion and most of the body- are supposed to be your own original thoughts and ideas on the topic." Student: "But I don't know anything and don't have any ideas about the topic, that's why I'm using other sources!"

There are also the students who will turn in one paper that reads to the effect of

Quote:
George Washington was a president and before that he fought in the Revlutionarical War and he had a big house near Washington D.C. which was a city named for him but it wasn't there yet. Juluis Casear lived in Rome and was a general and was like a president sort of but they called it consul. Neither man had any sons but if they had then maybe they would had taken it when people said they should think about being kings. Both had adopted kids and relatives they liked but neither one had a real son.
Then they'll turn in a paper later that reads

Quote:
Latter day genealogists have established conclusively that George Washington, through his father Augustine, descended from King Edward III of England and consequently from all of his own royal forebears. Today this fact may seem so much inconsequential genealogical trivia but would quite probably have been quite influential to Washington himself, just as Julius Caesar often mentioned in speeches and writings and even casual conversation his family's supposed descent from Aeneas and through Aneas from the goddess Venus. Though like his fellow general and statesman Julius Caesar, who when thrice offered the crown imperial thrice declined in the name of the Republic, Washington himself renounced the notions that he should be a king at the Constitutional conferences. It is interesting to speculate with both leaders whether their Cincinattus-like devotion to Republican ideals and their antipathy towards the tyranny of Tarquin or George III respectively may have derived less from their lack of ambition than their lack of sons.
Caesar's latter day favoritism for his grandnephew Octavian reflects a definite desire for familial furtherance but the fact Octavian was a minor while Caesarion, his alleged son with Cleopatra, while of impeccable bloodline, was of little use as heir due to being both younger than Octavius and of dubious paternity and legitimacy. For Washington his heirs presumptive included his wife's orphaned grandson George Washington Parke Custis and his nephew Bushrod Washington, both of whom seem to have been dear to him but in neither case was their's the bonding one would associate with a biological son and with neither was there much notion of them ruling a nascent nation due to their youth.
and they have no idea how the professor got wise to the fact it was plagiarism.

The worst cases- and believe it or not I've known of several- are when the students not only cut and paste chunks from Wiki or some other website but don't even remove the hyperlinks or superscripts!

Last edited by Sampiro; 03-10-2010 at 04:18 PM..
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  #67  
Old 03-10-2010, 04:38 PM
Kelby Kelby is offline
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How about when the plagiarism is encouraged by the author?

Mr BIL, who is a teacher, took a distance learning course from a college in order to earn credit that would lead to advancement on the salary matrix. He took the class and passed it.

Later, several other teachers took the same course. He found out about it, and offered to give them all of his work to submit to the college.

They did take it and all were given failing grades for cheating. I expect there was no return of course fees either. D'oh!

BTW, I took the same course. He gave me his materials and I looked over his writing. I thought it was shit.

Last edited by Kelby; 03-10-2010 at 04:38 PM..
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  #68  
Old 03-10-2010, 04:50 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
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Originally Posted by Bricker View Post
A now five-year-old thread on an interesting case.
Unfortunately, this isn't true. I made a doody. They do this because they get away with it more often than not.
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  #69  
Old 03-10-2010, 04:52 PM
Cat Fight Cat Fight is offline
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Future New Yorker Cartoon, featuring an angry teacher and sassy young student: 'I wasn't plagiarizing, I was reblogging their work into my essay.'
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  #70  
Old 03-10-2010, 04:54 PM
Pleonast Pleonast is offline
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
If they are Chinese, culture may indeed play a part of it. China has an academic tradition going back thousands of years that is based on imitating the masters. The old imperial exams were basically about memorizing and reproducing huge chunks of text. To some degree this model lives on, and students are rarely asked to produce the kind of research and analysis that we consider to be the main point of a university education. Furthermore, it is considered better to turn in something perfect that might not be entirely original than to turn in something that may be flawed.
Sometimes I wonder why plagiarism is so taboo in our culture.

Collectively, we have decided that being original is more important than being correct. (I'm assuming there is a "correct" answer. In the arts, there may not be, so original would be more important.) In the sciences, there often is a single correct answer. That means only one person gets to be original for any particular fact or theory. Why does it really matter who that person is? I would think that the correct fact or theory is itself the important thing.

The taboo against plagiarism seems to put stroking egos above finding the truth. Maybe that's the most efficient way for humans to do science, but it is not clear to me that it must be so. It's be nice to see studies comparing attributed science communities to non-attributed ones.

Note that I'm not saying those who plagiarize shouldn't be punished. That's our system now and there's no excuse for doing it.
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  #71  
Old 03-10-2010, 06:28 PM
Gary "Wombat" Robson Gary "Wombat" Robson is offline
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Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
Sometimes I wonder why plagiarism is so taboo in our culture.
In writing, I think it's because you're taking credit for someone else's work. When I was teaching computer science, I came down especially hard on plagiarism, because it that context it means turning in someone else's code, which does not demonstrate the student's ability to do the work themselves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro View Post
The worst cases- and believe it or not I've known of several- are when the students not only cut and paste chunks from Wiki or some other website but don't even remove the hyperlinks or superscripts!
The most egregious case I encountered--which I've posted about here before--was a mediocre student who turned in an absolutely awesome programming assignment. I pulled out a few key lines and Googled them. Lo and behold, he had lifted the program intact, leaving in all of the original comments. The only line he removed was a copyright notice. Removing that line was adequate evidence that he knew he was breaking the rules.
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  #72  
Old 03-10-2010, 06:32 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
Sometimes The taboo against plagiarism seems to put stroking egos above finding the truth.
I think it puts proving you can defend an opinion by finding and formulating pieces of quality information to support it over proving you can cut and paste.

Last edited by Sampiro; 03-10-2010 at 06:33 PM..
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  #73  
Old 03-10-2010, 06:51 PM
YogSosoth YogSosoth is offline
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If this were America, I would have given her a 0, but that shit doesn't fly in Bulgaria (I tried this once and got overruled), so I gave her the 4. The next time I saw her, she asked me why she'd gotten the 4. She'd made the poster, hadn't she?
Can you explain? Does the Bulgarian government not care if the students are cheating and expect everyone to have at least a passing grade?
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  #74  
Old 03-10-2010, 06:56 PM
bengangmo bengangmo is offline
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Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
Sometimes I wonder why plagiarism is so taboo in our culture.

Collectively, we have decided that being original is more important than being correct. (I'm assuming there is a "correct" answer. In the arts, there may not be, so original would be more important.) In the sciences, there often is a single correct answer. That means only one person gets to be original for any particular fact or theory. Why does it really matter who that person is? I would think that the correct fact or theory is itself the important thing.

The taboo against plagiarism seems to put stroking egos above finding the truth. Maybe that's the most efficient way for humans to do science, but it is not clear to me that it must be so. It's be nice to see studies comparing attributed science communities to non-attributed ones.

Note that I'm not saying those who plagiarize shouldn't be punished. That's our system now and there's no excuse for doing it.
I could be going out on a limb here, but when I went to college (Uni), I always understood that the process was more important than the result. The basic assumption being that once you learned the process "properly" you would end up with the correct response.

Once in "the workplace" quite naturally it is the correct answer that matters though.

By plagiarising all the student is learning is where to get an answer from, not how to go about generating the answer...and I don't believe I have to even suggest such a post as this on The Straight Dope - what is supposed to be one of the most intelligent message boards on the web.
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  #75  
Old 03-10-2010, 06:58 PM
YogSosoth YogSosoth is offline
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
If they are Chinese, culture may indeed play a part of it. China has an academic tradition going back thousands of years that is based on imitating the masters. The old imperial exams were basically about memorizing and reproducing huge chunks of text. To some degree this model lives on, and students are rarely asked to produce the kind of research and analysis that we consider to be the main point of a university education. Furthermore, it is considered better to turn in something perfect that might not be entirely original than to turn in something that may be flawed. Finally, the idea of an honor code doesn't really grok- most people would consider it stupid not to do something that would get you ahead.

For example, on a final exam where I asked my Chinese English students to define vocab words and use them in a sentence, I was surprised that they used the exact sentences from the book- they had apparently memorized the entire thing! Colleagues assured me that this is normal and expected. Even essay questions are usually about reproducing chunks of the textbook.

So they don't really get why we get so worked up about plagiarism- in China, it's kind of considered a useful technique. Indeed, I've heard my students report that university professors actively teach them how to plagiarize more effectively. It's considered just another tool in the academic tool chest.

Makes you crazy, huh? I had an essay writing assignment here where I told my students outright "If you plagiarize, you will fail. If you write you own thing- anything no matter what it is, you will get full points" and fully half of them still plagiarized!
In their defense, Chinese is really hard. Even university students sometimes forget simple words.

From the cite:

Quote:
I was once at a luncheon with three Ph.D. students in the Chinese Department at Peking University, all native Chinese (one from Hong Kong). I happened to have a cold that day, and was trying to write a brief note to a friend canceling an appointment that day. I found that I couldn't remember how to write the character 嚔, as in da penti 打喷嚔 "to sneeze". I asked my three friends how to write the character, and to my surprise, all three of them simply shrugged in sheepish embarrassment. Not one of them could correctly produce the character. Now, Peking University is usually considered the "Harvard of China". Can you imagine three Ph.D. students in English at Harvard forgetting how to write the English word "sneeze"?? Yet this state of affairs is by no means uncommon in China.
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  #76  
Old 03-10-2010, 07:40 PM
Frylock Frylock is online now
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Originally Posted by D_Odds View Post
Then, it would have meant edits on every page with a note, carefully trying to line up the paper, and fully re-typing the endnotes page.
Jesus Christ. How did people live back then?
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  #77  
Old 03-10-2010, 09:08 PM
phouka phouka is offline
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Many students made a decent living typing up papers for others. It's a gift.
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  #78  
Old 03-10-2010, 09:54 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Originally Posted by D_Odds View Post
Today, if I missed a footnote, it is easy enough to adjust in any word processing program. Then, it would have meant edits on every page with a note, carefully trying to line up the paper, and fully re-typing the endnotes page..
At every institution I know of and in all workplaces, drafts could be simply amended by adding a printer's mark indicating that that missing footnote could be found in the addendum. Takes all of 20 minutes to do.

I can't believe that a college would have such ludicrously strict standards for a paper that was never going to be bound. For the final draft bound theses, sure it all needed to be perfect, but for a basic paper? Did you actually ask if you needed to go to that much trouble, or did you just assume?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
Sometimes I wonder why plagiarism is so taboo in our culture.
It's taboo because:

A) You are making money off someone else's intellectual property, which is rightly a crime, and


B) Because plagiarising does not demonstrate any knowledge, skill or understanding. If plagiarism were acceptable, why couldn't any 10 year old pass any course at an ivy league school? And if they could, then what is the value of the course?

Quote:
Collectively, we have decided that being original is more important than being correct.
No, we've decided that the purpose of asssement items like papers and exams is to demonstrate that the student has understood the material, and that they have the ability to communicate at the same standard they will be expected to achieve in the outside world, where there will be no sources for plagiarism

If work is plagiarised then the student fails to demonstrate either of those, and thus they do not meet the assessment criteria.

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In the sciences, there often is a single correct answer. That means only one person gets to be original for any particular fact or theory. Why does it really matter who that person is? I would think that the correct fact or theory is itself the important thing.

What you don;t seem to understand is that if you are doing science then you are, by definition, uncovering facts that nobody else has ever uncovered. The only person who can be right is you. So how can plagiarism possibly be useful?

Quote:
The taboo against plagiarism seems to put stroking egos above finding the truth. Maybe that's the most efficient way for humans to do science, but it is not clear to me that it must be so.
What alternative do you suggest?

Allowing people to graduate with degrees in biochemistry when they have no understanding of biochemistry, but a photographic memory and a large library?

Allowing people to work in biochemistry when they have no ability at all to communicate novel concepts?

Does that really seem workable to you?
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  #79  
Old 03-11-2010, 06:21 AM
pseudotriton ruber ruber pseudotriton ruber ruber is offline
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First day of my freshman writing classes, I give them a mandatory (credit-bearing, open-book) syllabus quiz, focusing specifically on the large section on plagiarism in my syllabus. If they don't answer any question correctly, I make them write a short essay containing the correct answer according to my syllabus. Thus, before the course even begins, I have in writing from each student clear evidence that they have read the sections of the syllabus explaining what plagiarism is, in detail, the penalties, the need to document sources, and have understood it perfectly, making it kinda difficult to later trot out the old "But I didn't know...." defense.
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  #80  
Old 03-11-2010, 06:44 AM
zut zut is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
Sometimes I wonder why plagiarism is so taboo in our culture.

Collectively, we have decided that being original is more important than being correct. (I'm assuming there is a "correct" answer. In the arts, there may not be, so original would be more important.) In the sciences, there often is a single correct answer. That means only one person gets to be original for any particular fact or theory. Why does it really matter who that person is? I would think that the correct fact or theory is itself the important thing.
Are you talking about plagiarism in the same way everyone else is? No one's claiming that using fundamental scientific facts without attribution is plagiarism. If I say, "the relationship between the sides and hypotenuse of a right triangle is a2 + b2 = c2" without crediting Pythagorus, that's not plagiarism.

What is plagiarism is when the geometry teacher assigns a homework set of twenty problems on the Pythagorean Theorem, and I copy your work and hand it in as my own. Do you honestly wonder why copying someone else's homework is so taboo in our culture? Is it really that unclear?
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  #81  
Old 03-11-2010, 06:48 AM
HazelNutCoffee HazelNutCoffee is offline
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Originally Posted by Sampiro View Post
There are also the students who will turn in one paper that reads to the effect of



Then they'll turn in a paper later that reads



and they have no idea how the professor got wise to the fact it was plagiarism.
This made me laugh because it is so true. How stupid do they think we are? The mind boggles, really.

As for turning in material with active hyperlinks, I had a TEACHER submit program material not only plagiarized but with the Wiki [citation needed] things still intact. Jesus. I don't hold grudges usually but that still makes me mad whenever I think about it.
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  #82  
Old 03-11-2010, 07:06 AM
Rala Rala is offline
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Originally Posted by Jragon View Post
I almost feel bad for that one kid* who rolled the statistical shitdice and independently wrote a paragraph verbatim from some famous industry standard paper or something. Who would believe them?
I know that kid! Well, I know of him. When my psychology tutor was explaining about turnitin, he told us that a few years ago someone handed in a paper that was apparently 30 or 40% plagarised (I don't remember the exact figure). It came from a book that was written in 1912, was long since out of print, wasn't available online and wasn't in the university library or any libraries nearby. The student insisted he'd never heard of it. They gave him the benefit of the doubt.
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  #83  
Old 03-11-2010, 07:36 AM
lazybratsche lazybratsche is offline
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Originally Posted by Blake View Post
What you don;t seem to understand is that if you are doing science then you are, by definition, uncovering facts that nobody else has ever uncovered. The only person who can be right is you. So how can plagiarism possibly be useful?
IMO, plagiarism restrictions should be relaxed for the "introduction" section of scientific publications. When you've got a dozen different groups all working the same field, they're all going to have the same introduction. But even though everyone is citing the same damn papers, they still somehow have to come up with an "original" way of summarizing each and every citation. After three or four different permutations of "Previously, gene X was found to regulate gene Y in tissue Z (Jones, 2001)", it's pretty much impossible to avoid unintentional reuse of someone else's phrasing of the same statement.

Everywhere else, of course, plagiarism is completely unacceptable.
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  #84  
Old 03-11-2010, 07:46 AM
Gary "Wombat" Robson Gary "Wombat" Robson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pseudotriton ruber ruber View Post
First day of my freshman writing classes, I give them a mandatory (credit-bearing, open-book) syllabus quiz, focusing specifically on the large section on plagiarism in my syllabus.
Excellent! What a marvelous idea!
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  #85  
Old 03-11-2010, 08:31 AM
dhkendall dhkendall is offline
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Originally Posted by Cat Fight View Post
Future New Yorker Cartoon, featuring an angry teacher and sassy young student: 'I wasn't plagiarizing, I was reblogging their work into my essay.'
I am reminded of a Foxtrot cartoon in which Peter (?) gets caught plagarizing off Wikipedia, and his teacher calls him for that, he then counters with "but how do you know I didn't write the Wikipedia article to begin with?" Teacher shoots him a "don't try that shit with me" look.

I know that my reference site on national anthems is known by students (of all grade levels up to and including university) by the emails I've recieved, I have a morbid curiosity now if any of it has been used for plagarism. I'm tempted to put in some random untruths in there, but my integrity, and love for the subject, is so far preventing me from doing that. I wonder if there's any way I can make my site more plagarism proof?
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  #86  
Old 03-11-2010, 09:42 AM
Saintly Loser Saintly Loser is offline
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Originally Posted by Ms Boods View Post
Tip offs included: switching back and forth between American and British spellings, and realising that one strangely familiar sentence was from one of my own published articles.
(Emphasis added).

That's funny.

My teaching days were pre-internet, so students had to plagiarize from actual, you know, books. Which made it slightly harder. Still, me being the teacher and all (I taught high school and college, simultaneously), and having various degrees n the subject I taught, you'd think one student in particular might have realized that copying an entire essay by Harold Bloom, of all people, might set off a few bells. He denied that he'd copied anything, of course, even though I had the source in my hand during the conversation. I do recall asking him what some words he'd used meant. "Inchoate" was one. He didn't know. No idea. Couldn't even guess.

That particular incident led to my resignation from the school (the high school). This student had been busted cheating before, so I gave him a zero for the entire semester. I'd had it with the cheating, and I wanted to penalize him and send a warning to the other students.

This led to a meeting with the parents of the student, who insisted (not asked) that their son's grade be changed. He was applying to colleges, this would screw up his chances of getting into a good college, etc. Not my problem, I replied. He'd been caught cheating before, and warned repeatedly of the consequences of any future cheating. As far as I was concerned, not doing the assignments for the course (and plagiarizing is at the very least not doing the assignments) was the same as simply never showing up. I wasn't going to change his grade.

The principal of the school, however, changed the grade on the final report card of the year to a passing grade. I resigned.
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  #87  
Old 03-11-2010, 10:47 AM
Gyrate Gyrate is offline
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A friend was contacted by the Dean of his former college (with whom he was in contact) and told that a current student had plagiarized his doctoral thesis.

His entire doctoral thesis.

And by "plagiarized" I mean "photocopied all the pages with the author's name whited out and submitted it as his own".

The Dean invited my friend to be present for the meeting with the student. Apparently it was... quite awkward...for the student who, needless to say, did not receive his doctorate.
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  #88  
Old 03-11-2010, 10:51 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is online now
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Why? Was it a bad thesis?
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  #89  
Old 03-11-2010, 11:11 AM
Pleonast Pleonast is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary "Wombat" Robson View Post
In writing, I think it's because you're taking credit for someone else's work.
Well, what if at the beginning of a work, the author stated "I hereby disclaim any originality in this material"?
Quote:
When I was teaching computer science, I came down especially hard on plagiarism, because it that context it means turning in someone else's code, which does not demonstrate the student's ability to do the work themselves.
However, the plagiarized code does demonstrate the student's ability (or lack of it) to recognize useful code. And in computer programming, that is a useful skill. In the real world, programmers are encouraged to reuse code.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro View Post
I think it puts proving you can defend an opinion by finding and formulating pieces of quality information to support it over proving you can cut and paste.
A plagiarist could defend the opinion just as well as anyone else simply by cutting and pasting the supporting arguments. Penalizing unsupported assertions is a separate issue from penalizing plagiarisms.
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Originally Posted by bengangmo View Post
I could be going out on a limb here, but when I went to college (Uni), I always understood that the process was more important than the result. The basic assumption being that once you learned the process "properly" you would end up with the correct response.

Once in "the workplace" quite naturally it is the correct answer that matters though.

By plagiarising all the student is learning is where to get an answer from, not how to go about generating the answer...and I don't believe I have to even suggest such a post as this on The Straight Dope - what is supposed to be one of the most intelligent message boards on the web.
Process can still be most important, even allowing plagiarism. The process of finding and copying the correct answers, for example.

By the way, the Straight Dope is about fighting ignorance, not promoting intelligence. There's a difference.
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Originally Posted by zut View Post
Are you talking about plagiarism in the same way everyone else is? No one's claiming that using fundamental scientific facts without attribution is plagiarism. If I say, "the relationship between the sides and hypotenuse of a right triangle is a2 + b2 = c2" without crediting Pythagorus, that's not plagiarism.
Stating an idea that's not your own without attribution is plagiarism. As far as I know, there' no statue of limitations on plagiarism. Unless you show us how you yourself proved that theorem, then if you state it without attribution, you're plagiarizing.
Quote:
What is plagiarism is when the geometry teacher assigns a homework set of twenty problems on the Pythagorean Theorem, and I copy your work and hand it in as my own. Do you honestly wonder why copying someone else's homework is so taboo in our culture? Is it really that unclear?
It's unclear to me why originality must always be the primary consideration. What if we first graded on correctness and then had only partial deductions for unoriginality? Or, maybe some assignments could be graded strictly on correctness, without regard to originality, while others are graded strictly on originality.

Why must plagiarism always take precedence over all other features of a work.

Knowing how and where to find correct facts and theories is a useful skill. If a student could always assemble answers that were correct, why should it matter if they didn't originate them themself?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake View Post
It's taboo because:

A) You are making money off someone else's intellectual property, which is rightly a crime, and
Facts and theories cannot be copyrighted or patented. Algorithms cannot be copyrighted. Furthermore, plagiarism that significantly rephrases its source completely avoids copyright, which protects only a particular fixation. While one could violate a patent by doing what it describes, the actual description is in the public domain, so copying it is legal.
Quote:
B) Because plagiarising does not demonstrate any knowledge, skill or understanding. If plagiarism were acceptable, why couldn't any 10 year old pass any course at an ivy league school? And if they could, then what is the value of the course?
Plagiarism does not demonstrate any original knowledge, skill, or understanding. It might demonstrate knowledge, skill, or understanding about how to find correct answers, facts, or theories.

The value of the course would to show how well you could find the answers to the questions it asked.
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No, we've decided that the purpose of asssement items like papers and exams is to demonstrate that the student has understood the material,
Yes, I know; I'm questioning why using a source without attribution is considered more important than understanding the material.
Quote:
and that they have the ability to communicate at the same standard they will be expected to achieve in the outside world,
Communication skill can be judged separately from originality. If a student takes a bunch of ideas from sources without attribution, and compiles them into a coherent, easily-understood and correct synthesis, are you saying that the plagiarism completely discounts all other positive parts of the student's work? In today's academia, it does, but it is not clear to me why it must be so.
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where there will be no sources for plagiarism
I don't know what your field is, but in the industry I work in it's almost impossible to do anything new. In the rare cases we do come up with something new, we patent it, and we get large incentives to do so, because it is difficult and unusual. Most of the time, we compete by doing slightly better the same thing everyone else is doing. Plagiarism is not an issue--doing things well is more usual than doing things originally.
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What you don;t seem to understand is that if you are doing science then you are, by definition, uncovering facts that nobody else has ever uncovered. The only person who can be right is you. So how can plagiarism possibly be useful?
Science is determining how the world works. Attributing who did each little part of it is not a necessary part of it. If a scientific paper is only going to be judged on the parts that are new to science, then should we need to waste time on attributing previous work?
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What alternative do you suggest?
Allowing people to graduate with degrees in biochemistry when they have no understanding of biochemistry, but a photographic memory and a large library?
A photographic memory and the knowledge of how to use a library seem very useful skills to me.
Quote:
Allowing people to work in biochemistry when they have no ability at all to communicate novel concepts?
An ability to communicate and an ability of properly cite sources are separate skills. One can have the former without the latter.
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  #90  
Old 03-11-2010, 11:18 AM
Kelby Kelby is offline
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Originally Posted by Saintly Loser View Post
(Emphasis added).


This led to a meeting with the parents of the student, who insisted (not asked) that their son's grade be changed. He was applying to colleges, this would screw up his chances of getting into a good college, etc. Not my problem, I replied. He'd been caught cheating before, and warned repeatedly of the consequences of any future cheating. As far as I was concerned, not doing the assignments for the course (and plagiarizing is at the very least not doing the assignments) was the same as simply never showing up. I wasn't going to change his grade.

The principal of the school, however, changed the grade on the final report card of the year to a passing grade. I resigned.
Guts and integrity.

Kudos to you.
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  #91  
Old 03-11-2010, 12:29 PM
MLS MLS is offline
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My lecture that I gave to my students every year and before writing assignments stressed that (1) copied work is stolen from the original writer and (2) I'm only grading you on your own work. If the work you hand in is not yours, then as far as I'm concerned you didn't do the assignment at all and your grade for it is zero. Not just failing, but zero. You'd be better off handing in a crappy paper and getting a 65 on it than handing in a fake and getting zero.

I also pointed out to them that an ethical college course would have the same standards and that they'd better learn that lesson now rather than later when it would be even more important.
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  #92  
Old 03-11-2010, 12:57 PM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is offline
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Originally Posted by Saintly Loser View Post
(Emphasis added).

That's funny.

My teaching days were pre-internet, so students had to plagiarize from actual, you know, books. Which made it slightly harder. Still, me being the teacher and all (I taught high school and college, simultaneously), and having various degrees n the subject I taught, you'd think one student in particular might have realized that copying an entire essay by Harold Bloom, of all people, might set off a few bells. He denied that he'd copied anything, of course, even though I had the source in my hand during the conversation. I do recall asking him what some words he'd used meant. "Inchoate" was one. He didn't know. No idea. Couldn't even guess.

That particular incident led to my resignation from the school (the high school). This student had been busted cheating before, so I gave him a zero for the entire semester. I'd had it with the cheating, and I wanted to penalize him and send a warning to the other students.

This led to a meeting with the parents of the student, who insisted (not asked) that their son's grade be changed. He was applying to colleges, this would screw up his chances of getting into a good college, etc. Not my problem, I replied. He'd been caught cheating before, and warned repeatedly of the consequences of any future cheating. As far as I was concerned, not doing the assignments for the course (and plagiarizing is at the very least not doing the assignments) was the same as simply never showing up. I wasn't going to change his grade.

The principal of the school, however, changed the grade on the final report card of the year to a passing grade. I resigned.
Just to add my admiration for you. Did the principal have any justification for his actions? Was there any repercussion from (say) the teachers' union?
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  #93  
Old 03-11-2010, 01:02 PM
Mosier Mosier is offline
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Originally Posted by PlainJain View Post
Unfortunately, this isn't true. They do this because they get away with it more often than not.
I almost didn't get it. Thanks for that one.
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  #94  
Old 03-11-2010, 01:08 PM
Grumman Grumman is online now
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Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
A photographic memory and the knowledge of how to use a library seem very useful skills to me.
I agree, but the purpose of the test isn't to find out if you can reproduce someone else's work, it's to find out if you're good enough to create new work. It's like the difference between a lookup table and an actual calculator - only the latter is much use once you go beyond the bounds of the table.
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  #95  
Old 03-11-2010, 01:15 PM
Gary "Wombat" Robson Gary "Wombat" Robson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
Well, what if at the beginning of a work, the author stated "I hereby disclaim any originality in this material"?
But the whole purpose of taking the class is to learn how to write code. From scratch. And understand the programming languages.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
However, the plagiarized code does demonstrate the student's ability (or lack of it) to recognize useful code. And in computer programming, that is a useful skill. In the real world, programmers are encouraged to reuse code.
There is no connection whatsoever. The plagiarist only has to read the description of the program, download it, see that it works and meets the requirements of the assignment, and turn it in. He doesn't have to recognize doodle-squat in the code itself.
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Old 03-11-2010, 01:27 PM
StusBlues StusBlues is offline
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Pleonast, I don't know if you're playing Devil's Advocate or just full of shit. The reason that "originality" is required is that it demonstrates the extent to which the student has digested the material and understands it. Plagiarism demonstrates that they were able to find a paper somewhere on the topic, not that they understand said paper.

Yes, being able to find resources is a valuable skill. That's why research methods courses often have assignments consisting of merely finding books or articles and turning in citations. I'm quite sure I'd be able to find a good book on, say, stamp collecting in about 15 minutes in any resonable research library. Give me another 15 minutes and I'll have a paper copied from it--reformatted to look like my work. I wouldn't have learned a damn thing about stamp collecting, though.

Quote:
However, the plagiarized code does demonstrate the student's ability (or lack of it) to recognize useful code.
True, but that can only get you so far. If you're taking a programming class, you are (usually) required to be able to write code, not just recognize it.

Defense of plagiarism. Good Lord. I thought Cesario was banned.

ETA: Pedophilia is more reprehensible than plagiarism, but just.

Last edited by StusBlues; 03-11-2010 at 01:28 PM..
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  #97  
Old 03-11-2010, 01:35 PM
Saintly Loser Saintly Loser is offline
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Originally Posted by Dr. Drake View Post
Just to add my admiration for you. Did the principal have any justification for his actions? Was there any repercussion from (say) the teachers' union?
Not a union situation.

I was at the time, an adjunct instructor at a branch of the City University of New York. Given that adjunct's pay is, or was then, roughly equivalent to that of McDonald's, a lot of us took part-time high school teaching jobs to supplement our income.

The job I took was at a private, religious school for boys. The full-time faculty were of the same faith and ethnicity as the boys, but generally the part-timers, who taught secular subjects, were not. We were definitely second-class citizens, in large part because we were not of the same faith or ethnicity as the boys or the full-time faculty, who were not to be permitted to screw up the futures of the boys.

The principal's justification was simply that he wasn't going to let me reduce this boy's chances of admission to the college of his choice. None of the part-time teachers had, or would ever have, sufficient rank to make a stand on the issue (other than by resigning, which is what I did).
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  #98  
Old 03-11-2010, 01:45 PM
jayjay jayjay is offline
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Originally Posted by Saintly Loser View Post
The principal's justification was simply that he wasn't going to let me reduce this boy's chances of admission to the college of his choice. None of the part-time teachers had, or would ever have, sufficient rank to make a stand on the issue (other than by resigning, which is what I did).
Ugh. Did the principal not realize that if the kid pulled this after he was actually in college that he would have gotten a shitload of worse treatment than you were giving him, unless his dad was a major booster or the kid was a sports prodigy?
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  #99  
Old 03-11-2010, 01:55 PM
The Great Sun Jester The Great Sun Jester is offline
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I plagiarized exactly once in college.

Second semester of my freshman year. I couldn't write for shit and was getting very frustrated with the bad grades. So, I copied an essay out of one of my Sociology books and submitted it to my English prof. It was kind of an open-ended writing assignment and the essay was on a suitable topic. Another shitty grade. Said the essay was poorly written and was my worst effort yet. I decided I needed to learn how to write better.
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Old 03-11-2010, 01:58 PM
Jackknifed Juggernaut Jackknifed Juggernaut is offline
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Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
.......
I've questioned the whole paper-writing concept in the U.S. since middle school. I agree with everyone that the outright stealing of another's work is a no-no, whether one copies it word-for-word or shuffles the words around and replaces some using a thesaurus. But the premise that the dozens of research papers, essays, etc. composed in the thousands of middle schools, high schools and colleges by the millions of children in the US are all supposed to be original works with original ideas is ludicrous.

Kids that do it wrong are essentially lazy and get caught for plagiarizing. Kids that do it right piece together many sources and rephrase the concepts, which all results in....nothing. They've haven't learned any more than anybody else that simply read the same sources. They haven't added any value to themselves or society in general. They've basically only proven that they can follow the rules of the literary world. Okay, maybe in some cases they've also proven that they can write. But that's generally not the purpose of most assignments.
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