Help! Did My Student Pawn Off A Plagiarized Paper To Me?

I need your help. I have students turning in term papers this week and have already caught one turning in a paper that was blatant plagiarism. She eventually fessed up to it, but I had hoped announcing the fact that I had discovered one case and failed the student would stop anyone else from trying to do the same.
Then I got another paper today.
Here is a part of the paper that was turned in, with no references to any other work:

Student’s paper:

“As cited in one source, one of the more infamous examples that show the dangers of animal testing is the Thalidomide tragedy of the 1960’s and 1970. Thalidomide, after testing well on animal subjects, was marketed as a sedative for pregnant or breast-feeding women that caused no harm to mother or child. Although it had passed animal testing, at least 10,000 children were born with severe deformities because their mother had taken Thalidomide. Another example of a drug that was proven safe for animals, but had an opposite effect on humans is Clioquinol. Clioquinol, originating in Japan in 1970’s was marketed has harmless relief to diarrhea. This was not the case. In addition to not working in humans, what it set out to provide relief from, it caused. As a result, there were 30,000 cases of blindness and thousands of deaths occurred. “

A quick Google search turned up the following report on the Internet:

Internet article:

“The most famous example of the dangers of animal testing is the Thalidomide tragedy in the 1960s and 1970s. Thalidomide, which came out on the market late in the 1950s in Germany, had previously been safety tested on thousands of animals. It was marketed as a wonderful sedative for pregnant or breast feeding mothers and it supposedly caused no harm to either mother or child. Despite this “safety testing”, at least 10,000 children whose mothers had taken Thalidomide were born throughout the world with severe deformities.
Clioquinol is another example of a drug that was safety tested in animals and had a severely negative impact on humans. This drug, manufactured in Japan in the 1970s, was marketed as providing safe relief from diarrhea. Not only did Clioquinol not work for humans, it actually caused diarrhea. As a result of Clioquinol being administered to the public, some 30,000 cases of blindness and/or paralysis and thousands of deaths occurred.”
Is it my imagination (being gun-shy after the other blatant attempt at plagiarism) or is the paper totally ripped off from this article? I mean, seriously, would someone have been able to pull those two paragraphs out of their hat, using the same statistics and the same examples?

So my question is:

Fail them for the course for plagiarism? Is there any doubt whatsoever?

As a student who successfully pulled fast ones almost exactly like this in middle/high school, yes to the first question and no to the second. If you really feel unsure about it, you might find your answer by just showing him the passage you found online and watching his reaction. But IANAT.

Since the student said, “As cited in one source…”, I would most probably suspect that no plagiarism was intended, but that the student forgot to include the cite. I’d dock 'em some points, give them a stern lecture on getting their shit straight, issue a few high-sounding threats, and let it go.

Also consider using Turnitin.

It definitely doesn’t look like coincidence.

What level do you teach at? For a high school student, I’d let them know that they need to cite their sources, use quotes if they’re just going to repeat the source verbatim, and should be using the source as a stepping stone for their own original work, not just as an answer in itself.

Also, was this the only suspicious section, or have other parts failed the google test?

It reads like someone who doesn’t quite understand the difference between using cites and sources correctly and ripping them off blatantly. It has more of an air of utter cluelessness than dishonesty.

Actually, this is what pisses me off the most.

This is a COLLEGE course in ETHICS.

Granted, the student are all majoring in fashion, interior design, game design or computer science…and none of them especially wanted to take this course, but for the most part, the vast majority have really like the course (great class retention) and have participated well. There have only been a few slackers.

I haven’t gone through the entire paper yet…just got it emailed to me a few hours ago and intend to grade papers this weekend…so I will check further to see if they “accidentally” lifted material from other sources.

The first paragraph says “as mentioned in a study”. OK, so you found the study. You need to tell the student about how to give proper quotation (i.e., in such and such study, Johnson et al indicate that “quotation”). It doesn’t sound to me so much as the student intending to cheat (in which case he wouldn’t have said he’d gotten it from someplace) as not knowing how to reference.

I agree that it looks very much like what someone might have written with the source on the screen, trying to ‘adapt’ their source without having to think about it much.

I think there’s room to suspect the student was trying to make a suitably ‘original’ paper, without having to think too much about what was going in it, rather than intending to perform plagiarism. At the college level, though, I really would expect a student to know better.

Before you decide to flunk the kid, may I ask, how much support will you have from the school’s administration if you try to enforce an academic honesty policy? My sister had been doing courses at several schools for the last several years, and her experience was very mixed: Some schools would support her when she went after plagiarists, while others would try to get her to “work with the student” to avoid that kind of black mark on the student’s record. I believe that at least one of those “work with” reactions was for a paper that had been taken verbatim from an online source. If you’re a school like that, pursuing this would seem pointless. If you’re at a school that’s more serious about academic integrity, it’s up to you. My gut reaction, based on just this, is that it’s a student who has never had his nose rubbed in “It doesn’t have to be verbatim to be plagiarism.” I’m not going to feel you’re out of line to go after him to the full extent possible, but I also wonder if a sharp swat to the nose with a rolled up newspaper might be able to correct the behavior.

(Yeah, I’m sitting on the fence again. Sorry.)

This is clearly a case where a source was taken and re-worded (that is, not regurgitated verbatim). Student also clearly said this came from a source they found.

My vote is for “not intentional plagiarism.”
I’d say, beyond docking points for failure to cite sources properly and for failing to develop cited material further, maybe you can use this passage in class, as an example of something that is plagiarism in the real world, despite not being a direct quote - why it should not generally be admissible, what are the problems here, how to fix them so it is admissible. Explain that you accepted this as an attempt at original work, but that anyone trying to pull something like this in the future is likely to find themselves – at best – with a big fat zero for whatever course in which they try to pull this trick.

You should be able to see one student attempting to become a speck on the wall (although of course don’t name him/her) – I’m sure, at least for this person, it will be a lesson to last a lifetime!

Since you are teaching a course in ethics, could you clear a day off the syllabus and devote a lesson to the ethical use of sources? Ideally you could hit the academic points as well as the points these students are likely to find in their career fields. Interestingly, you mention these students are largely in fields that are all about design and ideas. These students **should care ** about intellectual property.

As far as failing the student or not, I suggest working with your department head or colleagues to get a sense of how your institution handles these things. There is a case to be made for being consistent, and for making sure you have backup before you decide to go to battle, if you do.

Left to my own devices, I think I’d give this student serious points off for failing to cite a source, but not go down the plagiarism path. As a learning exercise, I might require the paper to be resubmitted with correct sourcing.

Maybe when he grows up he wants to be my ethics instructor:

Looks like they just don’t know how to paraphrase or cite correctly. Mark them down points accordingly for that, but don’t fail them. Unless when you confront the student he/she makes a bit scene. Then fail them out of spite.

I don’t think a claim of plagiarism is valid when a person is merely regurgitating the details of a factual situation as part of a larger original work on the subject. Yes, you need to cite your sources, your student failed to do that, and deserves to be docked on that account.

Let’s be honest, no college student is going to be doing original research on thalidomide for three sentences of a paper. All of the facts and history must come from a source, and there are only so many ways to say that it tested well on animals, was marketed and given to humans and harmed >10,000 children. I don’t really see the point in forcing people to come up with wild and wacky methods of stating the facts, just to make the text superficially different than the source.

I think you have a chance to sear a permanent lesson into a student’s brain about research in general and online research in particular. I’m assuming you’re not asking for a “Works Cited” page or requiring MLA style on the paper. But I’d sure confront the student, point out that the penalty for plagarism is failing the course (or whatever it actually is) and then demand, “Tell me how this is not plagarism.” You’ll know from the answer whether it’s plagarism or just laziness. If the former, you must follow through; if the latter, I think the lesson will sink in just fine.

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Not only is this depressing in itself, but these two ads appear to be ripping each other off.

I agree with (most of) the above. This looks more like an inexperienced writer who was trying to rephrase what she was reading as source material and didn’t rephrase it enough for comfort. She - and probably 80% of the class - would probably benefit more from some more detailed instruction on how to do it correctly than they will from simply being failed for plaigarism. Is it plaigarism? Yes, technically it is. But given the sad state of writing education these days (see this thread for more on that topic), it’s possible that she was not intentionally being academically dishonest. Lots of teachers say “be sure to use your own words” without being more explicit than that.

And, being an ethics class, I think you can work this into your subject without too much strain on the curriculum.

This is not plagiarism. This is “doesn’t know how to correctly cite”. This, from me, gets a “take this home tonight and cite your sources with footnotes and resubmit it”.

(Or, I mean, it IS technically so, but at this level they’re learning. All information comes from somewhere, she acknowledged that it came from somewhere, it’s paraphrased, not copied, and she just seems to not know enough about how to cite. This isn’t intentional deceit. She’s nto trying to pull a fast one.)

I don’t think so, like Cheesesteak, the student is not really using someone else’s idea or argument, they are just restating facts. And the two facts are related to each other, I think its appropriate to mention both in sequence.

Of course, these source of the stats should have been cited, but they’re fashion and computer science students, they’re not going to have all the conventions down pat. I was an engineering student and I actually made it thru a 4-year degree without writing a single research paper. I did literature analysis, but nothing where I had to cite historical and scientific sources.

I agree with Cheesesteak and the others - if the plain fact is that X caused 30,000 cases of Y, how else can that reasonably be related without saying “X caused 30,000 cases of Y”. If the student had tried to subtly alter the expression of the embedded facts (‘several tens of thousands’) to throw off the scent, then it would be obvious that it was just a hash job, but in paraphrasing a factual source here, the student has had to read and comprehend it - isn’t that the whole point?