Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Academic Dishonesty

You may think you can get away with it, but in the long run, crime does NOT pay

I was just going through the statistics on recent visits to my blog, and I saw that one visit came via a search for a lengthy phrase, with quote marks around it, that came verbatim from one of my posts from a while back.

I've made that sort of search myself. It happens when a student turns in a paper that was clearly not written by that student. If a student has trouble even putting together a complete sentence, and relies on the spelling checker to choose words (resulting in the wrong word 80% of the time), and then I get a paper full of compound-complex sentences, sophisticated vocabulary, and not a single misspelled or misused word, I know that paper has been lifted from somewhere. I will take a particularly distinctive sentence from the paper and put it into a search engine with quote marks around it. Presto! Immediately, I know where the student stole the work.

Some people might argue that I should be flattered that some student somewhere considered my work worth stealing. Maybe I should be, but also, my work is my own intellectual property. Any profit to be gained from my work should go to me, not to somebody else.

There are other issues involved. If you are in my class, you are here to learn how to write. You are not going to learn how to write by copying stuff off the Internet. In order to pass my class, you have to demonstrate that you can write, not that you can steal something somebody else wrote.

That's not to say the Internet is totally off limits. You may certainly use the Internet as a source of research material, but you must use that material sparingly, as supporting evidence for your own arguments, and when you use such material, you must be sure to cite it properly so the reader knows where it comes from.

Over the past couple of years, the community college where I teach has become increasingly serious about punishing academic dishonesty. If one of my students turns in a plagiarized paper, I am not permitted to ignore it. I can't simply tell the student, "OK, now turn in something you actually did write, and I'll give you the grade it's worth." The rules say I must report that infraction to the Dean of Students.

As I tell my students at the beginning of every term, don't even THINK about it. You WILL get caught. It's not just the struggling student turning in a seriously academic paper – if you take a paper somebody else wrote and submit it as yours, your instructor will know it. You have your own individual style, your own favorite ways of putting sentences together, your own favorite words and phrases, your own favorite grammar mistakes. Your instructor is going to know if you turn in something that isn't in your own voice.

Don't risk your academic future. And don't shortchange your own education. Do all of your work.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Mom said...

A very good commentary. And in the end, of course, the student is only cheating himself, because he/she will not be able to perform in the workplace.

Sun Feb 22, 05:20:00 PM MST  

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