Friday, June 02, 2006

Serious Interlude: Plagiarism

Despite my explicit warnings and even though I took them step by step down the dimly lit staircase descending into the dark realms of previous students' plagiarism just to show my current students how easily I can retrieve the truth and bring it back up into the exposing light of the surface, they still think that they're smarter than I am.

Some ... perhaps many ... are smarter, but I'll still catch them if they plagiarize.

Why? Because I enjoy the hunt, and if I smell blood, I'll slash an essay apart until the paper bleeds red with ink.

Kids, don't cheat. Not in my class. Especially if you're as careless as this:
As it is said above, The first 17 sonnets are addressed to a young and beautiful man.
First, you didn't say it above. Second, the phrase "As it is said above" is rather awkward English, unlike the more graceful statement that follows. Third, the capitalized "The" in the middle of the sentence is a dead giveaway that you've downloaded and carelessly neglected to alter the "T" from majuscule to minuscule. Fourth, the statement is not to be found on the Hudson Shakespeare Company's webpage titled "Fair Youth Sonnets," despite your footnote. Fifth, the statement is also not even on the Wikipedia page that you mined for other quotes that you also falsely attributed to the Hudson Shakespeare Company (and I expressly warned you not to use Wikipedia!). Sixth, the statement is so ludicrously easy to trace, for I need only plug it into Google Advanced Search, using the search function labeled "with the exact phrase," and voila. I've found it: "Sonnet 20, admission of Shakespeare's homosexuality?" Why, you've even borrowed that title to construct your own: "A Confession of Shakespeare's homosexuality?" And if I back up to the search results again and click on "cached," I can quickly locate the statement in the text via highlighting.

See how easy that was? I warned you. Why did you even try to cheat?


At 12:29 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

It all comes down to time management. Many students never start a project until it's too late to do a decent job. Then it is just too embarrassing to hand in nothing.

I was certainly no exception as a student, but in the real world, projects have to be split into tasks and subtasks with completion dates. It seems to me that the brighter students are least able to do that -- more self-indulgent. They just have so much confidence that they can solve any problem that they're not frightened by the passing assessment milestones. Or maybe they're too engrossed in other things to notice.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I was one of the less bright students, so I always had to organize my studies and prepare for the final exams starting the first week of the semester.

A few of my students are brilliant and organized. They put me to shame.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 10:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If plagiarism is stealing, then where did your sidebar go, Jeffery? You have one of the more interesting sidebars around, so I hate to see it disappear. Is it just me?

At 4:34 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Nathan, it's not just you. It's a repeated problem that I have with Blogger -- though this is the worst. I haven't had time to correct it, or to see if I can correct it, but I hope to look into it soon.

I began constructing my sidebar with high hopes about using it for pursuing scholarly interests, for assisting my students, and for maintaining a community of people, but I've encountered so many problems with instability of information that I've quit trying to improve it. I hate the frustration of constructing something, only to see it disappear.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As to the ease of identifying plagiarism, I would report that one of his professors told my son, "I know you plagerized this paper because no undergraduate could possibly write so well. I have spent hours trying to track down where you got this and have not found it yet, but I will."
Now, I could well see how almost all of my son's papers could be criticized for being written between one a.m. and four a.m. of the day they were due or even for lacking substative (any?) research. But he has always written like a poet, and I know from watching long agonies over the elusive right phrase how much he cares about words. So I have no doubt that every sentence of that paper was his. I also know from experience that totally ignoring the professor's instructions as to how to format a paper is an idiosyncratic decision as to how it should best flow (after all what does he or she know) not evidence of theft.
Not to ignore my son's paper producing faults, but I would suggest there can be a certain professorial arrogance at work in some cases

At 6:48 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, there may well be arrogance in the case of some professors, but not in my case. I track down the plagiarism online (or elsewhere) and demonstrate it, stating matter-of-factly precisely what they took and from where they took it.

Then, they always have the opportunity to correct the error of their ways.

As for your son, I'd probably compliment him on his writing and tell him that he now has to add a thesis statement with the proper logical form that I've required, that he has to have proper intoductory and concluding paragraphs, that he has to have proper evidence to support his claims, and that he needs to have proper footnotes properly formatted.

If he does all of that and writes like a poet, the essay will be not only wonderful but also satisfying to read.

Jeffery Hodges

. . .

P.S. Sounds like you need to have a friendly discussion with your son's professor.

At 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohhhh, Anonymous, what a familiar story. I recently taught Blake to a student as his High School (UK)felt Blake was all about social realism. His essay came back with some similar obseravtions: namely, he should stop trying to write like a university student and he must have stolen the ideas from the internet. And he had too many original ideas! And didn't need to put Blake in context (i.e. Miton and the poetic tradition) as that was for older students. No doubt this teacher has the rare ability to see the Universe on a postage stamp! Pointing out how to acknowledge sources and present original ideas is a key learning skill. Well said, HJH, I shall send my student to you...but now he wants to be a footballer instead.


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