i hate it when i can't shut up
the world is tanking and academics are worried about plagiarism...
i haven't been following this thread that closely as i sometimes do as my semester has been ending and student plagiarism was not on my mind. so i don't know if anyone has offered this idea yet, but has anyone considered offering assignments that are difficult to plagiarize? it seems quite clear that threat of punishment, actual punishment, clarifying "how to write a scholarly paper, " etc., are efforts that are not working. why continue to create division between students and faculty by providing opportunities to plagiarize? it is obvious they will continue to do so when presented with an opportunity. why not develop assignments where plagiarism is virtually impossible?
second subversive thought...as someone else noted, this is indicative of the trend starting with Napster...why pay when you don't have to? why exert the effort to recreate what has already been done by someone else? this is not a trend that is going away anytime soon. i think that to the extent that we see ourselves as a bastion of morality, we are not going to connect with students. note that i am not saying that we should encourage plagiarism; rather what i am saying is that if what we are doing is not working, why not try something entirely different?
simple intervention (borrowed from the psychologists; something called spitting in the soup)...at the beginning of the semester, simply ask students how many of them are planning on cheating during the semester? get them to do a show of hands (I have done this and hands were raised). great opportunity to discuss consequences (not just institutional, but real life). similarly, before assigning a paper, ask how many are planning on just cutting and pasting from Wikipedia? tell them that you are not interested in regurgitation (i prefer a term that they can understand, so i just say, "puke") nor are you interested in their ability to utilize a search engine (unless, of course you are...). of course before doing this, you MUST know what it is you are interested in; of course, this latter point begs the question..."what IS the purpose of writing papers?"
is it not odd that we spend a considerable amount of time and effort in ensuring that we maintain this unproductive division between us and students? i got tired of the "gotcha" game when i was in college. i only like to do it now when i have some entitled kid who is damn sure that s/he is going to pass simply because they pout and sputter quite a bit.