My grade 11 students have admitted to committing plagiarism in the past.
ALL of them.
In their defense, they said that they did it unintentionally.
Intentional or not, I reminded them that it results in an automatic F and serious disciplinary sanctions. THAT got their attention.
Such unintentional plagiarism usually results from a lack of understanding of the concept or ignorance of proper paraphrasing and citation skills. When I asked them why they said they were guilty of unintentional plagiarism, their answers ranged from improper citation or incorrect paraphrasing.
When I asked them to define plagiarism in their own words, they unanimously said “copy-pasting.” Other answers were a variation of essentially the same idea: copying somebody else’s works or ideas. Nobody gave specifics about it. Perhaps they didn’t have the words to describe it. Perhaps nobody knew at all what plagiarism constituted.
Michael Hobbes addresses this in one of his articles. He says that we need a better and clearer definition of plagiarism. He cites how journalist Fareed Zakaria committed plagiarism in his articles and book and gives two examples which my students and I studied. In discussing the examples, they had a clearer picture of plagiarism.
I found a handout by the Douglas College Learning Center on plagiarism while I was preparing for our lesson. The handout clearly details what paraphrasing is and how incorrect paraphrases can get one accused of plagiarism. The examples were also very helpful. Different versions of paraphrasing of an excerpt from “Rapunzel” showed the different degrees—if you will—of plagiarism. The handout also showed what an acceptable paraphrase looked like and how to achieve this.
The students groaned when they realized they’d be doing a lot of paraphrasing exercises, but none really complained. None of them wanted an F.
Hopefully, the students become more diligent in their research, writing, and citation now that they know the grave consequences of committing such an act of theft.