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.


3 thoughts on “Plagiarism

  1. With the help of technology, it becomes easier to catch verbatim plagiarism and uncited paraphrasing. However, Turnitin won’t solve the problem completely.

    It’s unfortunate that plagiarism is so widespread in the academe. Plagiarism is not only commited by students but by professors, researchers and other professionals as well.While student plagiarism can be pretty hard to detect at times, those “professional plagiarists” is a lot more difficult to deal with. During peer reviews, we have to carefully check all the references provided in the research paper and we also have to read several related books and journals. This would make our chances of catching plagiarism higher since they can be very sneaky.

    I have seen people plagiarized research papers and books written in another language, plagiarized very obscure references. and paraphrased different sources into a single (or a few) paragraph(s) (and the kicker is they would give highly-related but wrong references to throw us off.). So, we have no choice but to waste time just to verify the authenticity of the papers…

    I still believe that only education would solve this problem. Children at an early age should be taught that plagiarism is wrong and how to avoid it.


    1. The students understand how serious plagiarism is, but they are also too lazy to review and fix their work. I agree with you. Education can help solve the problem, but at the same time, everybody–inside or outside the academe–should be vigilant and diligent in writing and reading any piece of work.


      1. Students thes days live in a world where they could find most information with just a few clicks, so it’s no surprise that this could make them lazy. That’s where education should come in. After all, just knowing that plagiarism is wrong is not enough, they should also not do it.

        As for those professionals who knowingly plagiarize, they’re like thieves who know what they are doing is illegal but they still do it anyway. So, they should be punished for it.

        Liked by 1 person

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