Information and Links for Faculty
This website was inspired by our own problems with plagiarism in our classroom. We have found that almost any classroom assignment involving the use of source material will result in at least one case of obvious plagiarism or fraud. Inevitably such cases would cause us anxiety. We would ask ourselves questions like the following. How could the student possible think he or she would not be found out? How could the student have possible gotten this far in an American education system without knowing what plagiarism is? Could any student be this ignorant of the rules about how to quote, summarize, or paraphrase? How did this student sit through our classes' discussions on plagiarism and and its penalties, yet clearly not master these basic concepts? We wanted students to be 100% clear on what is and is not plagiarism, so that they could avoid it, be academically honest, and, as a result, be free to develop their own creativity. We devised our plagiarism tests to help accomplish this goal.
We require our students to score 100% on these tests. We have the test count for little or none of the actual final grade; however, if a student does not pass the test with a perfect score, we deduct enough points so that the student can get no higher than a D+, which we consider an unacceptable grade indicating a major failure to grasp course material. All of this policy is specified on our syllabi. We allow the students to retake the test as many times as they want, despite the fact that the multiple-choice format dictates that most students can logically figure out the material in three tries. Some students have, in fact, needed to take the test four or more times to get a 100%. When the students have done this, we know we have documented evidence the students can distinguish between what plagiarism is and what it is not. We think the test presented with these constraints has reduced the amount of plagiarism; however, this is an area of ongoing research.
The first goal of the plagiarism test is to educate the student on what constitutes plagiarism and how to correctly cite another's material. It is critical, in learning how to write, that the student be very clear about this process.
A second goal of the test (using the 100% performance requirement) is to insure that the student will not inadvertantly plagiarise. That is, we work on the assumption that if a student has learned about plagiarism and has correctly identified the different types of plagiarism, that any subsequent plagiarizing of any type that was tested is not accidental or unintentional. This is important for both the student and the faculty member because the most frequent reason that students give for plagiarizing is simply that they did not know they were plagiarizing. We think it is important for the students to know that, as far as the faculty member is concerned, that their perfect plagiarism test performance logically eliminates any claims of ignorance. This reduces faculty anxiety in penalizing plagiarism. We have had students attempt to explain their plagiarism away by confessing to cheating on the plagiarism test. The irony of trying to clear oneself of a charge of cheating by admitting to a prior case of fraud apparently does not occur to these ethically impaired students. What our plagiarism test does is essentially eliminate almost all accidental plagiarism, particularly helping students with strong ethical codes to feel confident about what is or is not ethical in writing a research paper.
We feel that our plagiarism test aids us in trying to make the writing world a more honest place and insuring those students who receive passing grades in our classes have honestly earned these grades. We want to insure that students with degrees from our institutions have earned them honestly, not by deception and fraud. We teach students to be critical thinkers and to question the value of source material--to discover and expose illogic, inaccuracy, ambiguity, and deception.
The problem of plagiarism is threefold. First, it is a violation of any academic institution's ethical code. Second, plagiarizing is not good research, and it prevents the student from learning how to do research and causes the student to miss out on the intellectual excitement of discovery. Third, it causes ambiguity for the evaluator. Simply put, it is difficult to assess a writer's work when only part of it is actually the writer's work.
We hope that we can teach our students the value of academic honesty in a world were there are many obvious examples of dishonesty and fraud being tolerated or even rewarded. This is one of the reasons we feel teaching is a vocation, not just a job.
Teaching student researchers is a way to help make the world a better place. We hope this website will help you in educating your student researchers.
This taxonomy attempts to classify all the various types of plagiarism in the context of the larger issues of academic fraud. We explore where legitimate and illegitimate areas of scholarship are often confused. We attempt to point out the types of plagiarism that are more frequently challenged by both students and administrators, as well as to clarify some ethical implications. We note that your system of ethics will affect how you treat and understand plagiarism--if you consider only actions or results in your ethics, you will evaluate and judge plagiarism differently than if you consider intention, for example. We have tried to incorporate all the current terms used for various types of plagiarism, providing hyperlinks to sites that discuss the same offenses but use different terminology.
We hope this taxonomy will help you be aware of not only the vast range of forms academic fraud can take, but the reasons why certain types of plagiarism are often widely tolerated or excused. In an ideal world, an academic trying to promote academic honesty could count on the full support of their department, dean, and college. Sadly, this is not true for most of us. Given the economic pressures of our time, many administrators feel the need to avoid litigation (or even the threat of litigation) or adverse effects on their enrollment and graduation rates. In pursuit of these goals, faculty may be encouraged to turn a blind eye to cheating in the classroom and to make problems "disappear quietly." The cost of this is now being felt in society. For example in February of 2003, British officials plagiarized an academic article on Iraq, and in May of 2003, the New York Times scandal of Jayson Blair's fraudulent reporting broke (these two links last verified 2/9/04).