24 March 2011

My Mis-Spent Middle Age

You know what makes me crazy about plagiarism? The burden of proof is on me, as instructor, to document it.

That time going painstakingly over a paper and, for at least the first several pages, checking every passage I think has been "borrowed" inappropriately and tracking it down, is such god-awful work, and that time would so much better be spent in so many, many other things.

I simply fail students who cut and paste big chunks of text from a web page and passed it off as their own. But when the plagiarism is more subtle, there's substantial institutional pressure to give the student another chance.

Which means I then have to read another draft of that student's paper, and check again to be sure that the corrections have been thoroughly made.

And yes, I do understand that learning to write and to document sources appropriately and well is a recursive process, one that takes a great deal of practice. Yet I can't help but wonder how it's possible that an upper-level English major or a graduate student hasn't gotten the hang of it yet.

I will never get that time back. Will the student learn enough out of the experience to make that worthwhile? I have no idea.