Saturday, June 15, 2013

Plagiarism in an Online Environment

The assignment was 5 questions over 5 chapters in a popular novel.

Student 1: Plagiarized directly - a simple copy & paste

Student 2: Read a summary of the chapters in SparkNotes, found the answer online on ChaCha and Sparknotes, and wrote the answer in her own words.

Student 3: Answers were similar to Student 2, which led me to understand that both student read summaries but did not directly copy and paste. The syntax the sentences written by Students 2 & 3 were very similar.

Student 4: Wrote a poorly worded guess. Answers were vague or just off.
Students 1 & 4 were easy to deal with, of course. But Students 2 & 3?

Question: How to grade these responses? I can't simply copy and paste a URL where they got their answers. Could I share (anonymously) each other's answers with each student to explain that reading a summary and using the summary is still plagiarism? I find this hard to explain to a student.

But here's what I think. If the question can be found on the web in a Sparknotes summary or ChaCha answer and the student writes the answer in his her own words (still, syntax is too similar for comfort), I believe they have done exactly what we've asked them to do!

Solution: Write response questions that require higher level thinking, compare and contrast, transferring knowledge to solve a problem, and other best practices in reading comprehension.

And write new questions the next year.

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