I ressurected my paper assignment in my big freshman course this year after a one-year break. You may recall that this happened two years ago. Go ahead and read it....
I found myself retelling that story to a colleague the other day and it got me thinking about the whole issue of plagiarism again. This time, I have not reported any students, but have had two students rewrite their papers because the content was too similar to web content (based on Turn It In reports). The papers were not wholly plagiarized, but there was quite a bit of word-for-word copying in each one.
Am I wrong to not report it? Can these students really be that ignorant that they are committing plagiarism? By backing off from the hard stance of reporting all cases, am I just letting serial plagiarists cheat their way through college, since any instances are not being reported? I have mixed feelings about it, but given my last experience, it was hardly worth the trouble- especially since I don't think the student learned anything from it.
Even aside from the cases where I've had students rewrite their papers, I still find smaller segments of text that match other sources- if it's less than 15%, I don't worry about it, but I sometimes question that, too. It's no wonder people don't like to assign papers in their big first-year courses. I have encountered plagiarism in upper level classes, too, though. One semester (before Turn It In), I googled a passage of text from a student paper and found the whole thing on the web. I reported her to the chair, and in the meeting, she admitted everything and took a zero for the assignment. In another class, I deducted a large portion of a grade for one student paper, because a lot of it was not original and started checking their first drafts the next year (when I had to have a student- one of our majors- rewrite his paper). The problem is so widespread, that I have to wonder how much of it is truly ignorance and how much is cheating. Either way, it's an aspect of teaching that I loathe to deal with.
What experiences have you had with plagiarism in your teaching (or other fields)? Does anyone feel like they have a good handle on it or have university policies that are favorable to the instructor?