2012 RIT Faculty Institute on Teaching and Learning
Plagiarism Policing or Pedagogy: Teaching Research Based Writing in the Age of Copy and Paste

Paulette Swartzfager pmsgsla@rit.edu, Dianna Winslow dkwgla@rit.edu, Shelly Jansen mcjgla@rit.edu, Lara Nicosia ldnwml@rit.edu

     This panel presentation addressed the risks and opportunities for teaching research papers at a time when information is easily accessible and authorship devalued. Panelists led a discussion about recent studies of copy/paste habits, technologies like Turnitin designed to find plagiarism, and best practices for teaching research and writing. Panelists involved participants in an honest discussion on how to approach research paper assignments in a way that enhances the students' ownership of their work and allows them to demonstrate critical thinking abilities.

Handouts and Web Links:
RIT Policy on Academic Honesty: http://www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/studentconduct/rr_academicdishonesty.php#_ftn2

NEW -- Wordpress Blog for continued conversation: http://fitlplagpanel2012.wordpress.com/

Paulette Swartzfager http://people.rit.edu/pmsgsla

      "Ninety percent of the students surveyed said that they themselves have plagiarized at some point in time because they did not see it as 'intellectual theft' but instead as a 'borrowing of words'. They all said that they never thought of not citing their information sources as the dishonest taking of another personís work but as the use of 'just words' that have no significance to the writer. In addition to a survey, I also conducted an interview with another Rochester student who after completing the interview requested to remain anonymous. At one point during the interview the student stated, 'I mean, theyíre just words, I donít care if someone uses what I say so why does it even matter?' to which I responded, 'OK, how about this: You have been working on a project for many months. It is a new, groundbreaking idea and someone else just says that they thought of it instead of you?' She replied 'Well they canít do that, itís my idea!' " (Anna Stern, " Authority: The Cornerstone of Academic Writing." Writing Seminar, RIT. May 2012)
Dianna Winslow http://www.rit.edu/cla/english/dianna-winslow

   Teachers' fears of plagiarism can sometimes lead them to overlook the important role they play in helping students through the research process. I find that strategies for helping students avoid plagiarism begin with the writing assignments themselves. Successful writing projects include sequenced and separate steps, oral components, peer review, and self reflection. We also can encourage student ownership of the research project by assigning research areas and topics that combine classic and current topics in unconventional ways. 

Assignment Design: http://people.rit.edu/pmsgsla/WinslowDesign.html
Assignment Topics: http://people.rit.edu/pmsgsla/WinslowTopics.html

Shelly Jansen http://www.rit.edu/cla/english/shelly-jansen

    It has been my experience that students plagiarize when they feel pressured for time, that is: when they have procrastinated until the last minute and feel they need a quick and easy way out of the situation. To (help) eliminate the opportunity for students to procrastinate, in my Writing Seminar course, I require students to write an outline of their paper (which I review, provide feedback and grade) and multiple drafts of their papers ready for peer review and my review prior to the paper being due. By requiring multiple graded versions of their work, students are more likely to tackle the work in stages, thereby deterring the typical 4am-day-the-paper-is-due-desperation that triggers plagiarism. Even outside of a Writing Seminar course, students in my classes are required to write an outline of their paper, which I will grade and provide feedback on. They are also required to meet with me before the paper is due to discuss any issues they have with the paper: again, deterring them from procrastinating (and plagiarizing) because they must have something to show me a week or two before their final version is due. By adopting these practices, in addition to the typical discussion of what constitutes plagiarism and a lengthy lesson on how/when to cite effectively, I have witnessed a dramatic decrease in plagiarism in my courses.

Lara Nicosia http://infoguides.rit.edu/cola

    I find that many students donít know how to engage with academic literature. When looking for sources for a project, students want to find an article already written on their exact topic. If they canít find something, they become discouraged and often change their topic to something more prevalent. This desire to find an exact match for their topic lends itself to plagiarism because students end up working off someone elseís ideas rather than basing their projects on original thought. An important part of the research process is knowing how to take pieces of information from multiple sources to construct a new, original work. Libraries provide a variety of tools to help students develop research skills, as well as understand how to leverage sources theyíve found.

Comments and additions from participants (to be added after FITL)

(updated by p.swartzfager 8/27/2013)