Saturday, January 22, 2011

You Quote It, You Note It

What do Coldplay, historian Stephen Ambrose, and Beatle George Harrison all have in common? They’ve all, at one time or another, been accused of plagiarism. Despite this dubious distinction and the scandal it brings, plagiarism is alive and thriving in our society, thank you very much. A recent Education Week survey found that 54% of students surveyed admitted to plagiarizing from the Internet for class assignments, while 47% of students believed that their teachers sometimes turned a blind eye to evidence that their students were cheating. In 1989, another survey found that 97.5% of American high school students admitted to allowing other students to copy their work.

The statistics on student plagiarism and cheating are disturbing, and are not confined to American students. Studies in England, Israel, Canada, Denmark, and other nations have called cheating by their students of “epidemic” proportions. While many western countries view plagiarism as a moral transgression, however, other countries take a more benign view of the matter. In Japan and China, for example, plagiarism is not considered to be particularly unethical. Nonetheless, recent studies have shown that plagiarism in Japan might be due partly to a lack of understanding of proper attribution, rather than a systemic cultural acceptance.

Plagiarism has long been a canker on the intellectual landscape, and many students feel powerless to resist the siren song of readily available content provided by others. The Internet presents an especially tempting bounty of fast and convenient pre-packaged prose and ideas. So, just how does a teacher, or a school system, stem the tide of plagiarism, when even such luminaries as T.S. Eliot, Charles Darwin, and William Shakespeare have been found guilty of lifting lines and ideas from other writers?

Firstly, you might want to keep that little trivia tidbit to yourself. There’s no need to create an opportunity for your students to point out that these historical giants cheated and did just fine. More importantly, do your students understand the different types of plagiarism? Do they understand how to cite sources properly, and how closely they can safely paraphrase another writer’s work without trespassing into plagiarism territory? What’s the cultural climate at your school? Does your school promote academic integrity as a true expectation, and reward intellectual and academic honesty? It’s impossible to create honest students in a vacuum; the entire faculty must guide students through the ins and outs of plagiarism and the proper citing of sources. Intellectual honesty and high expectations breed more responsible students.

My picks this week focus on resources to help your students learn about plagiarism and how to avoid it. We’ll also be featuring additional resources on plagiarism, including lesson plans, tools to check for plagiarism, and more on The Gateway’s Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week.

Research Building Blocks: Cite Those Sources!
Subjects: Language Arts
Grade: 3-5
Children are naturally curious—they want to know "how" and "why." Teaching research skills can help students find answers for themselves. This lesson is taken from a research skills unit where the students complete a written report on a state symbol. Here, students learn the importance of citing their sources to give credit to the authors of their information as well as learn about plagiarism. They explore a Website about plagiarism to learn the when and where of citing sources as well as times when citing sources is not necessary. They look at examples of acceptable and unacceptable paraphrasing. Finally, students practice citing sources and creating a bibliography. This lesson is a product of ReadWriteThink, which offers free resources in reading and language arts instruction. This lesson is aligned to NCTE/IRA content standards.

Exploring Plagiarism, Copyright, and Paraphrasing
Subjects: English/Language Arts
Grade: 6-8
This lesson provides a background for students on copyright, fair use, plagiarism, and paraphrasing. Guidelines for copyright and fair use are discussed, as well as strategies for paraphrasing and the consequences of plagiarism, This lesson provides a background for students on copyright, fair use, plagiarism, and paraphrasing. Guidelines for copyright and fair use are discussed, as well as strategies for paraphrasing and the consequences of plagiarism. This lesson was produced by ReadWriteThink, where all lessons are reviewed by at least two teachers prior to publication. This lesson is aligned to NCTE/IRA content standards.

Plagiarism Workshop
Subjects: English
Grade: 8-12
This Webquest provides an introduction to the issue of plagiarism, including an overview of copyright laws and fair use provisions. A demonstration of techniques to avoid plagiarism, focusing on paraphrasing, quoting, and citing sources, is also included. This online workshop was developed by Janice Cooper, a teacher at Northern Valley Regional High School in New Jersey, and is aligned to New Jersey state standards.

~Joann's Picks - 1/20/2011~

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