Copy and Paste is all too easy.

Plagiarism. Copying. Stealing someone else’s words. Plagiarism is getting worse and worse. Last year felt like the worst year ever for honor code violations. Now, it’s starting up again.

One reason plagiarism drives me buggy is the pure dishonesty of the students passing off someone else’s work as their own.

Another reason plagiarism drives me into a minor tantrum is the sheer amount of my time that gets wasted every time I see it happen.

First, I check the report from the plagiarism checker (Think Turn It In dot com). For students who followed directions and submitted their papers before turning them in to me, it’s easy. I click on the report link and check to see that their work is reasonably original. Those who don’t follow directions lose a point in their grade, and I still check their work.

But back to the wasted time. I spent an hour and a half yesterday afternoon dealing with one case of copy/paste plagiarism. The student had copied verbatim answers to two test questions. The answers had words like “pathos” and phrases that no ordinary or even extraordinary sixth grader would use. I submitted the work to the plagiarism checker. I verified that the answers were stolen from an Internet source. I called the parent. I talked to the parent. I emailed the parent and student a copy of the checker’s report – 97.35% copied. Ugly. Pure ugly.

Then I logged in to teach a class. During that class, the parent called me and left a voice mail. After I’d finished class, logged attendance, and finished the rest of the tasks involved in a virtual class, I called her back. No answer. No voice mail. That meant more time wasted logging the attempt to call, emailing the parent and asking “Is this phone number current?”

I found out she’d called the principal. Principal was out at the time, so parent didn’t make contact. However, just knowing she’d thrown a fit (according to secretary) meant I had to spend MORE TIME doing unnecessary CYA research. I found the original source web site for each of the student’s copied answers, documented both with screen shots and URLs, and sent my evidence to both the principal and the dean of students.

And then the virtual bell “rang” and I headed home, knowing that I would have to catch up on 90 minutes of other responsibilities the next day in addition to tying up the loose ends of this young person’s attempt to better a test grade through cheating.

And that’s the main roadblock. It’s too easy, so easy to copy and paste and call it “done” that too many students don’t realize it’s wrong. I can teach the honor code and review how the importance of the plagiarism and some kids won’t get it until they have to redo and assignment and face the warning that the next time, the consequence will be more serious.

To make a long story short, the family had calmed down by the time we talked the next morning. The whole thing left me drained and frustrated and behind on my work, something that’s happening all too often.

Frankly, plagiarism stinks.

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