The ten words and phrases introduced in Parts I and II of this series, should serve as clever reminders to your students that word theft comes in many forms-from outright stealing to unintentional, well, we'll call it borrowing or perhaps, sloppy writing. Let your students know that intentional plagiarism-copying entire papers or chunks of others' work is what most students attempt, but that some plagiarism results from rushing to get a paper completed before the deadline and/or careless note-taking and source citing.
Teaching how to write research papers takes time and patience. Students need practice, for if they fall into the habit of copying and then using it for a report in the lower grades, the transition to "It's not okay to copy," isn't easy. With that in mind, here are a few additional ideas for plagiarism prevention, some of which come from the Turnitin White Paper, The Plagiarism Spectrum: Instructor Insights into the 10 Types of Plagiarism.
Make your plagiarism policies specific. The worst types of plagiarism should result in the most serious punishment, while infractions that may be the result of lack of understanding about research writing or minor or unintentional mistakes, should carry lesser penalties.
Give students research assignments designed to: (1) make them look beyond one source for information, and (2) challenge them to insert their own original ideas about the topic. For example, "Compare Lincoln's early life to those of current presidential candidates" is a much better assignment than "Do a research paper on Abraham Lincoln". -Or for "Catcher in the Rye," consider "How might the book "Catcher in the Rye" have been different if Holden Caulfield had had a cell phone?"
Show students examples of the different types of plagiarism. To help you, examples are provided in the Turnitin white paper. By reviewing the types of plagiarism, your students will know that you will be looking for word theft when you grade their papers.
Realize that with the growth of the Internet, sometimes it's difficult to understand what is original content and who wrote the content. The Internet makes it easier to engage in plagiarism. Not only can student find sites where they can purchase whole papers, online they have worlds of information on just about any topic available to them. Showing students how to find reliable sources must be one of the steps in teaching research writing.
Don't just assign research papers, teach students acceptable ways to complete them. Help them learn to use their computers to save and organize notes and sources. Demonstrate how sloppy note taking usually results poor grades, no matter how beautifully a paper reads. Introduce your students to examples of how careless research causes big problems.
Remember that it's difficult to paraphrase and to understand when ideas need to be cited. Not many people are skilled at paraphrasing, and students are often stymied by it. After becoming familiar with their topic, they also have difficulty knowing which ideas don't belong to them. Besides, knowing what is considered "general knowledge" may not be part of your students background.
Encourage your students to come to you for help with citing sources, paraphrasing, and any other research problems before handing in their papers. Give them links to specific sites that deal with citation that you think they will find accurate and helpful.
If your school subscribes to a plagiarism prevention service, don't use the service to grade student papers. Let students use it to learn if their paper contains any problems with originality. These services can serve as excellent ways for students to learn how to improve their work before they submit their final copies.
Writing papers in middle school and high school should be a positive learning experience, which will give students the foundation they need to write well and honestly when they go off to college. With you as their guide let them make their mistakes now and learn from them.
Ask elementary and middle school kids to write an essay on what is great about America, and somewhere in that essay will be something like this, "This is a free country, and I am free to do what I want." When questioned about the statement, they'll concede that they can't go out and rob banks and hurt people. Most understand they shouldn't copy other people's words to put in their reports. When middle schoolers are asked if they have the right to free speech, they agree that they do. Most high school students qualify the answer by saying that it depends upon what they said.
No slander. No lies. We know that. But what about what we say online? What about telling someone's secrets-telling about their private life? Maybe it's like our classrooms where kids and teachers have to watch what they say? Maybe it's like the media, which also has rules about how it says what and what it can say? Is it? Or is it a whole new ballgame?
Let's brainstorm. Suppose you are teaching American history, Civics, or Contemporary Issues and want to enliven your lessons on the 1st Amendment, and perhaps, the 9th Amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ....
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Just what is free speech? What is freedom of the press? What is privacy? It certainly isn't saying or printing anything you feel like saying or printing about others. Or is it? How does freedom of speech and the press work online, where an item might only appear for a short time and then disappear and be difficult to trace? Does freedom of speech cover what is on a social networking site, and how does freedom of press cover a blog? The legal precedents certainly are not clear on either subject yet.
What about what people place online that's removed - like a comment on a company's web site about how a product doesn't work well? Are people's rights violated when a company wipes out content they've published online? What about what people put online that gets changed. Sure, people understand when they use a site like Wikipedia or take part in Wiki writing that things can be changed. -But what about changes by companies, political parties, and special interest groups who monitor these sites editing out anything that isn't positive?
High school students, always ready for a good conflagration over what's happening in our nation and world today, can dive right into this topic-Free Speech vs. Privacy: A Battle Online and Offline.
When it comes to free speech online, start with a topic your students all probably know quite a bit about - social networking sites. They can probably tell you tales of profiles that have vanished or been mysteriously modified. When people become members of social networking sites, they have to click on a box agreeing that they will abide by the site policies. These "Terms of Service", are not usually read by those clicking for membership. There it is stated that if you don't follow the rules, your content can go and you can, too, It's private. It's legal. Of course the question is always the interpretation of the rules and who is doing the enforcing.
It is not just social networking sites, but also Internet Service providers who enforce guidelines to protect their sites and keep them safe for users, especially children. They don't want their products to be known as ones that support unpopular and/or controversial groups.
Ask your students how social networking sites and IPs could possibly keep track of everything that's posted. When there's a complaint, they'll look into it, and many have service representatives who not only listen to complaints, but also search for content that doesn't fit their rules. Most have rules about dealing with disputes over content, but some people don't feel they are getting a fair hearing from company representatives. Maybe, they'd like the courts and government to step in?
Introduce your students to the Anick Jesdanun article Free Speech on the Web: Murky Rules, Personal Agendas (eCommerce Times, 07/13/08), which gives examples of companies and individuals trying to make sense of these issues. Your students may want to discuss why online companies set terms for use of their products, if companies should set rules, can the rules be enforced consistently, and what would happen if the government did step in?
Have your students consider recent revelations about Congressional staffers and Wikipedia. It has come to light recently that Congressional staff are being used to search and edit Wikipedia the online encyclopedia. Ask students what they think of politicians and companies paying staff to change unfavorable words and opinions that are published online? Is it fair for those of us who don't have a staff? Is our money being used to do this? What does this kind of interference do to the recording of history or even how certain controversial topics are explained online - like abortion, civil rights, or stem cell research?
Another resource to take a look at is Daniel J. Solove's Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet. Although the entire text is available online, you want to read Chapter 6 Free Speech Anonymity and Accountability. It takes on problems that have evolved concerning the Internet, free speech, anonymity, and accountability, along with conflicts between the right to privacy and the right to free speech. Solove details how individuals have been hurt by online postings, which are often anonymous. He also talks about how our lives are intertwined with so many others today, which makes privacy even more difficult to understand and sort out.
Have your students consider blogs and what can show up in them. Talk about unattractive photos that may be sent by cell phone. Ask them if their privacy has been violated by what friends put online or send through telephones about them. How does all this relate to the 1st amendment? To privacy?
Solicit situations that have happened to students or their friends involving their Facebook/MySpace pages. What do they think of employers and college admissions counselors going on their sites and looking at and making judgements about them based on what they find. Where do they think privacy begins and ends online?
These indeed are not black and white issues, for it's difficult to tell right from wrong here. But there are problems that need to be solved and it certainly will breathe life into any discussion about the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Maybe your students can lead the way?