Entries in "plagiarism"

March 11, 2006

it's 5:30 am, and I'm reading PD headlines online...

... something must be changing, however slowly, in the partnership between the Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com -- I hope this isn't just a fluke. (I found this randomly, because I have Google News set up as my homepage, with a custom search for the Plain Dealer, and was shocked to see a March 11 datestamp when I flipped my laptop open this morning. I do not always get up this early on Saturdays, though.)

The story that caught my interest this morning, after reading the top story about the search for a new CEO of the Cleveland Public Schools, is OU grad finds evidence of plagiarism. I'm shocked at the notion of several students plagiarizing Master's theses. Some faculty members somewhere were definitely lax in reading their students' drafts, and teaching them about academic integrity and proper syntax!

I know we need to do a better job about teaching students to avoid plagiarism (and by "we", I mean the teaching profession generally, rather than the faculty at Case specifically). I still have a copy somewhere of a very slim orange booklet that I was given in 8th grade English class, about how to do a research paper, which was mostly about how to acknowledge sources -- but based on the questions I have answered over the past few years from sophomores about whether they need to include references in their papers, or how to do so, to trust that they are being properly educated on this subject in their high school English classes, which is really a shame. Why is it that students these days are not all competent in this skill by the time they reach college?

I suspect that I see this in part because we admit students to Case who may have outstanding quantitative skills, but may only have earned Bs and an occasional C in high-school English. This is one problem with using grades, though -- it is hard to know what the person assigning the grade considers an acceptable performance to earn a B or a C. Another teacher might give a student a B for a well-argued essay which has a few problems with the formatting or specificity of its citations, thinking that it is most important that students learn to express themselves clearly. Such a teacher might not give what I consider sufficient weight to assessing the student's ability to cite sources well. I have no way of knowing that when I evaluate a student's transcript, as a member of an admissions committee. I suppose the lesson is that I should not assume what my students have already learned, when they come into my classroom.

July 18, 2005

internet soap operas and academic integrity

I have not been involved in new student orientation this year, for the first time in several years, and it feels strange to be denying myself the pleasure of advising incoming first-year undergraduates about course selections. So it is that I learned by reading my RSS feed of Planet Case that incoming students like Colin Slater are being introduced both to Blog@Case and to conversations about academic integrity by watching tv or movie excerpts (48 Hours for Colin, and Cheaters for one of the other new students who commented on Colin's post).

I came across Colin's post on Saturday, and when I came back to it this morning, it was after reading this old Wired article from May 1997 about the internet soap opera that was the early years of the WELL. The article is looooong, with hints of the essence of more recent internet phenomena like Meetup, Livejournal, and delicious, and it made me long for the same kind of rich insider history to be written about the Cleveland Freenet, which was a part of my online initiation back in the late 80s when I was a Case undergraduate. (There's a brief history of CFN here.) What I realized is that the history of another online community is being made as you read and comment -- the history of Blog@Case, which allows a management professor to welcome a new freshman to campus without even meeting him in person.

One of the premises of the early life of the WELL community is that electronic conversation flows better when the people engaging in the conversation online occasionally meet in person also. I hope that Colin and I will run into one another on campus sooner or later... we might discuss academic integrity, or what it takes to make a healthy blog community. Perhaps he'll share his opinion on Bruce Katz's statement (commenting on his firing of a prominent WELL employee) that "I do not believe that everyone knowing everything about everyone is a necessary condition for community." I expect that the incoming class of 2009 can teach older generations like mine a fair amount about the finer points of participating in the blogosphere and other online communities.

I am pleased to learn that we are introducing our newest students to the principles of academic integrity via a conversation, rather than a simple statement of expectations. This choice makes clear that there is more to academic integrity than avoiding plagiarism or cheating. It suggests that students are our partners in upholding a key value of our academic community -- the value of honoring the contributions that others make to our learning, by giving credit to them for the ideas they have authored, and not claiming authorship for ideas that are not our own. I hope that students will also learn that part of demonstrating academic integrity is refraining from expressing ideas as your own if you do not actually believe them. Holding onto a dissenting opinion and elaborating on it in a constructive way is part of how knowledge grows... saying what you think the teacher wants to hear just to get a good grade is not.