Assignments that Short-circuit Plagiarism

In The Chronicle of Higher Education there is a thread called A Plagiarist’s Tale. Within it dozens, or more, professors talk of their experiences with plagiarism.

One biology professor says he/she no longer requires any written assignments because of the high percentage of plagiarism he/she was receiving. Others concur.

Still other profs talked about the lack of care on the part of professors. People don’t want to catch plagiarism because it is a problem to fight.

Then anon4now gave two assignments that he/she has that short-circuit plagiarism.

1. “critical article response papers”: the assignment is to find and read a critical article on the topic that was published in the last 15 years in a peer-reviewed journal, and to BRING A PHOTOCOPY OF IT TO CLASS. Then it can either go two ways: one, we do an inclass essay exercise on how to write a summary page of the arguments in an article, followed by an exercise on how to write a response to ONE of the arguments in the article—with that background from prior classes, they come in with the articles, I look them over, and they spend the class period writing a one-page summary and a two-three page response. OR I say (more likely this at the end of semester): now write an essay relating your article to one of the assigned primary texts we have just read. They can read and think and draft and prepare, but once they come into class, it’s brain, pen, and the clean paper I hand out to them.

They cannot cheat on this, and they have to be smart and write well to do well. And even the weakest ones do end up learning something.

2. The other thing is what I think of as the opposite of the take-home essay. I give them 5 possible essay questions in advance of a test. They can prepare all they want, in any way they want. But when they come to class, there will be two of those questions they can choose to write on. They only bring one writing implement, no ball caps, no notes, no cellphones, no cuffs-written-on-under-sweaters, or other texty devices. I provide bluebooks previously stamped with my unique imprimatur (no bathroom pre-stashes either, in other words). And they write for the whole period, from memory and learning. Can’t cheat on that either.

I thought it was worth remembering. Maybe it will be useful in your classroom.

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