Plagiarism Lament

Today I was thinking about a time when I was grading an excellent student’s essay. This was an assignment designed to not be plagiarizable. (I’m a PhD in English. I am the most qualified person to make up new words, don’t you think?)

This was the evaluation essay.

For this essay, the students took the commercial analysis they did as a group and wrote an evaluation of the commercial individually.

They had to discuss the commercial’s success or effectiveness in reaching the target audience and with the commercial’s argument, but other than that, they could choose their focus.

The evaluation essay, coming at the end of the semester when many other papers are due, was designed to be an easy assignment, as it built on four weeks’ worth of work the students had already done with their group.

But when I hit “ideologies of primitivism” in the paper, I knew this was probably not my student’s work. We haven’t discussed primitivism in class. So I searched for it, along with the commercial’s name, and found it right away. It’s a group post created for a different class.

I was so disappointed. Academic integrity fail.

Each semester I try to make my classes less plagiarizable and I still get experiences like this one. It is so frustrating, especially when it comes from a student who has been strong in the class previously. For some reason, when it is a weak student I find it less frustrating. I guess I figure they don’t want to fail and they have figured out their work isn’t up to par, so they go looking for work that is up to par.

Which also reminds me of the time that I had a student handing in consistently D level work and, after the fourth essay, I discovered all of them were plagiarized. Made me revise my syllabus once again–to allow for requirement to turn in previous assignments a second time. For a while I just collected all the essays from the semester during the final exam.

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