T Nation

For Teachers and Professors

Something I’ve been wondering about…

I haven’t written a paper since College (when you had to do “ancient” things like “go to a Library”; “research”; “think”; “analyze”; etc…

Question:

With the advent of things like “Google”; and the ability to Cut and Paste ANY article and/or paper on ANY topic imaginable…

  1. Do you guys even have students “write papers” anymore?

  2. How do you even grade something that was most likely Cut and Pasted? Can you spot when that is done?

  3. Are papers a “relic” of the past, and you evaluate students knowledge of a subject in different ways?

Hey…I have to admit my own reading, writing and research skills have taken a hit!

Just curious!

(By the way…that’s a pen and paper in the pic above…!)

Mufasa

Students don’t start out submitting cut-and-pasted work. They start out writing crappy papers and suddenly have a miraculous “turn-around.”

It helps to not have students write on generic topics. It also helps to have in-class exams. The differences between the quality of work can be very telling.

I’m not a teacher…but my both of my parents were. While that doesn’t give me any hands on experience outside of giving a few lectures to a room full of nurses and doctors, I would think that actually knowing your own students and their past work would help in that area greatly. If some kid who can barely write out his own name comes in with an award winning essay the following week, something is up. I think the larger classes get, the harder this will be in the future, however.

Eventually, this may truly be a problem. The internet has eliminated any need to even use a library. All of those hours I spent researching shit (and learning more about other topics in the process) is now a thing of the past. They simply type the topic into google and their paper is basically written for them.

In that regard, I would think the ability to assimilate information without plagiarism would be what should be graded.

I, as a student, have never copied and pasted a paper.

My university has a computer program (and Im know theyre not bluffing, because Iv seen it in action) into which the professor uploads the paper electronically and its scans the internet (kind of like google on steroids) for any similar phrases and ranks any matches on the degree of similarity for the teacher to view individually.

Throughout college, I have only actually looked at paperbacks in the library three times. All other information was available online through databases like ProQuest.

I read book material via these databases - information from books were put into electronic format and accessible via this database. In fact, my school has a shitty physical library - very small - and it relies heavily on subscriptions to vast electronic databases.

I haven’t “written” an assignment since high school. In fact, I don’t know if written assignments are even accepted in some programs.

Google and similar search engines have made it possible to cheat more easily. At the same time, just as sites exist to help you cheat, others exist to help profs recognize cheating.

In the end, if the prof has a thorough knowledge of the topic, he or she will be familiar with the majority of theories and applications on the subject. So they should be able to recognize plagiarism.

It’s far easier to cheat than to prevent it. And this has always been the case.

Our professors just plug in sections of the paper that look suspicious into google. Like above posters stated, the profs and teachers know their students enough to actually grade them based on what they did before and know what to expect.

Then again, you do have incompetent profs and teachers that don’t pay attention and don’t really care while just assigning a grade. I’ve been lucky enough to only have 1, but I think it’s more prevalent at big universities as opposed to small universities.

This is ironic you bring this up. My Grad class in Computer Curriculum today discussed this topic vehemently.

I believe that is you have control and understanding of your students, papers can still be written. BUT, it is much easier for the copy and paste…if you ask for rough drafts, citings, thesis statements, it keeps the kids from cutting and pasting right away. They actually have to piece the paper together…and you do it with a short timeline…not give 3-4 weeks, but over the weekend or “next day” you want a thesis statement. Over the weekend you want two of your text paragraphs done.

AND, I always have my kids do an oral report or presentation. That way you can question the kid on if he knows the topic. Nothing like throwing a tough question that is related to the topic that is not in the paper, but in the research that they were to do.

Hope this helps,
SP

ps…even though I teach, my spelling is HO-rendous

ft:

I’ve heard about that…but that SEEMS like something that would be very easy to circumvent with just a little effort and rearranging (I could be wrong…).

Do the Teachers and Profs simply put more weight on the Quizzes and Test?

(Seems like the old heavily weighted “Term Paper” would also be a thing of the past).

That’s also an interesting thought about looking at the “trend” in a student…

Mufasa

stong:

Oral reports or presentations…

Now THAT’s interesting.

In the past, you didn’t have a lot of those. (I certainly was questioned more on a Topic in Grad School).

Mufasa

http://www.turnitin.com/static/plagiarism.html

I know that this website is used with the university I am currently at. There are others as well and a lot of professors are starting to request that papers be submiting online now as well, or having a hard copy handing in along with it being emailed for easy plagiarism checking.

-LH

[quote]Mufasa wrote:
ft:

I’ve heard about that…but that SEEMS like something that would be very easy to circumvent with just a little effort and rearranging (I could be wrong…).

Do the Teachers and Profs simply put more weight on the Quizzes and Test?

(Seems like the old heavily weighted “Term Paper” would also be a thing of the past).

That’s also an interesting thought about looking at the “trend” in a student…

Mufasa[/quote]

Oh yeah, papers comprise maby 35% of the final grade…enough to fuck you over if you dont do it, but not as much as tests for sure.

I have had several teachers ask for thorough in-text citations, and I think that this helps with the problem too, because if they can verify the information from the sources themselves and it is more difficult to just “copy and paste” a paper if you are having to provide viable in text citations along with your information.

It’s been a couple years since I’ve taught a class, but here are my two cents:

[quote]Question:

With the advent of things like “Google”; and the ability to Cut and Paste ANY article and/or paper on ANY topic imaginable…

  1. Do you guys even have students “write papers” anymore?[/quote]

Yes.

Any teacher that actually spends the time to read his students’ work can spot this. Unfortunately, teachers don’t have unlimited time, so some cheaters will inevitably slip through the cracks.

Every person has a different writing style which tends to stay consistent over time and almost certainly stays consistent over the course of a paper. Any significant deviations usually result in a visit to Google. This isn’t error-proof, of course, but I’ve yet to score a false positive.

Don’t forget that the ability to write well is a valuable skill.

Unfortunately, I don’t have experience teaching college students. I imagine it’s very hard to figure out whether a student has plagiarized an entire paper if you don’t have a writing history to look back on.

In college, one way my professors avoided plagiarism was to change paper topics every year and make the topics more obscure. The former prevented copying from previous years. The latter prevented Googling for an answer.

The student could, of course, go to the library and look for books and papers that address this obscure topic. There will inevitably be some paper on it, but hell, that’s research ^_^.

A friend of mine copied and pasted an article from the internet verbatim and made that his paper.

He only changed 1 thing. He randomly added the word “fuck” into the middle of one of the sentences.

For me, term papers are still very much a part of my evaluations, for some extensive research classes it can be 80% of the final mark (but in this case the students come to me often for one on one sessions and present their findings etc. so it’s hard to bullshit your way through it).

I don’t know if google is much help to my students and I tend to steer their papers in areas where I am very familiar with the research.

Libraries are still the most important resource for information and I have to check volume availability and even loan books to help students with their research. Maybe it depends on subjects, some are more prone to copy-paste papers, I don’t know, but I don’t see a lot of it in my department(History) or faculty (arts-letters) for that matter.

As far as other ways of evaluating, I don’t know. For me it’s pretty standard, exams (at-home or in class) and papers (either book reports, dissertations) and sometimes there is some points given for participation to discussions in groups.

[quote]blooey wrote:
It’s been a couple years since I’ve taught a class, but here are my two cents:

Question:

With the advent of things like “Google”; and the ability to Cut and Paste ANY article and/or paper on ANY topic imaginable…

  1. Do you guys even have students “write papers” anymore?

Yes.

  1. How do you even grade something that was most likely Cut and Pasted? Can you spot when that is done?

Any teacher that actually spends the time to read his students’ work can spot this. Unfortunately, teachers don’t have unlimited time, so some cheaters will inevitably slip through the cracks.

Every person has a different writing style which tends to stay consistent over time and almost certainly stays consistent over the course of a paper. Any significant deviations usually result in a visit to Google. This isn’t error-proof, of course, but I’ve yet to score a false positive.

  1. Are papers a “relic” of the past, and you evaluate students knowledge of a subject in different ways?

Don’t forget that the ability to write well is a valuable skill.

Unfortunately, I don’t have experience teaching college students. I imagine it’s very hard to figure out whether a student has plagiarized an entire paper if you don’t have a writing history to look back on.

In college, one way my professors avoided plagiarism was to change paper topics every year and make the topics more obscure. The former prevented copying from previous years. The latter prevented Googling for an answer.

The student could, of course, go to the library and look for books and papers that address this obscure topic. There will inevitably be some paper on it, but hell, that’s research ^_^.[/quote]

The internet, to me, sucks in regard to researching. I love Gale’s research lit criticism series.

[quote]strongFB wrote:
ps…even though I teach, my spelling is HO-rendous[/quote]

Indeed.

:wink:

I’m a history and political science student and I don’t think I could plagarize a paper even if I wanted to. Almost all of my grades have come by way of research papers. The only history classes I have had that had quizzes were 100 level classes.

I occasionally use the internet, but the only thing it is really good for is finding sources and giving you things to think about to refute your writings.

In any case, I hate writing papers, I stress about them because I feel the need to make every paper an awesome one that I could publish. The end result is procrastination and stress. I also hate how no matter how good of a paper you write, since it is subjectively graded, the ceiling is 95% since you can’t REALLY write a perfect paper.

mike

I’m going to have to say most of it deals with the teacher. I had a teacher in HS that my friend and I wrote papers together, and handed in the same essay verbatim and grading was usually significantly different with no rhyme or reason on why or who got the higher grade.

That said, my university uses turnitin.com which matches phrases in your essay to phrases found on the internet and gives a rating on the level of plaigarism.

I teach Design & Engineering, and Google etc is an enormous help

if any of the student’s work looks suspiciously good, i paste it into google and it finds the original paper

If this is not referenced, and the work has been presented as an original work by the student, then the student can be ejected from the university

Most trouble we have is with foreign students, where there is no shame in their society for blatantly copying. Getting them to understand that this is not acceptable is very difficult.

I use turnitin too, but for me it has limitations - I teach biology to freshmen in University and with such a factual topic there’s a valid argument that says it’s extremely hard not to copy and past chunks of text, especially when the students don’t yet have the skills necessary to read journal papers and extract the relevant information.

Actually that’s something I wish was taught more - simple reading and comprehension of scientific journals!

I use a lot of continual assessment for my course - straightforward short answer exams, essays and oral presentations and they all hold a lot of weight for the final marks. Certainly in an area like science the ability to give good presentations is becoming more and more important - if you can’t get up in front of a few hundred of your peers and present properly you’ll never hold your own at a conference.

It’s very obvious when one of the students hasn’t put any of their own input into a paper (it’s a small enough class, I know them individually) and if I have proof it’s plagiarism they recive no marks, simple as, and they’re aware of that from teh beginning. Oh and I’ve banned Wikipedia and Google as references!!

I’ve just finished correcting my end of year final exams and even though they complained hugely about the amount of class tests and papers they had to do, the students obviously benefited hugely from it and the effort put into some of the exams, particularly by previously considered weaker students, was absolutely fantastic! It’s not all down to the students either - an enthusiastic and passionate teacher/ lecturer is more likely to see the effort put in by their students. Give the class a reason to get excited about a topic and they’ll respond to it.