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The Cut and Paste Conundrum  

What do you do to avoid the dreaded cut and paste on assignments and in discussions?

I have a few tactics, but I am interested in what others are trying.

Here's what I do:
-Create assignments that are difficult to find rote answers to. My favorite type of question asks students to apply a given topic to their home town. Such as "Describe a water quality issue that your home town faces. What are the causes? What are some solutions? Describe any activities or plans in place to address this problem."

-Margaret mentioned getting to know your students' work. Once you do this it is easy to spot when they suddenly compose fluent paragraphs about metamorphic petrology in your 101-level course!

-I am very clear about the rules about cutting and pasting and I mention it over and over again, in many different places throughout the course.

-When a student does cut and paste, they get zero points for that question. If they do it more than once in an assignment, they get a zero for the assignment.

-I find direct proof of cutting and pasting by selecting a choice sentence and putting it into Google with quotes around it. It pops right up, works like a charm. I hope that students are slightly horrified when they realize I caught them red-handed! :)

So, what works for you all?

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I have used the Google search technique myself when grading research papers. You are so right about knowing your students' work; when an astonishingly literate paragraph is handed in by a student who's never turned in work of that quality before, it immediately raises a red flag that you should check the work.

Surprisingly, many of my students have claimed not to understand that copying and pasting material is plagiarism. To avoid the problem, we have a class discussion about what plagiarism is and how to properly cite your sources, and I send them to www.plagiarism.org for more information. I include a summary of guidelines for avoiding plagiarism in the assignment handout, and I state explicitly in my syllabus that plagiarism on any assignment will result in a zero. Repeated offenses will result in a referral to the Dean of Students.

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Turnitin.com is pretty effective, especially for large classes. I know some profs here at Penn State who require students to run their own papers through turnitin and submit the output along with their assignments!

I usually use the google search technique as well.

Many of my assignments involve analysis of near-real time data; that is pretty hard to fake.

I have also used the strategy of forcing students to discuss their own locality.

3585:12587

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I'm on the academic honesty committee at BGSU, and I'm surprised by the number of upper level (and even graduate) students who claim not to know what constitutes plagiarism.

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I use several strategies:

Have well-focused writing assignments, for example, a critique or review of specific papers. Students then do not scour the internet for subject material.

Use www.turnitin.com for all writing assignments, including essay answers on exams. This is not necessarily a "punitive" measure, but students can view originality reports and resubmit before due date.

Track student work with time stamps to each question on exams, which can identify students who are sharing answers during exam (same answer at same time, even same wrong answers)

Questions for exams are taken at random from large question database during exam -- no two exams are alike, yet still address same learning objectives.

Design unique assignments which require students to think rather than copy (final exam is a brief research grant proposal outlining original research idea and methodology to address this objective).

Essay question on exam selects at random one of ten different research activities that students have completed. Students then write a 200-350 word long essay describing this activity, in essence a publication quality abstract of their work.

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