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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Grading, grading

I've worked my way through 11 papers so far--fewer than I'd hoped to have graded by now, but still reasonable progress. I'm clocking in at a pretty consistent 30 minutes a paper, which is a vast improvement over the time my grading has eaten up in the past (of course, in the past I had time to burn!), but I'm hoping to get it down closer to 20.

However, I've encountered what may or may not be my first plagiarizer. Or maybe that's plural: I have two papers from the same class that are strangely similar in a couple of particulars. Their similarities are just plausible--both students are writing on the same topic, and it's not impossible that both might have had a few of the same ideas--but they inspired me to turn to Google and run some search strings. The paper that I initially found more suspicious turned up nothing, but the other one, I suspect, took a number of ideas from a cut-rate Cliff's-notes-style website.

The thing is, I'm only 75-80% certain of this, and the paper isn't actually very good; I gave it a C+. I'm thinking that's punishment enough--ha ha, Mr. Plagiarizer! you stole someone else's ideas and you couldn't even do anything worthwhile with them!--but I'm uncertain about this. Is it worth pursuing? I'd hate to make a federal case out of something so insubstantial, and espeically when the victory for the (potential) plagiarizer is so small.

The other oddity is that both of these students misunderstood the topic in exactly the same way (as did a number of other students). I can't explain further without giving away what work they were writing on, but the way in which they misunderstood the topic makes it much closer to about a jillion discussions that have been had, statements that have been made, and essays that have been written on the subject in the past. I'm left wondering how deliberate this misunderstanding may have been, and how/whether to penalize this mistake--since it may be partly my fault for not wording the topic differently, and since in theory it's a workable essay topic, just not the one I listed as an option.

Sigh. I do have a real post that's been percolating for several days now, but I just haven't had the time to get back to it. Soon, soon.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:50 PM |


Blogger jo(e) commented at 8:29 AM~  

I don't like to pursue a plagiarism case unless I'm positive. And getting a low grade on a paper that you cheated on --without getting caught even -- does send the message that cheating is just a stupid idea.

Blogger Dr. Virago commented at 4:35 PM~  

I agree with Jo(e) absolutely. In fact, in most cases of plagiarism -- the cut and paste kind -- the paper itself is awful enough not to have to pursue the stickier plagiarism part. And you can even write comments to that effect (lack of organization & clarity; not following assignment, etc.). In fact, I once gave someone an F for a paper that had nothing to do with the topic. I suspected a bought paper, but I didn't need to pursue that angle since the paper wasn't at all on topic. I gave him a chance to rewrite, but he didn't take it. Anyway, keep an eye out for these two on the next assignment, and talk to the class as a whole about the importance of following directions and staying on topic! And if you haven't put a plagiarism definition/policy on your syllabus (always a good idea) you might say that it has come to your attention that you haven't talked about this subject and thus bring it up in class without singling anyone out.

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