March 17, 2011


I caught Mr. Plagiarizer on the rough draft of his second paper.   I prepared a copy to send to the Vice President of Academic Affairs, if and when Mr. Plagiarism turned in the final draft.  He never did.   The zero he received on the assignment was the same score as if he'd plagiarized.  Not knowing what to do, I filed the rough draft away and did not send it up.

Tuesday was our peer edit, where rough drafts for the third paper were due.  He did not bring me a copy (as is required) so as he and his partner worked by my desk, I asked to see his paper in a lull in the editing action.  I glanced at a phrase, quickly typed it in on the internet, sandwiched between quotes.  He did it again. There was a one-to-one correspondence between his paper and the article on the website.

After most of the class had thinned out and gone for the day, I said I needed to speak to him.

Me: "Something extraordinary has happened."
Him: "What?"
Me: "Someone has stolen your paper and posted it up on the internet, word for word."
(Long pause.)
Him: "Not word for word."

The interesting thing about this experience was that his peer reviewer waited outside until he saw Mr. Plagiarizer leave, then came in to see me.  This student wanted me to know that he knew that the paper he'd seen in peer review was fake. 

In a day, one student lived up to my worst expectations. And another student soared to my highest.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.  In honor of this, I'm using one of their green logos!


  1. I am so amazed by this plagiarism. It used to be my job to check on cheating when I worked as an undergrad assistant in the history department of my college. It was a snap because they lifted full paragraphs and pages from the works they referenced. Here it is even more obvious.
    So yes it's sad, but like you I applaud the other side of the coin.

  2. In a world where people lie and cheat and steal to get ahead it can be wearing to continue to teach honesty. Keep on, my friend, keep on.

  3. Your final line says it all. Wonder if he will continue his practice in the future.

  4. What a story, and what a creative way to handle it, too. Who knows if the message got through, I guess. (Or you will know when the next paper is "written")

  5. I absolutely love the line you gave the student! I will definitely file that away in case (or rather when) I end up with my next case of plagiarism. And major hats off to the student who wanted to tell you he had recognized the plagiarism. I think most students just let it pass by or don't even see it at all. Every cloud does have a silver lining!

    -Carrie F.

  6. What a great story. At my husband's university (he's doing a Master's) they have a program to run papers through to check for plagiarism. If you are caught doing it, you are expelled. It's good that you let him know he'd been caught. These students of your continue to amaze me. I wonder why some of them think they are interested in going to college, when they so clearly are not.

  7. I have this happen about once a year in speech, when students have to give commencement addresses. It never fails that someone just copies and pastes one they have found on the internet. The best one though, didn't bother to change the graduation years and then tried to tell me his dad helped him...

  8. Sadly, I guess we all have those stories. I liked how you handled it, without a lecture, making a clear statement, and I hope he gets point really fast.

  9. Great way to handle the situation. I hope that you many more students sail high.

  10. So frustrating and disappointing to discover plagiarism happening among your students. I enjoyed the way you referred to the student as Mr. Plagiarism instead of using a real or pseudo name. I also loved the dialogue between the student and yourself. The fact that you found a way to keep the conversation light even as you reprimaded the inappropriate action. It made me chuckle because I could imagine your voice and expression.

  11. Love, love, love how you confronted the student! But to think Mr. Plagiarizer did it not once. . .will he ever learn? Two cheers for the peer reviewer! Thanks for sharing!

  12. ...and that about sums it up: the highs and lows of working with kids. Some soar, and some struggle to get the momentum for lift off.

  13. There is always going to be a Mr. or Miss Plagiarizer. The digital age has given them the ease of copy and paste, but it's also, as you have found, given us Google!

  14. I am always shocked by plagiarism. I shouldn't be, given how often I see it, but still. I love how you handled this situation, and kudos for the other student!