Monday, April 3, 2006

Some People Just Won't Save Themselves

One of my hardest working students turned up this morning with an 11 page essay on NASCAR racing and the technology used to keep drivers safe. Fine. It's a fine topic. I would have approved it. But for the past 4 weeks this student has been working on a paper about siblings and birth order. I've seen him in the library 3 times. I've read an annotated bibliography. I've given advice and help on drafts, an abstract, etc.

So when he showed up today with this new paper, I had to ask:

Me: What gives? I thought you were doing the birth order paper.
Student: Yeah, I know. But I got a little short of time and I had some research already on this NASCAR paper.
Me: (Scratching head.) But you spent 4 weeks on that one paper, then you wrote this new paper over the weekend?
Student: (grinning) Yeah, I really worked hard. I was up until 5 am!

Well, I've been to the rodeo a time or two, and this sort of mini-drama is usually a pretty good sign that the student has panicked and is going to turn in a plagiarized paper - bought, found, googled, or just borrowed from a frat brother.

I held the paper and looked it over and said:

Me: This is pretty unusual. I haven't had a chance to see all your notes and sources like I did for the birth order paper. You know I'll have to check this paper out, right?
Student: (no longer grinning) Oh, I wrote it.
Me: I didn't say that you didn't. But just like your other paper, I need to make sure you're using sources accurately, legitimately. Are you okay with that?

And I actually held the paper out to him, just in case he wanted to grab it and run. But he didn't.

Student (smiling again) It's a good paper. I think it's the best one I've done.

So, I walked back to my office after class, typed a part of the first paragraph of the student's paper into, and in 3 minutes had found 2 other student papers online where my student had liberally copies huge portions - one section was 2 pages long word for word.

I'm not even mad because I see this at least once a year.