Student Voice and Preventing Plagiarism

An earlier AISL blog, “Engage to Prevent Plagiarism,” discussed resources and strategies to prevent plagiarism.  Encouraging students to engage with their topics and add their own voice was suggested by several authors as a method to prevent plagiarism (DeSena; Gilmore). One of my library objectives for this school year was to address the issue of plagiarism by guiding students to develop strategies and skills while also making the activities engaging for students and relevant to the curriculum. The following Preventing Plagiarism activity was a first step in helping students to make connections with ideas of others and to allow their own voices to be heard.

Engage with a Controversial News Story

Rather than confront students with a lecture on plagiarism, I collaborated with classroom teachers to connect a topical news story to their curriculum so that students could practice effective note taking and paraphrasing and be challenged to put their own spin on controversial topics.  Eighth graders in US History explored the Harriet Tubman $20 bill controversy.

Seventh grade ELA students examined an article on cloning (“Barbra Streisand Explains Why I Cloned My Dogs”) and compared motivations with ethical issues in their class novel The House of the Scorpion. (Streisand used a Texas company for the cloning procedure, so this made the news story more pertinent with our Texas students.)

Reasons and Examples of Plagiarism

After explaining that students would use the news story to practice paraphrasing to glean important ideas, we discussed the definition of plagiarism and the importance of respecting the words and ideas of others. In groups, students used “Think — Pair — Share” to identify the top three reasons students plagiarize.

Reasons most frequently identified included laziness, procrastination, concern over grades, and confusion about how to paraphrase and how to cite. This student brainstormed list was compared with a “Top Ten” list from Barry Gilmore’s book, Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students (Heinemann 2009). Two items on Gilmore’s list that were missing in our students’ brainstorming were noteworthy: Student Culture and School Culture. We discussed the importance of creating a culture of learning in which ethical behavior is promoted and valued (both by students and educators/administrators) and the importance of students adding their own voices to the scholarly dialogue.

In order to show how the consequences of plagiarism and unethical behavior can escalate, we discussed that cases of plagiarism result in 1) teacher/parent conferencing and re-doing a project in the middle school; 2) impacting grades in high school; and 3) possible expulsion in college if a student is found to have plagiarized. In the business world, plagiarism could mean the loss of career. An example of a college student accused of plagiarizing is Harvard student Kaavya Viswanathan, whose novel was accused of having plagiarized passages from another YA author’s novel; Kaavya lost a $500,000.00 two-book contract and movie deal. Jayson Blair is an example of a plagiarist in the business world; this New York Times journalist resigned after being accused of inventing interviews and posting over 37 plagiarized stories. (One of Blair’s fabricated interviews concerned a Texas family grieving their soldier son, so this struck a chord with our Texas students.)

To transition to the Preventing Plagiarism activity, students viewed the video Citation: A Very Brief Introduction (Library of North Carolina State University). The video animation illustrates how ideas build upon multiple sources: entering into a dialogue with multiple ideas allows students to make their own connections.


Make Connections with Multiple Viewpoints

The Preventing Plagiarism activity to evaluate the controversial news stories was adapted from a “Paraphrase Practice” activity in Barry Gilmore’s book, Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students. During this activity, students

  • used the first two paragraphs of the new story to write a general summary
  • looked closely to identify an important sentence;
  • circled three to four important words to write a paraphrased sentence
  • and located one more important quote in the article to practice introducing a direct quote and citing with an in-text citation.

As eighth grade students read the NYT article to select their quote, they weighed multiple viewpoints. Was the decision to delay the Tubman $20 bill driven by 1) anti-counterfeiting safeguards (viewpoint of treasury secretary); 2) race and culture (viewpoint of Democratic Senator); or political correctness (viewpoint of President Donald Trump)? Students worked in groups of two so that they could talk aloud and tweak their paraphrased sentences (making sure the sentences were in their own words).  Eighth graders shared their sentences aloud, and we noted how individual student voices were evident in the results.

Seventh grade students followed the same paraphrase activity as eighth grade, but they used the NYT article about Streisand’s decision to clone her dog. Students then were challenged to look closely at quotes from a chapter in The House of the Scorpion to write a comparison/contrast paragraph discussing motivations of the character El Patron for cloning the boy, Matt.  Sentence stems were provided to aid students’ discussion:

Reflection on the Preventing Plagiarism Activity

As a short introduction to strategies for paraphrasing and citing sources, this lesson was successful.  This forty-five minute class did not allow for additional activities, but eighth graders could be challenged to research further the historical background of Harriet Tubman and Andrew Jackson as they weigh the question of “What do we value as we decide who is featured on U.S. currency?”  The seventh grade teacher suggested a Socratic discussion could be a follow-up activity as students discuss further the character motivations and ethics of cloning. This Preventing Plagiarism activity promoted interesting insights from students and provided an opportunity for students to listen to their peers and appreciate how each used a similar source of information and added their own voice.

Bibliography

Barry, Dan, et al. “Correcting the Record: Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception.” New York Times, 11 May 2003, www.nytimes.com/2003/05/11/us/correcting-the-record-times-reporter-who-resigned-leaves-long-trail-of-deception.html. Accessed 26 Aug. 2019.

“Citation: A Very Brief Introduction.” YouTube, uploaded by Libncsu, North Carolina State University, 23 July 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMhMuVvXCVw. Accessed 25 Aug. 2019.

DeSena, Laura Hennessey. Preventing Plagiarism. National Council of Teachers of English, 2007.

Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004.

Gilmore, Barry. Preventing Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students. Heinemann, 2009.

Holt, Karen. “‘How Opal Mehta Got Kissed,’ Then Got Pulled.” Interview by Melissa Block. NPR, 28 Apr. 2006, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5369768. Accessed 6 Oct. 2019.

Streisand, Barbra. “Barbra Streisand Explains: Why I Cloned My Dog.” New York Times, 2 Mar. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/style/barbra-streisand-cloned-her-dog.html. Accessed 26 Aug. 2019.

Zhou, David. “Student’s Novel Faces Plagiarism Controversy.” The Harvard Crimson, 23 Apr. 2006, www.thecrimson.com/article/2006/4/23/students-novel-faces-plagiarism-controversy-beditors/. Accessed 26 Aug. 2019.

Engage to Prevent Plagiarism

Engagement is about a sense of purpose and a desire to explore. Plagiarism is a perfect example of no student engagement.

Patti Ezell, Instructional Coach for Annunciation Orthodox School

Plagiarism is a topic too often addressed after the fact, when uncomfortable conversations between faculty, students, and parents puzzle over the issue of what went wrong. This summer I am curating resources to support discussions with faculty and students about how to prevent plagiarism. Increasing student engagement may be one of the keys to promoting thoughtful scholarship, integrity, and ethical use of information. Below is an annotated list of books, articles, and videos that may spark ideas for you on the topic of preventing plagiarism. I invite you to add to this list and share strategies that have proved helpful at your schools.

BOOKS
Preventing Plagiarism: Tips and Techniques by Laura Hennessey DeSena (National Council of Teachers of English, 2007). I became aware of DeSena’s book through an NCTE webinar, and I was immediately drawn to her approach that emphasizes student interaction with primary sources first in the research process. For literature teachers, the primary source would be the text itself (novel, poem, etc); for history teachers, primary sources can be a range of artifacts, photos, and documents of the time period. DeSena encourages student exploration of ideas in free writing and notes from the primary source text before any secondary scholarly criticism is read. Students develop an authentic voice as they discover their own wonderings, puzzlements, and insights that can be supported by the primary source itself and later expanded upon by secondary sources. (See chapter 4 of this book for a discussion of engaging students in the research process.)

Plagiarism: Why It Happens, How to Prevent It by Barry Gilmore (Heinemann, 2008)
Plagiarism: A How-Not-To Guide for Students by Barry Gilmore (Heinemann, 2009)
Both of these books present examples of student and teacher comments on the topic of plagiarism, examples of plagiarized writing that can be used to prompt discussions, and Top Ten tips from student and educator perspectives on how to prevent plagiarism. On one Top Ten list, Gilmore echoes the importance of student voice and ownership: “Make the assignment personal. Try to make the assignments important to you…(by putting) your own spin on them” (Plagiarism: Why It Happens, viii). In addition, in chapter 6 of this book Gilmore suggests that teachers should examine the types of assignment and assessments to promote student analysis and original writing rather than summarizing or information telling.

ARTICLES
“Power Lesson: Note-Taking Stations” by Peg Grafwallner and Abby Felten (Cult of Pedagogy.com, December 16, 2018)
Instructional coach Grafwallner and a high school chemistry teacher Felten used the classroom textbook as an opportunity for students to practice note-taking. Students cycled through 15 min. stations and followed templates to practice Cornell notes, graphic organizer, concept map, and annotation. Student feedback was positive on these brief station immersions in note taking, and Felten discovered that students continued to use the note-taking styles in later class assignments, often discerning which note-taking style would work best for the type of information.

“How One Professor Made Her Assignments More Relevant” by Beckie Supiano (The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 21, 2019)
Tanya Martini, professor of psychology at Brock University, Ontario, described how she broke through student apathy and pushback by making more explicit for the students the types of real-world skills they could develop through the assignments.

“Engaging Teen Writers Through Authentic Tasks” by Heather Wolpert-Gawron (Educational Leadership, May 2019) Role playing, choice, and multi-genre writing are some of the strategies used to engage teen writers through authentic tasks.

“When Do We Give Credit?” Purdue Owl Writing Lab provides clarification on general knowledge versus information that requires citation.

“Tips to Avoid Plagiarizing Someone Else’s Work” EBSCO’s three-part infographic provides an overview of sites to avoid when researching, work habits that can lead to plagiarism, and when to provide credit for sources.

VIDEOS and PRESENTATIONS
This is Not a Chair (The Chipstone Foundation) This video demonstrates how primary sources (chairs from various time periods) can prompt close looking and analysis and can encourage student reflections and starting points for further research on topics as various as culture, societal structures, environment, and slavery.

How to Spot a Liar (Pamela Meyer) Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, demonstrates in this TED talk how persons telling lies can be spotted, but also stresses that “lying is a cooperative act.” It is important that we have the “difficult conversations” with those who lie so that we can emphasize, “Hey, my world, our world, it’s going to be an honest one. My world is going to be one where truth is strengthened and falsehood is recognized and marginalized.”

“Research: An Exciting Quest or a Labor of Hercules?” (Joan Lange)
The first few slides of this presentation that I created in 2011 contains a “research-style quiz” themed to matching your style to Greek Heroes or Monsters. Work habits can lead to plagiarism. Remainder of presentation offers some suggestions to avoid plagiarism.