Policy on "plagiarism"?

James Mahaffy mahaffy at dordt.edu
Thu Dec 28 19:17:11 EST 1995

Brian T. Greuel (greuelb1 at uofs.edu) wrote:
: We are in the process of drafting a written departmental policy on 
: "plagiarism" to address an occasional problem we have with students submitting 
: papers or lab reports that make inappropriate use of reference materials.  
: Anybody out there have a written policy already in force that you could share 
: with us?

When you write your policy be aware that there is a difference between
coping and trying to reword.  I used to think the line was more black
and white than it was, but since I am one of the profs who actually
checks references, I have found that it is tough for undergrads to write
using their own language when they barely understand the technical
jargon of the area they are looking at. So they try and consciously
reword, but end up rewording and not writing in their language.  While I
really want them to use their own words, I don't consider this in the
same class as someone who is copying word for word (especially without
references).  At least they have gotten into the primary literature and
stretched their minds in a new area.  In some cases I am getting them
into the primary literature for the first time.  I, of course, pint 
out where it is too much just rewording, but I understand that it takes 
quite a bit more to have students know enough to talk about it in their 
own language.  I consider it totally different when they are just 
copying without quotes.

I would consider it quite different if it were a paper on a specialized
area (whose terminology and jargon they should now).  I might also
suggest that you be surprised that some material that seems to be in the
language of the student may be copied from a news article in Science or
Nature and won't catch your eye as being too technical.  

James F. Mahaffy                   e-mail: mahaffy at dordt.edu
Biology Department                 phone: 712 722-6279
Dordt College                      FAX 712 722-1198
Sioux Center, Iowa 51250

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