Bob Mackey gave my contact information to the future Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Sarah Sepanek for a story she was writing a week ago on student cheating and the Internet. I responded to her email questions about my experiences with plagiarism in my comp classes and what I know about the possibilities of student plagiarism in the Internet age. Now, you can read Sarah’s reporting with a bunch of quotes from me in the Youngstown Tribune here. And, here is a short excerpt from Sarah’s article, “Electronic Cheating”:
Jason Ellis, an English composition instructor at Kent State University, shared some strategies he and fellow instructors use to prevent cheating. He said that catching a student cheating is only the beginning. “The English department is very supportive of teachers who catch plagiarism and provide proof that plagiarism has taken place. However, I will also say that it is difficult to catch plagiarism,” said Ellis.
Ellis said he combines many tactics, such as knowing a student’s writing style, arranging the students so that he can view their computer screens, and running lines of students’ essays and test answers through Internet search engines to see if they are cases of plagiarism. “I pay attention to the writing style and any formatting quirks that might flag that essay as containing plagiarized work.”
To my future students: I want to help each student become a better writer during each course, and I hope that you come to class with a desire to improve your writing for all of your future works during and beyond your time at KSU. I’m more interested in each student giving their best effort in class rather than having a student represent another person’s writing as their own. Giving your best effort will help you in the long run, while the latter is taking a chance on getting a good grade, failing, or expulsion. Before you run afoul of plagiarism, come by my office and ask me about it if it isn’t clear enough in the syllabus. I always stress to my students is that you come see me during office hours if you have questions or want extra time working with me on your writing. It is up to each student to work hard on their own endeavors as well as make the effort to work with one’s writing instructor, who can guide the student through the writing process as well as develop a sense of one’s responsibilities as a writer. One of a writer’s most important responsibilities is to not present another person’s work as their own, and to always cite the work of others when it is used in your own work.