A subtle form of plagiarism you may not know about

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for the National Post on how technology was changing the way students worked–and how the generational gap between faculty and students might prevent faculty from recognising some types of plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty.

One type of academic dishonesty that I certainly had never heard of until quite recently involves how students acquire the quotations they use in their essay. In past years, I always assumed that students were acquiring their quotations semi-honestly–by reading the book or, at worst, reading something about the book from which they could crib passages to cite.

Recently, however, I’ve discovered students acquiring quotations from sites that only provide quotations from books. In my last batch of essays on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, for example, I had an essay from a student that purported to discuss seven life lessons that had been learned from a reading of the book. It looked like quite a witty piece, though strangely unconnected to the actual events of the book, until I discovered that all seven quotations had been copied straight from this post at Goodreads.com. In previous years, I have seen quotation lists derived from chatroom requests for “Quotes I can use from ‘We are seven’.”

I suspect the assumption is that if you have attended class and have a list of quotations from a given book, you probably know enough to fake a C or B understanding for a first year paper.


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