- The student doesn't care enough about the subject to be bothered doing the assignment properly;
- The student is panicking and doesn't feel like there's any other option;
- The student didn't pay attention when I spoke about proper referencing and the penalties for plagiarism;
- The student didn't bother to read through the subject guide and take note of the plagiarism/referencing policy;
- The student doesn't understand the material but is too embarrassed to ask for help;
- The student doesn't understand plagiarism/referencing but is too embarrassed to ask for help;
- The student thinks they can get away with it (or at least deserve to);
- The student thinks I'm an idiot and won't notice when their written expression changes or that they've just taken great big chunks out of texts we've set them.
The rules to avoid plagiarism are pretty simple: if you use someone else's ideas or words, then you have to say so. The problem is maybe the rules aren't so simple. Firstly, by the time you've researched the hell out of your essay question, your head is more than likely swimming with ideas and it might not be so clear anymore if you once read something like that in a book or journal. Secondly, the standards for what constitutes acceptable practice and plagiarism actually differs from country to country and culture by culture. What's okay in China is not okay in Sweden. This makes life that bit harder when half my cohort are international students.
So maybe the rules should be:
- If you use someone else's words or ideas, then you have to say so;
- Be careful and take meticulous notes of everything you read;
- Ignore all of your previous education and cultural programming and just listen to what I'm telling you is the right way here and now;
- Paraphrasing does not mean changing one or two words in a sentence;
- Direct quotes need "quote" 'marks';
- Direct and indirect quotes need to be referenced (I like an in-text citation system that shows the reference right next to the idea/quote - keeps it simple);
- Only cite work you've read (i.e. don't add references for the hell of it);
- Don't use internet sources you haven't checked for plagiarism yourself (i.e. google every phrase you quote - if it lights up in any other pages, don't use it - find the original source);
- Use the referencing system you've been asked to (Harvard, APA, etc);
- If you have trouble keeping track of everything use a program like End Note to help keep everything straight;
- Assume you won't get away with it.
If you're still determined to plagiarise, for whatever reasons, don't look so shocked when you get told you're busted.
Have you ever busted a cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater?