Anyone teaching in college these days knows that plagiarism is a growing problem. Not just the incidence rate but student attitudes. Here’s an excerpt from a recent NPR piece on it:
Student: Technically, I don’t think it’s cheating because, like, you’re paying someone to write an essay, which they don’t plagiarize, but they write everything on their own.
SMITH: So they may not be plagiarizing, I say, but aren’t you?
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: That’s just kind of a difficult question to answer. I don’t know how to feel about it. It’s kind of like a gray area.
Plagiarism happens a couple of ways: Students will find an online essay or use a friend’s previous essay and pass it off as their own. In recent years, this method has become more difficult to pull off since schools have invested in anti-plagiarism software. Basically, tools like Turnitin compare the text of a student’s essay to a massive database of every essay ever turned into the system as well as to webpages, and spits out a similarity score for each passage.
Black Mirror “Nose Dive”and the Meaning of Life
1) Give a general summary of the plot of the episode and the core philosophical issue. Explain it in a way that would allow someone who hadn’t seen the episode to understand what happened.
2) (a) Give a one paragraph summary of Epictetus’s core ideas about what is necessary for a good life.
(b) Apply Epictetus’s ideas to Lacie’s situation: What reasons would Epictetus give for why Lacie is unhappy? What is she doing wrong in the pursuit of happiness?
(c) What is the strongest argument you can come up with against Epictetus’s assessment of Lacie’s unhappiness?
(d) Offer a possible reply to the argument in (c).
(e) What is your own view? Is Epictetus’s assessment correct or is there some other reason why Lacie is doomed to be unhappy? Support your view with an argument.
From my American Political Thought class (upper level class):
Topic 1: Hamilton and Trump (Read: Hamilton’s Report On Manufacturers)
Trump has proposed a tariff on imported Steel. WWHS? (What would Hamilton Say?).
Part 1: Explanation: Using direct quotes as support, explain Hamilton’s view with respect to the role of government in the economy—specifically with respect to manufacturing, primary resources, and the roll of tariffs. (Don’t apply it to the case yet, stay at the level of theory)
Part 2: Application: By appealing directly to Hamilton’s view, explain what position you think Hamilton would take on Trump’s tariffs.
Part 3: Evaluation: By appealing directly to Hamilton’s arguments, defend or object to his assessment of the goodness or badness of the tariffs. Whatever your view, consider at least one objection to it and reply to that objection.
Topic 2: Madison and Sanctuary Cities
Continuing a trend that began under Obama, Trump has directed a Federal agency to arrest and deport aliens using ‘expedited removal.’ Critics allege that this process violates several important elements of due process. In addition, there is growing evidence that many of the agents in the federal agency are not following due process. In other words, the current policy and practice in some (but not all!) ways resemble the Alien Acts of 1798. Since some states believe the federal government is overstepping its constitutional powers by violating due process, several States and cities have adopted the policy of ‘sanctuary cities’ whereby local officials and law enforcement don’t cooperate with federal immigration agencies. Before working on this question, read the following article explaining expedited removal: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/primer-expedited-removal (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (you are also encouraged to do your own research on the issue).
Part 1: Explanation: Explain Madison’s argument against the Alien Acts (Report of 1800) and why it is a cause for alarm. Use direct quotes then in your own words interpret and explain his view.
Part 2: Application: WWMS (What would Madison say?) Defend a view with respect to how Madison would assess the current widespread use of expedited removal. Be sure to explicitly refer to his arguments and positions in Report of 1800.
Part 3: Evaluation: (1) Consider at least one objection to either (a) your interpretation of what position Madison would take (i.e., someone might attribute to Madison the opposite position) OR (b) construct an objection to whatever view you attribute to Madison in Part 2. (2) Reply to the objection.
I’ll bet my bottom dollar that they’re not going to find any existing essays that match the assignments I’ve given. This doesn’t rule out paying an online writing service. That’s why I have them write the paper in steps…
What I’ve offered here isn’t the only way to handle plagiarism. My intent is only to highlight the idea that playing with the content and structure of assignments influences how easily students will be able to plagiarize the assignment. I have no doubt there are other pedagogical methods of reducing plagiarism (such as short in-class writing assignments).