Tag Archives: plagiarism

Combating Plagiarism on the Digital Frontier

This post, written by Jen Carey, originally appeared on Edudemic.

Plagiarism, defined as the “wrongful appropriation” of another’s words or ideas, is a pervasive problem in schools. Many teachers and administrators believe that the internet has caused an explosion of academic dishonesty (a recent PEW survey of College Presidents would agree). While, most teachers and administrators are familiar with tools like turnitin that can catch plagiarism after the fact, there are some ways that educators can combat plagiarism before it starts!

In the new digital frontier, we need to hold digital literacy at the forefront when teaching students how to use and incorporate material into their work. Today’s students are used to rapid answers to questions via quick searches (again, verified by PEW in “How Teens Do Research”). While this is not necessarily bad, it does mean that as educators we need to change the way we approach research projects in the classroom so that we can teach students to not only do traditional research, but also to effectively use online media and content. By incorporating these strategies, we can start to combat plagiarism before it begins.

3 Strategies for Combating Plagiarism

1. Provide students with meaningful lessons and examples of “real world” plagiarism.

Students need to understand why proper citation and documentation is necessary not only in academic research but in “real life.” When you can show them examples from the real world, they understand this concept better as they make a personal connection to it. Here are some great modern, pop culture cases (there are many others) to help frame the discussion:

Not only do these examples highlight plagiarism, but they also spark interesting conversations about why people want credit for their products and ideas.

2. Make Research Assignments about the process rather than the end product.

As teachers, when we assign a research project, we often focus on the end product: the research essay, presentation, etc. However, students (especially young students) do not automatically know how to conduct meaningful research. Our modern students are used to Googling answers. They have grown accustomed to information being readily available. However, as academics, we know that research isn’t a fast process. It’s slow and deliberate. As a teacher, I need to intentionally slow my students down during this exercise. I do this by breaking down a larger project into more manageable chunks and focusing on the process. Here are some techniques that have worked for me:

  • Give students small practice assignments where they must read, summarize, and properly cite material.
  • Show students what proper citation should look like. Many rely on resources like EasyBib or Bibme to build a bibliography but do not understand what exactly is going into the finished product. Demonstrate to them what should be included in a citation and why. In other words, remove the “but EasyBib said this was right” excuse.
  • Provide students several examples or case studies of material that they must distinguish as: properly summarized and cited, improperly cited, plagiarized, etc. Allow them to identify and explain the problems.
  • During the research process, have students keep a research journal of the work they complete. Ask them to record their sources and write down any thoughts or questions that they brought up.
  • Assign steps throughout the process: a detailed outline, a series of quotations with citations, a bibliography, a summary of their argument, etc.

By focusing on the process and breaking it down into smaller chunks, students will learn to slow down and be more deliberate in research, developing key critical analysis skills.

3. Require that they use online content!

Instead of banning Wikipedia, blogs, or other online content, encourage or even require that students incorporate these materials into their work. For better or worse, students will use material that they find online. Once students gain the analytical skills to assess the credibility of online sources, there is a treasure trove of information to be incorporated. Embrace the potential to teach students how to harness the internet to conduct powerful research.

  • Teach students to search effectively. In his piece “Why kids can’t search,” Clive Thompson recognized that while, “High School and College Students may be ‘digital natives,’… they’re wretched at searching.” Students need to be taught how to use search engines to find legitimate sources and information.
  • Teach students to evaluate online content of all media types (written, encyclopedic, podcasts, video, etc). There are many tools out there for teaching critical analysis of online content, Cal State Chico’s CRAAP test and Turnitin.com’s SEER rubric are both great places to start. You can even use some popular internet hoaxes like the Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Google it and see what you find!!)
  • Don’t shy away from Wikipedia as a source. The majority of high school and college age students will reference Wikipedia in a research project. Even in academia, the attitude towards Wikipedia is changing. Treat it the same way you would a standard Encyclopedia – it’s a good starting point, but not the end of research. EdTechTeacher has a great Webinar “Wikipedia: Bane or Blessing?” that can guide you here.
  • Focus on transliteracy – how should a student evaluate a Wikipedia article vs. a blog vs. a tweet? Do not hold them to one type of source.

Teaching students to do real, meaningful research not only combats plagiarism, it also makes them better students and critical thinkers. These are the 21st century skills that will serve them throughout life. It will also help to limit those conversations we have all had with a child that turns in work that is not their own. By teaching students how to effectively navigate content of all types, we are promoting academic integrity as well as necessary, real world skills.

To learn more about teaching digital literacy, EdTechTeacher is hosting a series of Summer workshops many of which will specifically address online research and education.

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Evaluating Online Sources – Applying the CRAAP Test

 

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Digital Literacy is a key and integral skill for anyone that is online. An excellent tool for evaluating online sources is the CRAAP test, developed by Cal State University at Chico. When examining online material, you must evaluate:

  • Currency – How timely is the information?
  • Relevance – Is the information important for your needs?
  • Authority – Who is the author/publisher?
  • Accuracy – How reliable is the content?
  • Purpose – Why does this information exist?

For a great expansion on the evaluation process, see the PDF published by Chico. There is also an excellent tutorial for applying the CRAAP test in your online research here

Using Evernote for Research

My students are currently working on two projects: a digital story and a research essay. Both of these assignments require ample amounts of research using a variety of sources – books, academic journals, and yes, even websites. This time around, I took a moment to show my students Evernote, a handy little tool for organizing, well, everything. Better yet, it’s free! If you’re not familiar with Evernote, check out this introductory video below and be sure to visit their website.

I find Evernote especially useful to students who are trying to organize a variety of media for some type of presentation or research project. Its great search features and innate organizational tools help even the most disorganized student to “keep it together.”

For these particular assignments, I like to encourage my students to create a notebook for their project “Research Essay” or “Digital Story” will all work well. This is where they will store all of the material that they find for their topic.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 8.23.14 AM

Next, I make sure that they have downloaded and installed Evernote’s webclipper. This allows you to save anything that you pull up online – images, documents, videos, etc. It goes right into  the folder that you select.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 8.28.45 AMNow you may think “I don’t want them to just use the web.” However, remember, that many traditional resources are now digitized! Virtually all academic journals are hosted online via repositories like JSTOR. Many books are also hosted digitally via institutional databases or resources such as Google Books or Project Gutenberg. Even for those resources that are in traditional “paper” format, students can take pictures with their smart phones (preferably using a document scanner like Genius Scan that will enhance the images and store them as a grouped PDF) and then send those materials off to the same Evernote folder!

One of the best features of using the web clipper is that it includes the information students need to cite their sources. A struggle for many beginning scholars is that they are just learning about citation and copyright. Often, they do not realize they are missing key information until later, when they are formulating a bibliography or works cited page. This can be detrimental if the resource is no longer available or, worse yet, they don’t know where they found it! However, with Evernote and the Evernote clipper, it’s now all at their fingertips on any device (their computer, smart phone, or tablet). It’s phenomenal!

Perhaps the greatest feature of using Evernote and Evernote webclipper is that it truly does save time and energy. Instead of copy and pasting content and URL’s (hoping not to forget anything) into another document that you then email to yourself or put in the cloud, it’s all simply one click. Literally! Click it (perhaps add some notes and/or a few tags) and you’re done! Finito! Fertig! It’s all stored for you to go back and read over, think about, and organize into a final working piece.

I can tell you, I’ve never seen a piece of technology picked up as quickly as Evernote when my students begin their work on a new research project. Now… if I could just get them as eager about it when organizing their general course notes…. Perhaps a post for next time?

A Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet: Let’s Teach Our Students About Copyright: 15 Sites Which Can Assist You

An important area for all teacher-librarians to cover is copyright law.Students (and teachers) are really not aware of what they can and can’t do legally. I teach my students about plagiarism and copyright because they will be held accountable if they do not follow the law. This list has been added to the Teacher-Librarian page.

 

A Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet: Let’s Teach Our Students About Copyright: 15 Sites Which Can Assist You.