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Plagiarism Primer for Parents

One great way to instruct your children about the dangers of plagiarism is to have them do a short research paper on the topic.  I encourage you to have them research plagiarism online, and then write a one page report on what they learn.  It's not hard to learn enough about plagiarism in a short amount of time, and just taking a short time to do a little research is often all you need.

For parents, I do have some tips to guide you.

Read, close the book, and write.

First, it can be easy to avoid plagiarism of print material.  With print material, encourage your student to read the material, with or without taking notes.  After looking at the material, they can close the book.  When they write about what they have read, it is not generally considered plagiarism when you write down your ideas after reading them, without quoting the source word for word.  (Of course, if you have a child with a photographic memory, that certainly becomes more complex!)

Quoting Authority vs. Implementing Feedback

Plagiarism may involve quoting an authority, without giving credit to the source of your ideas.  That is very different than receiving feedback from a teacher and implementing that idea.  Educators help children write by brainstorming with them and providing feedback.  In the process of brainstorming, you may suggest some ideas for improving your student's writing.  If they use your ideas, they are not plagiarizing you.  Instead, they are implementing feedback from their writing instructor (which has to be far better than disregarding their writing instructor!)

Lying is Wrong


Plagiarism is complicated.  Lying is simple.  When you read stories about plagiarism in schools, it may sound complicated until you look at the details of the news reports.  The big problem with plagiarism isn't complicated at all!  The big problem is students CHEATING.  They are looking for book reports and essays online, cutting and pasting entire documents, and then turning those papers in for a grade, as if they wrote it themselves.  There are some nuances about plagiarism, I know.  But the issue that colleges are concerned about is wholesale cheating, and lying about who wrote the content of a written paper.  To counter that problem, high school and college teachers subscribe to services on the internet.  They scan the student's paper, and the computer program will look for papers available on the internet that are similar, and tell them what percentage of the paper was stolen.  Then the teacher knows the student just flat-out lied about writing that paper.  To counter the problem of cheating in your homeschool, focus on values.  Teach your children not to lie.  If they would never dream of downloading a paper online and saying that they wrote it themselves, then the biggest issue about plagiarism has been effectively handled in your homeschool.

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Last year Matt, Alex and I were interviewed for a new documentary on education in America.  Flunked was recently released and we received permission to post the portion of the documentary which showed our interview.  In the clip below, we are talking about our public school experience and gifted education.  You can read more about the movie here. Please leave a comment and let us know what you think.

What Goes On a Homeschool Reading List?
"My children never listen to me"
 

Comments 4

Guest - Lee (website) on Saturday, 10 January 2009 16:41

Wow, Joelle! So people actually make a PROFIT from cheaters???? That's pretty low.... I've seen some documentaries about how they catch the essay-stealers. Some college have a no-cheat policy. One episode of cheating, and some will force you out of the class with a failing grade - or worse, force you out of college. It's a huge deal to the colleges.
Blessings,
Lee

Wow, Joelle! So people actually make a PROFIT from cheaters???? That's pretty low.... I've seen some documentaries about how they catch the essay-stealers. Some college have a no-cheat policy. One episode of cheating, and some will force you out of the class with a failing grade - or worse, force you out of college. It's a huge deal to the colleges. Blessings, Lee
Guest - J W on Saturday, 10 January 2009 11:00

Yeah, I've been aware of the problem early on because I graduated college a few years before UseNet and bulletin boards were replaced by the World Wide Web. I always wondered how professors and teachers coped. That's not to say that plagiarism didn't happen "in my day," and before, it's just that it's so *easy* now to obtain a wider variety of material. My husband wasn't surprised, though, that professors and teachers can check, because as a computer programmer, he knows how it all works. He says it's possible to fuel both sides of the plagiarism war too. Someone could write a bunch of great essays, give access to students for a price, and then turn around and sell an anti-cheating service to the teachers and professors. People have accused anti-virus software companies of writing viruses, after all.

Yeah, I've been aware of the problem early on because I graduated college a few years before UseNet and bulletin boards were replaced by the World Wide Web. I always wondered how professors and teachers coped. That's not to say that plagiarism didn't happen "in my day," and before, it's just that it's so *easy* now to obtain a wider variety of material. My husband wasn't surprised, though, that professors and teachers can check, because as a computer programmer, he knows how it all works. He says it's possible to fuel both sides of the plagiarism war too. Someone could write a bunch of great essays, give access to students for a price, and then turn around and sell an anti-cheating service to the teachers and professors. People have accused anti-virus software companies of writing viruses, after all.
Guest - Lee (website) on Saturday, 10 January 2009 06:43

Thanks, Christy!
Blessings,
Lee

Thanks, Christy! Blessings, Lee
Guest - christy (website) on Saturday, 10 January 2009 06:12

THAT is a great idea.

THAT is a great idea.
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