I Didn’t Know!!!: Students Claim Plagiarism Ignorance

Plagiarism CartoonI am the head of the Student Plagiarism Review Committee at our school (Yes, I know it is an awful name . . . any suggestions?). The committee is an ad hoc committee to determine student plagiarism and consequences. We are not quite six weeks into the new school year, and, unfortunately, I have had to oversee four committee meetings already. Each time, the student accused of plagiarism pleaded ignorance–“I didn’t know that was plagiarism!” This is an all too common occurrence.

The purpose of this website is to give teachers the tools to educate students about plagiarism so that they can learn how to avoid it. If you are a follower of stopplagiarism.org, you know that my school has focused on this issue for over year with a blitzkrieg education program (see https://stopplagiarism.org/2015/02/27/our-plagiarism-campaign-at-the-international-school-of-sarajevo/). Nonetheless, students who sat through each one of these information session–one even wearing our stop plagiarism bracelet–pleaded a lack of knowledge about what constitutes plagiarism. I was baffled.

As I reflect on these four sessions, I have learned one thing–teachers need to constantly teach students about the gravity of plagiarism as well as the benefits from avoiding it (not just the consequences!). English teachers around the world are checking off the obligatory beginning of the class speech about plagiarism. They will not revisit the issue until the following year. Don’t do this, for the sake of your students. Every so often–at least once a month–briefly revisit something related to plagiarism to keep the issue at the forefront of the students’ minds. Remind them every paper to be original, creative, and critical and not cheat themselves by committing plagiarism. Only be constantly reminding our students can we help them see how serious an issue it is and help them avoid sitting in front of the dreaded plagiarism committee.

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