Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Problem of Plagiarism (Reprise)

In a previous posting I mentioned the fact that I am Final Year Project Co-ordinator for one of the School of Computing's undergraduate degrees - DT228, BSc in Computer Science. And part of my duties is to ensure that no plagiarism is committed in the projects. Usually there is at least one one student who commits some form of plagiarism, but I am very, very pleased to say that this year there were no cases of plagiarism.

This is really excellent, particularly because one element of this role that I really hated was dealing with students who have copied. The Dublin Institute of Technology has a formal set of procedures that are undertaken when a student is suspected of unfair practice, which involves a panel of enquiry which can be incredible stressful and difficult for both the student involved and the staff.

This year during my weekly meetings with students I emphasised that the School has a "zero tolerance" policy on plagiarism, and gave them several presentations on what plagiarism is and what it is not. Additionally I created handouts for the students on plagiarism and we undertook creativity exercises on the topic. Finally, and I think this may have been the thing that most resonated with some students, I showed them part of an episode of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" entitled "The West Coast Delay" which concerns a live comedy show broadcast on the East Coast of America that inadvertently plagiarises another comedian's material during a sketch, which results in the production team scrambling to break into the taped West Coast feed to correct their error. The panic and problems that this causes is played out dramatically in the episode, which I think may have stuck in the students' minds.

Bottom Line: Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

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