Of all the things I teach with regard to the research process, teaching students how to avoid plagiarism is probably the most challenging.
As edtech blogger Med Kharbach notes, with the "boom in digital technology, plagiarism has been elevated to the ranks of serious epidemics. In academia it gets even worse. More students are growing dependent on copy paste culture."
He's right. Our digital natives, having known only the Internet their whole lives, see absolutely nothing wrong with copying and pasting information from the Internet and into their word-processing document. Of course, they don't yet understand the consequences of their actions because they don't really take it seriously. Can "borrowing" someone else's words be considered a crime? Simply put, yes, I tell my students as I share with them plagiarism's clear definition. If caught plagiarizing, I explain to the my students that, at best, they'll receive a failing grade for their hard work; at worst, a failing grade for the class, suspension, or even expulsion.
I save the plagiarism lesson for the end of the unit, right before I take the reins off the kids and let them get started on their research project. After devoting five-plus lessons to proper research techniques (understanding copyright, fair use, and public domain; citing sources; evaluating websites, and keyword searching), we finally arrive at discerning the subtle differences among summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting.
With younger students in 4th and 5th grades, understanding the pitfalls and dangers of plagiarism can be an abstract concept, which is why I use this simple and age-appropriate lesson from Common Sense Media called "Whose is it, Anyway?"
For students in grades 6-8, however, fully and clearly understanding what plagiarism is and how it can--even if you're unknowingly guilty of it--have lasting and deep-reaching consequences, is a necessary skill. The need to break the kids of the "copy-and-paste" mentality before they get to high school is critical. So here's how I approach the concept for students in grades 6-8:
Research Chunk #5
Paraphrase, Summarize, or Quote?
Pre-Class (aka "flipping the classroom")
This is the lesson plan that has worked for me. I've tweaked it over the years. Of course, you may want to tweak it for your own use, so here are some other resources you might want to review for use in your classroom:
If the students still feel the need to plagiarize, the following are some free plagiarism checkers for teachers:
And, finally, students will need to cite their work, as I've discussed in a recent post. Luckily, in this day and age, they've got a plethora of bibliography generators to do it for them:
One final note: the image below is something I created on my own, but it's loosely based on an image a colleague forwarded to me about a year ago. If anyone out there knows the origin of the image, please let me know ASAP so I can give that person credit...I don't want to be guilty of plagiarizing!
image above via BLaugh
Educational consultant + #pedtech coach in Cleveland, Ohio sharing innovative technology ideas for educators.