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(Boston Herald)   125 students in Harvard "Introduction to Congress" class are under investigation for cheating and plagiarism; students face expulsion and lucrative patronage jobs if found guilty   (bostonherald.com) divider line 20
    More: Obvious, Harvard, associate dean, Harvard Crimson, found guilty, Drew Gilpin Faust, academic dishonesty  
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4446 clicks; posted to Main » on 31 Aug 2012 at 9:12 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2012-08-31 11:22:24 AM
2 votes:
I teach at a University, and I have a silver bullet technique to prevent plagiarism on term papers: Require several drafts over the course of the semester.

This way you know students didn't rip a perfect paper from someone else, because you've seen the paper evolve from outline through a couple of versions.

You don't have to spend too much time grading each draft (check out a process called "Minimal Marking"), just enough to nudge the students in a better direction.

Of course, a student COULD download a perfect paper at the beginning and de-construct then re-construct it, but that would only make me laugh because they'd learn a ton in the process--despite themselves. 

(And, yeah I know, this wouldn't help in the take-home exam situation in TFA, but I thought I'd throw it in here to be helpful to any Farkers who teach and use term-paper assignments.)
2012-08-31 10:34:37 AM
2 votes:

SFSailor: Heh. Doesn't surprise me that it's Harvard, but it's everywhere.


I have a pile of journal articles whose only common characteristic is a specific co-author, a Harvard professor: Each one has significant chunks of plagiarized material. I discovered the plagiarist after noticing an initial giant chunk of plagiarized material in a newly published article, on which that researcher was first author, as it had ripped off something to which I had contributed. For that one, I managed to get the journal to retract it and formally apologize. Annoyed, I dug up the researcher's history and googled away and found solid evidence of a long-standing consistent pattern of plagiarism. I can't decide if I want to send it somewhere and ruin the researcher's life (or, possibly worse, risk being appalled at an utter lack of response)... unfortunately, indecision and Life got in the way, so it's been a few years. Seems like the researcher's career hasn't gone anywhere, so it almost seems petty to piss on them, but anybody know anybody at Harvard who would actually give a shiat?

/ why, yes, plagiarism bugs the hell out of me, as does the growing trend of not caring about it

The growing trend of not caring about it? Are you kidding me?

I'm a co-author on a paper that's currently in review at a journal. Their first vetting of the manuscript, before it's even been sent out to reviewers, was a pass through this plagiarism-detection software, which flagged a section describing the model we used. We were sent a note right away that we had to cite properly or re-write in our own words. We then had to explain that a) we *had* cited properly, to older versions of the same model, and b) the phrases highlighted for similarity were like that because we were pointing out where model parameterizations had not been changed, kind of an important thing for our readers to know. And sorry, but it's idiotic to try to find new and creative ways of saying "quadratic upstream scheme." It's like being told that because "peanut butter and jelly" was once mentioned in another paper, using the same phrase again is plagiarism.

There is also the flap about self-plagiarism, which I think started out as trying to prevent authors from shingling papers, i.e., submitting substantially similar papers to different journals to boost their pub count - and that's fine. But the hysteria has extended to having so much as a "substantially similar" paragraph. C'mon, be real.
2012-08-31 09:41:47 AM
2 votes:
I work at another Ivy's graduate school. We had a huge blow-up here last semester with regards to cheating. There was a lot of huffing and puffing, but no one was ever punished, including the person that posted evidence of their cheating on the internets. Apparently $50K a year per student is more important than academic honesty.
2012-08-31 09:31:10 AM
2 votes:
Nothing is more amerikan than cheating and lying.

We just got done killing half a million Iraqis over the WMDs lie.
2012-08-31 09:18:34 AM
2 votes:
Silly Harvard. Rules don't apply to rich people.
2012-08-31 09:18:23 AM
2 votes:
Why cheat at Harvard? Everybody gets an A anyway.
2012-08-31 09:16:38 AM
2 votes:

The college's Administrative Board, a faculty panel that has been investigating the allegations of copying and sharing test answers for months, found a class with more than 250 take-home examinations given out at the end of the semester came under suspicion because answers were so similar.

Probably because they all copied-and-pasted from the same source.
2012-08-31 02:03:58 PM
1 votes:

windstrider: lennavan: The Jami Turman Fan Club: windstrider: I Then there are the ones who think they're being clever by taking bits and pieces from different sources and mixing them all together.

I'm not even sure this is inappropriate. If I look up a word in the dictionary, I'm not going to cite the dictionary. If I say so-and-so was born in 1932, why should I need to cite it?

If i'm just using generally accepted facts, why should it need a citation? And what is the point in rephrasing it 'in my own words'?

You think windstrider is talking about students who are taking single words from various sources?

Thank you. By "bits and pieces" I meant whole sentences.

And then there was the one who copied a chapter out of a book that could be found on Google books. She rearranged various sections, but it was nearly a word-for-word copy of the original. She didn't try to fight that accusation. Some do, even when presented with the proof. The worst offender worked for the university. Another student ratted her out by telling me that she was buying papers from other students. I wish I had the proof to make that accusation.

I had a student print out a word-for-word copy of a paper turned in to a different section of the same class. I busted him because I thought it was odd the name on the top of the typed paper was whited out and his name was written over the white out. I had another student once turn in a quiz with an answer like "photosynthesis." The actual answer was "12." Photosynthesis was the answer to the quiz the person next to him was taking, I make two quizzes and alternate students.

I'm sure you are as well, I was shocked at the sheer laziness in plagiarism. I always tell my students not to cheat but if they do, at least don't insult my intelligence in the process. Also, like you said, the balls on these kids after they get busted are ridiculous. I've heard stories of students getting lawyers and taking other professors to court, even with concrete evidence proving their guilt.

CSB - I have to tell you my favorite cheating story. A girl once took a biology exam and turned it in. The TAs then each take a question and grade that question on all of the exams writing comments and notes for partial credit and whatnot. We also photocopied her exam before returning it (other students too, not just her) because her TA had a feeling. She turned it back in for a re-grade. In comparing it to the photocopy, the exam was completely different. This girl had somehow taken a second copy of the exam, hid it in her backpack or something and then re-filled it out this time with better answers. She even got out a red pen and made comments and grade marks and whatnot all over it too. That chick had balls, ingenuity and effort. I mean it's bad but you secretly want to reward it too. Can you imagine the high that girl must have felt first sitting in the exam knowing she was going to do it and then at home when she was actually filling it back out and making the fake grading comments? Man that must have felt good.
2012-08-31 01:37:53 PM
1 votes:

The Jami Turman Fan Club: windstrider: I Then there are the ones who think they're being clever by taking bits and pieces from different sources and mixing them all together.

I'm not even sure this is inappropriate. If I look up a word in the dictionary, I'm not going to cite the dictionary. If I say so-and-so was born in 1932, why should I need to cite it?

If i'm just using generally accepted facts, why should it need a citation? And what is the point in rephrasing it 'in my own words'?

I probably wasn't as clear as needed. What they were doing is lifting whole sections from different websites and then rearranging the paragraphs in a different organization. These sentences were word-for-word taken from the original sources, no paraphrasing whatsoever. I actually went through line by line and marked the various websites where these sentences had come from.
2012-08-31 12:03:40 PM
1 votes:

SFSailor: This text is now purple: I often appreciate copied methods sections. That way I don't have to try to root up the original, which was invariably published in some arcane, defunct, NATO conference held in Turkey, which no library seems to have archived.

Sure, then cite it, introduce it and put quotes around it. Or at least cite it. I'm talking about full paragraphs lifted completely without attribution, including not even attributing the original in the references *at*all*.

I sincerely appreciate a short summary of methods/models in every paper, and it's why I prefer to include them - ALWAYS with the cite to the original full description, because why not, especially if you were a co-author on the original?

SFSailor, I think you missed the part where I mentioned that we had in fact cited previous versions of the model correctly, and what was being flagged were phrase that described features of the model itself. To go through the contortions that you then described, such as

Or come up with a new way of saying it. "The proper ratio of jelly combined with peanut butter, when placed between two slices of bread, is delicious."

is a waste of time, and actually muddies the waters in a scientific paper. Maybe a better parallel I can draw is with the phrase "automatic transmission." Do you really think it's necessary, or even wise, to keep coming up with ever more flowery descriptions of what an automatic transmission is when the simple phrase would make it absolutely clear what you were talking about?

I do care about plagiarism. I'm annoyed by the knee-jerk responses of editors who should be able to use their judgment instead of going solely by what some software algorithm flags. IMHO, in the world of science publications, such unthinking response by the editors betrays the financial interests of the commercial publishers, and has little to do with integrity of research.
2012-08-31 11:40:02 AM
1 votes:

SFSailor: Some didn't cite it, and didn't cite the original publication or any of the subsequent uses. This is clearly plagiarism.

If you want to use "peanut butter and jelly", then you need to say, "My preferred sandwich, as originally described by Dr. Breadstuffin, consists of 'peanut butter and jelly'.[1]"

Or come up with a new way of saying it. "The proper ratio of jelly combined with peanut butter, when placed between two slices of bread, is delicious."

There is no need to attribute the original for a concept or phrase which has become generic and common sense.

Otherwise every communication requires an appendix attachment of the OED.
2012-08-31 11:05:23 AM
1 votes:
I teach English Composition at the university level, so I'm quite familiar with students plagiarizing. Most of them are so awful at it that I actually feel sorry for them. The most recent one involved a comparison essay analyzing two songs. One bright bulb went out to songfacts and straight out copied and pasted the comments into her paper, including the line from one guy whose band was going to remake the song. Most of the plagiarized papers I've caught are ripped from Internet sites. Then there are the ones who think they're being clever by taking bits and pieces from different sources and mixing them all together.

My favorites are the ones who clearly have no idea what some of the copied words even mean, things like moratorium or economies of scale. I don't use turnitin.com; there's no need. I get suspicious when a writer's "voice" changes from one sentence to the next or when a paragraph full of grammatical mistakes is followed by several perfect lines. A quick Google search, and I've found the original.

All of this happens after the discussion on plagiarism on the very first day of class. It's in my syllabus that you automatically fail the assignment if you plagiarize. I also fill out the paperwork to have it noted by the university. I then show them the stack of plagiarized papers that I've caught. Doesn't matter one bit. I'll have at least one plagiarized paper each semester. I keep copies for the inevitable grade challenge at the end of the semester. I find the plagiarized source and staple it to the paper.

Bottom line is that most of the students doing this just don't care. What sickens me is that I know this is happening in other classes where it isn't being caught. I have my suspicions that students are trading papers from different classes. They always act surprised when I tell them that they failed the assignment because they plagiarized it.
2012-08-31 10:21:11 AM
1 votes:
CSB: Caught a couple cheats in CS1 when I was TAing in grad school. Gave them the lecture: please don't cheat again because 1) you're not very good at it and 2) I will have to fill out a lot of paperwork and kick this up to my boss who will then have to kick it up to the dean.

Yeah, they did it again, everybody had to fill out a lot of paperwork. They were kicked out.

/ Big 10 school
2012-08-31 10:03:35 AM
1 votes:
Cheating happens all the tiime at all levels of education. From the parents doing the kid's homework in elementary school to cheating on exams at college.
I used to be an asssistant in high school, so I helped with grading tests. Some of the examples of cheating were so blatant, you would think that the cheaters needed a remedial course on how to cheat effectively. If you suddenly go from a D average to an A average on quizes in one week AND you have the exact same answer, word for word, as the best student in the class, then it's pretty obvious that you're cheating.
2012-08-31 09:36:23 AM
1 votes:

Reminds me of a big cheating scandal at UMD, while I was there (not in Business Criminal School). Apparently, the business school had given BlackBerrys to its students, and then was surprised to learn that the students had used them to cheat on exams. Their friends (not in the class) would go online, find the answer keys the professors had posted (for some insane reason, they were posting them at the start of the test), and text them to the students in the class. That's why the university now has a "nothing on your desk/in view other than paper and pens/pencils (and maybe a calculator for math)" during exams - for everyone, not just the businesscheaters.

The course/exam these students were caught cheating on? Business Ethics.

// I assume many of them are now traders/traitors
2012-08-31 09:36:12 AM
1 votes:
These are Millenials. To them it isn't cheating, it's working in a group to reach consensus.
2012-08-31 09:35:40 AM
1 votes:
The name of the course was, "Introduction to Congress." How true.
2012-08-31 09:19:59 AM
1 votes:
Cheating on a take-home exam? Color me shocked.

On a side note... most of the college students I have interacted with have little to zero comprehension of how to conduct research apart from wikipedia and google (not google scholar mind you, that'd be a step up) and do NOT understand why/how/when to cite a source.
2012-08-31 09:18:07 AM
1 votes:
So we raise an entire generation by pushing them to excel in school and measuring their progress constantly with No Child Left Behind testing and AP tests, take the upper crust and tell them they are at the best country in the world, and then are surprised that they are so concerned about quantitative measures of success that they cheat?

I'd be surprised if hey didn't cheat.
2012-08-31 09:15:24 AM
1 votes:
Take home final exams? I think I may have a solution.
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