Sunday, April 26, 2009

Plagiarism Resource Site

I stumbled upon the archives of the Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin (CBB) Plagiarism Resource Site. This site was developed between 2003 and 2007. There is an interesting collection of materials available, licensed under a Creative Commons license that lets other schools use the materials if they are used non-commercially, with attribution, and the resulting materials are also put under the same license.

It is a shame that the site has not been able to continue its development, but there are many good things to be found here for people who believe as I do: Teach, don't police.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nobel Laureate accused of plagiarism

The Märkische Oder Zeitung (among others, it is a dpa story) reports that the Spanish Nobel Laureate for Literature Camilo Jose Cela (1916-2002) has been accused of plagiarism.

A judge in Barcelona has determined that there is enough evidence that the novel "La cruz de San Andrés" (The San Andrés Cross) for which he was awarded the Spanish literary prize "Planeta" in 1994, is similar to a novel by the relatively unknown author Maria del Carmen Formoso. The newspaper "El País" reports on April 21 that the judge's decision is based on an expertise prepared by a scholar of literature.

The court case is being brought against the publishing house Planeta, since Cela died in 2002. Formoso hat submitted her work to the prize committee two months in advance of Cela's submission. Formoso accused the publisher of giving her novel to Cela so that he could use it as a basis for his own work.

Formoso has been fighting for 10 years to get legal recognition of her case. She has twice lost cases in lower courts, but in 2006 the spanish constitutional court ordered a new trial. The court in Barcelona was requested to decide whether sufficient evidence is given to re-open the trial, which they now have done.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Lesson Plan for Teaching about Plagiarism

I purchased a copy of the book "Student Plagiarism in an Online World - Problems and Solutions", XXX, 2008 by Tim S. Roberts (Ed.) for my research group despite the outrageous price (180$). 

I have previously blogged my opinion that XXX is a write-only publisher, and when I hold the book in my hands, it becomes even clearer. The book is hard-cover, in an impossibly large format, and very badly bound. At that price, I want a book that is well-bound and lies flat for use. There is no trace of the promised "free" online access to the text, which is a shame, as I could have used it today. 

Many of the chapters are long-winded or repetitive, that is, they could have used some tighter editing. But there are quite a number of good ideas to be found here and the references sections are quite extensive. 

The chapter by Frankie Wilson and Kate Ippolito, supposedly of Brunel University in the UK, although I find no home page or email for them there, contains an excellent lesson plan for a seminar about plagiarism. 

I decided at short notice to ditch my normal slideshow about plagiarism that I give to our first semester students and gave it a try, although the materials promised to be at a particular school page are not available (they return a 404). 

Our session is 90 minutes, and since we had not had an introductiory session yet, I spent 30 minutes with introductions of me and the students among themselves. This helped break the ice - everyone had already had to stand up and say something. 

We began by collecting definitions on index cards from the students on what their definition of plagiarism is. I made this into an individual exercise, in the plan given this is to be group work. I read them aloud and collected the high points on the board. About a quarter of the 32 people participating could not come up with a definition, and many focussed their definition on product plagiarism only. 

We then began to discuss "where to draw the line". We did this in plenum instead of in small groups, and this ended up being a lively discussion with excellent questions being voiced from the students. A major concern was: but how do I know what the source is, I just "know" something, I don't remember where I read it. We had a good conversation about note-taking and finding confirming evidence for that which one thinks one knows. 

The last section dealt with plagiarism avoidance - how a paper gets developed (and I got some words in on that ancient thing called a l-i-b-r-a-r-y) and the different kinds of references: direct quotation, indirect quotation, secondary source. 

 I then distributed 10 magazines and books to groups and have them find how references are used in these. I chose a selection of magazines and books that have different reference structures. They were very quick to identify these, and spent a few minutes glancing through the material that they had. 

We needed just 60 minutes, although the discussions were going so well that I am sure that we could have made it much longer. I would have liked to have had the worksheet promised in the chapter, but the lesson plan is well enough done that it can easily be adapted. 

I will post an update if I manage to find the material, I have written to the school asking for current emails of the authors and/or a current URL for the material.