Yesterday I came home to post my new blog post only to find that our DSL service was out of order. Apparently, a couple of local bumpkins had decided to build a fence and while digging post holes cut directly through the line. I was bummed because since we live in such a remote location and are at the edge of the coverage for high speed internet, I did not have a place I could go to get on WordPress to blog. So…I’ll post two letters today to catch up.
First: The Letter “P”.
“P” is for plagiarism. I teach writing to high school students, and if there is one thing that high school students in this technological age do often it is plagiarize from the internet. There are even websites completely devoted to writing original papers for students to download (for a hefty fee). I decided to list several sites that can help a teacher check for plagiarism for free and some that will cost your school very little money to do this for you. Most universities are currently using Turnitin.com (which can be used for free on a trial basis) but it is the most expensive option. Here are some things to try:
- Google a random phrase – If a student is plagiarizing from the internet and trying to be crafty about it, they will often pull huge chunks of text from a website and then paste them into their paper. This will be recognizable because their writing style will suddenly change in the middle of the paper or it will be differently written from the way they usually write with barely any mistakes. (A good teacher will assign many in-class writing assignments to learn their writing style and common mistakes). Simply grab a random sentence from their essay that is suspect and paste the sentence into the search bar in Google making sure to put the entire quote in quotation marks. It will pop up in the first or second result in bold if they indeed copied it from the internet without citing it.
- Grammarly.com – This website is awesome in that you can paste in a student’s entire paper and it will (for free) tell you whether or not plagiarism is present in the paper. For a fee ($140 for one teacher) you can use this service that will tell you exactly where the plagiarism occurs and also help you grade the paper for grammar at the same time. Further, I checked with a representative of the company and received a quote for $950 for 400 students for a year of use and the rep gave us a 60 day free trial as a school so that our teachers and students could use it. A full license will give schools a powerful grammar checking engine that students can use to write papers from anywhere they can access the internet and get instant grammar tutoring as they type their paper. It is 10 times more accurate than MS Word’s spell/grammar check and will give suggestions as they write. I’m looking into getting a grant to get this for the school next year. The more students a school has, the cheaper it is to use.
- Paperrater.com – This website, created by a group of grad students, will completely check a paper for grammar and plagiarism FOR FREE and also give students an idea of what kind of grade they will receive on it. I use this site to help students realize grammar errors that will not show up in Word and also to help them with style problems. It’s plagiarism checker is still in the beta stage, but hopefully will be working soon, and they have no intention of charging anyone for using their site.
Q is for Quiz:
A friend of mine is currently writing a fantasy novel like a billion other people, but he is trying his best to write a fantasy novel that “nobody has written”. Good luck with that, right? He happened upon a little quiz that fantasy writers can take that will help them write something original. It is a long and arduous quiz, but if you are writing a fantasy novel, you NEED to read this. It has 75 questions that every fantasy novelist should ask themselves before proceeding with their epic tome. It is written by David J. Parker and is concise and important to all fantasy writers. I have provided a link to it here.
- Writing professors question plagiarism detection software (insidehighered.com)
- Country Scientist: Center fights a Web of plagiarism, cheating (mysanantonio.com)
- How Students Can Avoid Plagiarism (howtolearn.com)
- 100 Apps for Tech-Savvy Teachers (rasmussen.edu)