How often do you come across plagiarism in your classroom?'s Teacher Poll of the Week
How often do you come across plagiarism in your classroom?

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The good news is that the majority of teachers come across plagiarism rarely, the bad news is that added together the number of teachers seeing plagiarism on a monthly, weekly or daily basis is greater. How much of this is intentional and how much is lack of understanding does make a difference as to how these results are viewed.

Young students have no idea what plagiarism is. They see the information and they write it down. They don't understand bibliographies or footnotes and for most, they don't even understand what they are doing is wrong. Learning the finer points of research essays is best left to older students. Elementary students are too busy trying to understand the information and figure where and how to find data that too much time would be lost if things got much more complicated.

Secondary students, however, have no such excuse. They should know how to do the research and be held responsible for giving credit for information they glean from other sources. Teachers are masters at interpreting student needs and learning levels. Some students within the same grade level, and even within the same class, can have vastly different abilities. Teachers are very adept at modifying learning standards according to ability. Therefore, some students should never be producing plagiarized work while others may need the concept explained again.

With the advent of the world wide web, information is now so readily available that rules for plagiarism can be confusing. A generation ago, all information was taken from books and students knew that those books needed to be cited in a bibliography. When you find the same information on three or four different websites, does that constitute common knowledge of the subject and mean that they don't need references? Technology has muddied the waters somewhat.

As long as teachers are clear on the requirements for work to be handed in and have explained how to properly reference source material, there is no reason why teachers are still seeing plagiarized work. Unfortunately, the problem is not likely to go away anytime soon. Whether through lack of understanding or a basic lack of caring, some students will continue to try to put one over on their teachers. Perhaps these students believe in the adage that imitation is the best form of flattery. Let's go with that, shall we?