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Cut and Paste Here


I missed this entry at Edbizbuzz while I was on vacation, but it's worth backtracking for a good discussion on plagiarism by guest blogger Dorothy Mikuska.

Mikuska, a veteran English teacher who developed a software program for helping students organize and manage their work for school research papers, describes four reasons students plagiarize: "disengaged learning; poor reading skills; lack of organizational and metacognitive skills; and careless documentation."

In the computer age, she adds, students "no longer take notes, but merely copy/paste from online sources without reflecting, analyzing, synthesizing, or evaluating their information. Research has become as mechanical as the computer. If students genuinely understood their information, plagiarism would be eliminated."

She says students need to be taught directly what plagiarism is. There are a number of adults who could benefit from such a lesson. Mikuska points out some recent news coverage of a high school principal who plagiarized his graduation-day speech, and I've come across a number of blogs by educators that present complete news articles and other copyrighted information without any attribution.

There's a plug for her program, which I have not seen in action, but it is a relatively low-cost resource for teachers and students. Does anyone know whether these kinds of programs—including those that screen students' written work for evidence of plagiarism—are instructive for students or have any positive effect on their work?


I used Paper Tools Pro with my English 4AP senior classes last semester. I am happy to report that in my ten years of teaching, this was my first completely plagiarism free research paper cycle. Every year, I have at least one student plagiarize, but not with Paper Tools Pro. The program makes students responsible for analyzing and synthesizing their research. Students put the research into their own words from the very beginning of the project with Paper Tools. The centralization of their notecards, analysis, bibliography, and ideas pages streamlined the process for both students and teacher. I could check their notecards weeks before the research paper was due and see where they had gaps in their research or analysis.
Paper Tools gave me a virtual window into each student's process; as a result, we had both online and face-to-face conversations about their research process long before the due date. As an English teacher, I have grown weary of catching my students stealing the words/ideas of others. I have spent too much time as a detective, googling entire sections of student papers, presenting the evidence to the offending student, telling them they are now failing the class, calling shocked and dismayed parents who really don't see the major problem with academic dishonesty. I will definitely use Paper Tools Pro with my classes next year because this is the first year those disheartening moments became a thing of the past.

I designed PaperToolsPro to meet the needs of both teachers and students. The program guides the students to read their research carefully, put it in their own words and document the source of every note. The software does not police the students, but it is based on the assumption that they are capable of doing the assignment with integrity. We educators went into teaching because we believe students can learn, given good instruction and the best tools for completing their work. PaperToolsPro is such a tool.

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