Monday, October 18, 2010

Cut and paste at your peril ...

I was interested to read Mr W's post today about plagiarism in the 21st century. Make no mistake - the vast repository of information that is out there waiting to be accessed at the flick of a Google is a great temptation to anyone when it comes to cutting and pasting that little bit of someone else's work to enhance your own - and it's so easy!

Of course, it's been around a while, plagiarism - the internet just makes it easier. Neil points out:
Almost the entire essay had been copied and pasted from the net… and no one had noticed until I looked at it. ...
..and you can tell by the look of that how I've copied and pasted it straight from his blog, and even that I've had to fiddle around with fonts to get the rest of what I'm writing to look normal. But had I been writing, say, an academic essay, I'd have worked on ensuring that it was seamless - wouldn't I? And that's how it's always been done. When I was teaching Higher English, when the use of the internet as a resource was in its infancy and online cribs were few and far between, people took whole passages out of books, from Brodie's Notes to the introduction to school editions of Shakespeare to something their big sister/mother who did English/pal in S6 who did well at Higher last year gave them, and inserted this into their own work.

And of course it usually stuck out like a sore thumb. The language would change, the sophistication of expression would be streets ahead of the rest of the writing, there would be words or ideas never once mentioned in discussion of the text in question. I once challenged a pupil over her RPR final draft, pointing out that it bore little relation to what she'd shown me in previous drafts. Parents complained, the PT English was involved - and at last the girl confessed and rewrote her essay. It was all very unpleasant.

Neil puts forward several excellent points to consider in combatting this problem, but in the end the human difficulty will remain. As I've said in a comment, there are people who even in adult life have got away with internet cut-and-paste simply because their supervisor of studies has lacked the necessary grit to confront the culprit. It will be better far if everyone knows that plagiarism will be recognised and dealt with before they try it.

And now I need to try to fix the formatting of this post, which has gone seriously awry since my cutting and pasting!


  1. Such a shame that anyone would ever have to steal from another. This makes me sick and I cannot for the life of me understand why a struggling person wouldn't ask for help rather than simply cutting and pasting.

  2. Anonymous1:21 PM

    At uni we had to submit electronically and the work was run through some sort of fancy program to weed out plagarism. No-one was ever sure how it worked, but it certainly did as I remember several people being caught!

    On the subject of messed up formatting, if you copy and paste into Notepad then it gets rid of any formatting and you can then copy and paste from there into the new document.

  3. Thanks for the tip, WH - I always rush at it and then fiddle for ages with the resulting mess!