Plagiarism Problems and the CRAFTS Process

With the popularity of the internet and the ever-increasing access to it, students are using it for less than honest reasons. Although a great many students remain honest and complete their own work, a growing number have resorted to cheating by using papers off the internet and using others’ research. According to one study on television the other day (I forget where I saw it–sorry), plagiarism is on the rise especially among honor and AP students.

I have had this problem in the past, but I have been able to overcome most of these issues with a few simple changes to my teaching.

Firstly, I don’t need to prove or identify a plagiarized paper; a simple Google search suffices. If I suspect plagiarism I type in a suspected phrase, and the search engine does the rest. Every time I’ve felt skeptical about a paper, I’ve been correct and the old-fashioned new-fashioned Google search confirmed my fears.

Once I confirm a case of plagiarism I do two things: I write an informational referral to document the incident, and I give the student a chance to make up for the infraction. I usually announce to the class that I know of at least one plagiarized paper and allow them one day to confess and have the opportunity to complete the assignment for half-credit. If the student does not confess I provide the evidence and provide no credit, a permanent zero. If the assignment is a course requirement I allow the student to show mastery, but that’s it.

However, it’s rare that I have to check for plagiarism because I use an easy solution. I don’t give stock assignments with general prompts any more. I individualize the assignments for my class.

I would never use this:

Compose a literary analysis comparing and contrasting a figure from The Tragedy of Julius Caesar and Antigone using the five-paragraph essay format.

Besides this being a boring essay to compose for the students, it’s going to be an awful experience to grade since every essay will essentially be the same. Why make the experience a horrible one for the students and me?

While I normally use projects with multiple choices for students, if I wanted students to compose a lengthy piece of writing similar to the subject of the uninteresting assignment above I may give the students something like this (pardon me, this is a rough draft):

Imagine you are a reporter for Leadership Monthly and are given the following task for your feature article: to determine which qualities are the most desirable in a leader. Use the characters from the two plays to use as evidence for positive and negative qualities in a leader as you compose your article. You may use any characters from the plays, not just the leaders, to support your determinations.

Or I might use this (pardon me, this is again a rough draft):

Imagine you are a lawyer preparing your points of argument for a future case where you must explain which character from the two plays read is most guilty of a crime. Within your argument make sure you explain why your chosen character is the most guilty of a crime even though others may be guilty of crimes as well.

Some teachers may use the RAFTS method when creating writing prompts.

‘R’ is the role of the student as the writer. From what perspective must the student write?

‘A’ is the student’s audience. To whom is the student writing?

‘F’ is the format of the piece. In what form should the final writing be? Is the composition an essay, a letter, a poem, a brief, an abstract, etc.?

‘T’ is the topic of the writing. About what is the student writing?

‘S’ is the strong verb used to direct the piece. Should the student demand an action, explain a position, lament a loss, etc.?

Some people add a ‘C’ into the RAFTS exercise (making the process CRAFTS), which is the context for the writing.

I like using these types of prompts because plagiarism becomes much more difficult and the writings become much more original and entertaining to read.

I also have another type of essay I assign, but that will be posted at another time. It’s dinner time right now, and my stomach rules everything else right now.

9 thoughts on “Plagiarism Problems and the CRAFTS Process

  1. mrschili

    My defense mechanism is getting to know my students’ voices. I’m always astounded when a student hands me in-class writing that’s filled with “you knows” and “whatevers,” then hands me a research paper where he uses the word “whereby.” NONE of my students would EVER use the word “whereby.” It’s that sort of thing that’s my red-flag that the paper was boosted from someplace else, and Google almost always leads me right to it.

  2. drpezz Post author

    Absolutely! One of my colleagues asked me how I know to look up a paper, and I replied in much the same way you just did. One of the kids used “antebellum” and “ideological” and I knew. πŸ™‚

  3. Jenna

    I even go so far as to tell my students that using a word they don’t know the meaning of is a dead giveaway, but they still do it anyways. Apparently the fear of doing poorly with their own work is too great.

  4. drpezz Post author

    I let students rewrite as often as they wish, so cheating is silly in my class. The kids just need to show me mastery and then they can edit for higher scores; of course, given students choices and using original prompts help as well.

  5. Pingback: Personalizing Literature « The Doc Is In

  6. Lane

    I am student at Chico State finishing my English degree. I have a long way to go as an editor, but this is a positive way to encourage creativity and deter cheating.

  7. drpezz Post author

    Welcome to the professional world, and I hope you’ll share anything you find in your classes or from other teachers that we can use, too. We all need all the help we can get. πŸ™‚

  8. Pingback: 4. Academic Dishonesty Should Not Result in a Lower Grade. « The Doc Is In

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